Killing the Pain -January 31, 2002
Rum is the spirit of choice throughout the Caribbean, including the Virgin Islands where we're now located. Originally, rum was distilled as a by-product of the highly profitable sugar industry. Beginning in the mid-17th century, sugar was grown on virtually all of the major islands and was their economic mainstay well into the 1800's when higher production costs and foreign competition led to the gradual abandonment of many of the colonial sugar plantations. The legacy of the sugar era is apparent today. Most of the population of the islands is descended from African slaves brought over to work in the cane fields. Here on St. John in the USVI, the landscape is dotted with the stone ruins of old sugar estates. Wild donkeys are everywhere - sometimes found strolling the streets in town. Their ancestors were used to haul cane and power the crushing mills.
While sugar production declined, rum continued to be distilled in the islands. Most of the world's rum is still produced in the Caribbean. Different islands have developed particular rum drinks for which they're known. In the Virgin Islands, the signature rum drink is the Painkiller. Since being here, we've been doing our best to investigate the origins of this popular drink. Our diligent research has led David to stockpile the essential ingredients: cream of coconut, orange juice, pineapple juice, fresh nutmeg, and - of course - rum. Although the components of the Painkiller prescription are well known, we've discovered that their proportions are hotly disputed.
Our good friend Howard Seaver worked for several years as a professional skipper in the islands and let us in on the history of the Painkiller controversy. According to Howard, Daphne Henderson inherited the original Painkiller recipe when she took over the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke. Chuck Tobias, the founder of Pusser's Landing in Tortola, claimed to make a superior Painkiller and challenged Daphne to a "mixoff" at her bar.
Howard describes the ensuing event: "One Sunday Chuck came over from Tortola with a case or two of Pusser's rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and Coco Lopez. Many, many Painkillers were mixed. Daphne was very secretive about hers while Chuck made his with great abandon. The results were mixed. Chuck claimed victory as did Daphne. Those at the bar could not believe their good fortune at having stumbled in on something like this, and let their allegiance go to the side that was mixing the next round!"
Howard asserts that, to the present day, Daphne hasn't divulged her prescription, despite attempts by Chuck to bribe her with cheap cases of Pusser's rum. For our part, David's been mixing Painkillers nightly on board "Little Gidding" to discover the secret himself. We'll let you know when he's succeeded.Cheers,
David & Eileen