Drink of the Week: The Test Pilot, A Tribute to Donn Beach's Iconic Creation

by Negronis Greg

In the vivid tapestry of cocktail culture, some beverages transcend mere mixology to become legends in their own right. Among these illustrious concoctions, the Test Pilot cocktail stands as a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of one man: Donn Beach, the enigmatic pioneer of tiki culture. Born Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, he would go on to reshape the landscape of drinking with his exotic libations, forever leaving an indelible mark on the world of cocktails.

The Test Pilot cocktail, like many of Donn Beach's creations, is a symphony of flavors that transports imbibers to distant, sun-drenched shores with each sip. Conceived during the golden age of tiki bars in the 1930s, this libation was crafted to embody the spirit of adventure and escapism that defined the era. Its complex blend of rums, citrus, and exotic spices quickly became a staple of the tiki canon, captivating the palates of cocktail enthusiasts far and wide.


Picture Credit (@Steve the Bartender). 

At the heart of the Test Pilot cocktail lies the meticulous craftsmanship of its creator. Donn Beach was renowned for his obsessive attention to detail, sourcing the finest ingredients and experimenting endlessly to achieve the perfect balance of flavors. The result is a cocktail tantalizing the senses, with each ingredient playing a harmonious role in the overall composition.

Central to the Test Pilot's allure is its unique combination of rums. A blend of light and dark rums forms the backbone of the drink, providing a rich and nuanced base upon which the other flavors can unfold. This interplay of rum varieties lends depth and complexity to the cocktail, elevating it from a mere libation to a multisensory experience.

The vibrant citrus notes of lime and grapefruit juice complement the rum, which imbue the Test Pilot with a refreshing brightness. These acidic elements balance the sweetness of the rum and add a zesty complexity that dances on the palate. Meanwhile, a touch of falernum—a syrup infused with spices such as ginger, clove, and almond—adds a layer of aromatic depth, while grenadine lends a subtle sweetness and a hint of rosy hue.

However, what truly sets the Test Pilot apart is its enigmatic ingredient: Pernod, a French anise-flavored liqueur. Just a dash of this mysterious elixir imparts a subtle yet unmistakable complexity to the cocktail, evoking visions of distant shores and exotic locales. This attention to detail and willingness to push the boundaries of conventional mixology distinguishes Donn Beach as a true master of his craft.

Beyond its impeccable flavor profile, the Test Pilot cocktail also embodies the ethos of the tiki movement—a celebration of adventure, camaraderie, and the joy of discovery. With its evocative name and exotic ingredients, it invites drinkers to embark on a journey of the imagination, where every sip is an opportunity to escape the mundane and embrace the fantastical.



  • 2 Dashes Angostura bitters
  • 15 ml Cointreau
  • 45 ml Jamaican rum, Dark
  • 6 drops Pernod
  • 22 1/2 ml Puerto rican white rum


  • Combine all the ingredients into a blender; highly recommend Vitamix Blender
  • Turn on briefly (5 seconds)
  • Transfer to a tiki mug or glass
  • Garnish with mint, lime wheel and maraschino cherry

Today, the legacy of Donn Beach and his iconic Test Pilot cocktail lives on in the hearts and glasses of cocktail enthusiasts worldwide. From bustling tiki bars to intimate home gatherings, it continues to captivate and inspire, reminding us of the transformative power of a well-crafted libation. So, the next time you seek an adventure in a glass, look no further than the Test Pilot cocktail. This timeless classic pays homage to the spirit of exploration and the enduring legacy of one of cocktail history's most revered figures. Cheers to Donn Beach, the maestro of mixology and the enduring allure of the Test Pilot cocktail!



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