Ron Karpinski ©1997
In May my lovely wife, Irmi, and I took a trip to the Caribbean. For a week, we sailed from island to island and snorkeled among colorful reefs. Tiring of that, we took a room in a hotel and spent the rest of our vacation lounging on the beach, marveling at fiery red sunsets, and strolling ankle-deep in the lapping surf under a full moon.
One day, we made a fabulous discovery. Baking beneath the hot sun, we felt a need for refreshment. A friend recommended a drink called a "bushwhacker."
Now, that's an odd name for a drink. Why do you suppose they called it that? What is a bushwhacker, anyway?
Curious, we researched the matter. A bushwhacker, as it turns out, can be a scythe for trimming or cutting bushes or one who wields such a blade. The word also refers to a backwoodsman – one who beats his way through the brush.
During the U.S. Civil War, northern soldiers referred to guerrilla fighters of the Confederacy as "bushwhackers." Later, the term came into general use in western movies. In the movies, bushwhackers were evil men who hid behind trees or bushes and attacked the good guys as they rode by on horseback. Used in that sense, a bushwhacker is anyone who sneaks up from behind.
In the Caribbean, however, a bushwhacker is a frozen cocktail. The drink consists of: Kalua Coffee Liquor, Bailey's Irish Cream, cream of coconut, and vodka. All are blended in crushed ice and topped off with a cherry and a dash of nutmeg.
The exact amounts of each ingredient are closely guarded secrets, however. Irmi and I watched a number of times, trying to figure out how the bartender did it. Hands flew, a hint of this went in, then a dash of that; the blender did its magic, and voila!
A short, wide-rimmed glass appeared on the bar. It held a grainy beige liquid with the consistency of a milk shake; but, wait, no milk shake ever tasted like this.
Back home in Germany, we have tried to duplicate a bushwhacker but have not met with any success. It may be that the secret lies in the Caribbean water, the pure salt air, or the bright sunshine. Maybe the temperature in Europe falls too low, and the magic is lost.
There is a good chance we are going about this all wrong. Quite possibly, we need to adjust the amounts of each ingredient and mix the order in which they are added. If that fails, perhaps a bag of genuine Caribbean ice, flown in for the occasion, will do the trick.
We'll keep trying, no matter how long it takes, for no other drink comes close to the silky smooth taste of a bushwhacker; and there will be no doubt, when we finally hit upon the right combination. A real bushwhacker sneaks up on you from behind.