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Goombay Smash

The Search Begins for the Real Goombay Smash Recipe

While I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Miss Emily’s Cooper’s Blue Bee Bar in Abacos, Bahamas, I do know the drink that made it famous: the Goombay Smash.

According to Violet Smith–who has run the bar since her mother’s passing in 1997–the recipe was conceived by her mom during a game of dominoes with friends at the bar. Miss Emily had to ask her friend  Brendal Stevens to taste it; however,  because she herself didn’t drink alcohol (I assume for religious reasons).  Brendal and Miss Emily jointly came up with the name “Goombay Smash” as I understand it, and the rest is history. The drink can now be found all over the Caribbean in different forms, and for some reason is also popular at Vermont’s Killington ski resort.

Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar, Photo Courtesy UncommonCaribbean.com

When I first looked up the recipe for the Goombay Smash I was intrigued by the highly variable recipes among the ten versions I found, so I started taking inventory.

In this video, Violet coyly says the recipe includes coconut rum, three or four different kinds of rum and pineapple juice.

And in this article by Uncommon Caribbean’s Steve Bennett, he says the recipe includes “coconut rum, dark rum and white rum in every real Goombay Smash. There’s also something a bit stronger mixed in there as well. Oh, and you can’t forget the key ingredient: Dole Pineapple Juice.”

These two statements lined up pretty well, so imagine my surprise when I realized none of the recipes I found followed this precise formula.

Analyzing the recipes yielded some interesting results. The only ingredients common among all of the recipes were coconut rum and pineapple juice. The next most prevalent ingredient was orange juice, with 80% inclusion. After that, all bets were off. Half the recipes called for dark rum; apricot brandy was also there at 50%. At this point I wondered if I would ever find the true recipe, so I got in touch with esteemed alcohol archaeologist Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. The Bum had never visited Miss Emily’s either, nor had he included this in any of his books. Stymied again!

At this point there was nothing left to do but try a few. Armed with a raft of Goombay Smash recipes, I endeavored to find the best among them. As you can see in this spreadsheet, I deduced that some would be terrible based on their ingredients alone, so I skipped those. Others were skipped due to palate fatigue and level of intoxication.

In terms of liquor choices, I went with “well grade” booze based on what I’d seen in photos and videos of the Blue Bee. The highest quality aged rum I saw there was Bacardi Anejo–’nuff said. Here’s generally what I used as I worked through the recipes:

  • Dark Rum: Myers’s
  • Gold rum: Mount Gay Eclipse
  • Light rum: Flor de Cana
  • Coconut rum: Malibu (I know)
  • Spiced rum: Cruzan 9
  • Apricot liqueur: Bols

OK, let’s drink!

Bon Appetit

  • 0.5 oz dark rum
  • 0.5 gold rum
  • 0.5 light rum
  • 1 oz coconut rum
  • 1.5 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 oz orange juice

Volume: 5 oz
Mixed ABV: 6.25
Mixed Proof: 12.99

This recipe is fine, but is out of balance in terms of tartness. The booze mix is pleasant and noticeably strong without being overpowering, but I can only assume the addition of the OJ has provided more sugar and not enough tartness. That said, I could see drinking this on a beach or boat somewhere.

Score: 6.5/10

Art of Drink (Recipe A)

  • 1 oz dark rum
  • .75 oz coconut rum
  • .5 oz Cointreau
  • 3 oz pineapple juice
  • .25 oz lime juice

Volume: 5.5 oz
Mixed ABV: 7.33
Mixed Proof: 14.67

Darcy O’Neil, author of Fix the Pumps and the Art of Drink blog is not only a top notch boozehound and drinks historian, he’s also a chemist. So when I found his page on the Goombay Smash, I knew he would have the definitive recipe. But even Darcy wasn’t committed to just one version. Here’s what I thought of his recipe A:

Just the second recipe I’ve tried and I’m already thinking Darcy nailed it with this one. I had a suspicion that the reason for some having orange juice was the presence of an orange liqueur in Miss Emily’s recipe. The 1/4 oz of lime is just enough to bring balance to the drink not present in the Bon Appetit recipe.

Score: 8.5/10

Art of Drink (Recipe B)

  • 1 oz spiced rum
  • 1 oz coconut rum
  • .5 oz apricot brandy
  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • 2 oz orange juice

Volume: 6.5 oz
Mixed ABV: 9.29
Mixed Proof: 18.57

I thought I wouldn’t like this recipe because of the OJ and spiced rum, but somehow it works pretty well. Definitely less tart than Darcy’s other recipe, but I could see some folks enjoying this one more–especially if they had a sweet tooth.

Score: 7.5/10

Bahama Bob’s Rum Styles

  • 1 oz dark rum
  • 1 oz coconut rum
  • .5 oz apricot brandy
  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • 2 oz orange juice

Volume: 6.5 oz
Mixed ABV: 9.29
Mixed Proof: 18.57

While Bob has forgotten more about bartending than I’ll ever know, this recipe just doesn’t work for me. The whole thing is a sweet unbalanced mess. Perhaps there’s a secret ingredient he’s left out?

Score: 5/10

Bahamas.co.uk

  • 1.25 oz gold rum (their recipe calls for “dark”, but suggests Bacardi Gold)
  • .75 oz coconut rum
  • .25 oz Cointreau
  • 3 oz pineapple juice
  • .25 oz lemon juice
  • .04 oz Demerara syrup

Volume: 5.54 oz
Mixed ABV: 7.39
Mixed Proof: 14.77

This is the only recipe that calls for lemon juice, and it’s another winner. At this point, it’s obvious that citrus is absolutely necessary, but my preference is for lime.

Score: 8/10

Intoxicology.net

  • 1 oz dark rum
  • 1 oz coconut rum
  • .5 oz apricot brandy
  • .5 oz 151° Rum
  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • 2 oz orange juice

Volume: 7 oz
Mixed ABV: 6.50
Mixed Proof: 12.99

This recipe intrigued me because it’s the only one that calls for 151 proof rum, and based on what I learned from the Web, Miss Violet adds something “a little stronger” in the original recipe. That said, this recipe is fine but quite pedestrian. Another recipe with no lemon or lime, this recipe lacks the needed punch of citric acid.

Score: 6/10

More Research Needed

Having made six different Goombay Smashes in rapid succession, and not seeing any radical departures from the mean in the remaining recipes, it was now time to experiment on my own. Darcy’s “recipe A” was the clear winner for me among these recipes, so I would use that as one basis for my experimentation, but at the same time, I  would try to use hints found on the Web to get as close as possible to the authentic original recipe.

One of the best hints is the article from the Uncommon Caribbean which says the real recipe includes coconut, dark and white rums with pineapple juice. My guess is that one of the secret ingredients in the original recipe is orange liqueur, not orange juice, so I would add that as well. Given what I had found out so far, I assumed lime juice would make an appearance, and perhaps a smidgen of 151 given Violet’s comment in the YouTube video I saw. Onward!

Experimental Goombay Smash #1

  • .5 oz light rum
  • .5 oz dark rum
  • .5 oz 151° rum
  • .5 oz coconut rum
  • .25 Cointreau
  • 3 oz pineapple juice
  • .25 lime juice

Volume: 5.5 oz
Mixed ABV: 6.88
Mixed Proof: 13.75

This version was an unabashed fail. Waaaaay too tart. Back to the drawing board–I feared now I would have to move away from my anecdotal evidence and stick with the common elements that tasted good.

Score: 5/10

At this point the presence of Apricot brandy in so many of these recipes was getting hard to ignore. My next try would have to include some.

Experimental Goombay Smash #2

  • .5 oz light rum
  • .5 oz dark rum
  • .5 oz coconut rum
  • .5 apricot brandy
  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • .5 oz orange juice
  • .25 lime juice

Volume: 4.75 oz
Mixed ABV: 7.92
Mixed Proof: 15.83

This recipe provided a well-balanced drink, but it still hadn’t risen above the ranks of “boat drink”.

Score: 8/10

And then…

I chatted up my friend Paul about the research I was conducting and he graciously provided me with a recipe from a friend who had lived and sailed around the Caribbean for several years. This recipe was the only one that called for specific brands.

Paul’s Friend’s Recipe

  • 1.5 oz Pusser’s
  • .75 oz Cruzan coconut
  • .25 oz Cointreau
  • 3 oz pineapple juice
  • .25 oz lime juice
  • .25 oz simple syrup
  • Angostura bitters to taste

Volume: 6.25 oz
Mixed ABV: 7.35
Mixed Proof: 14.71

This recipe represented a significant shift in that we were now using higher quality spirits. The balance struck here was much better than the other versions. The aged rum gave the drink a punch I hadn’t found by combining light and dark rums. The Cruzan coconut was another factor–Malibu pales in comparison.  The bitters also played a key role here; once again, I’m amazed at how much a few drops can transform an otherwise ho-hum drink.

Goombay Smash

Score: 9.5/10

In Conclusion

While we may never know Miss Emily’s original recipe, thanks to Paul’s buddy we finally have a variant of the Goombay Smash that’s likely to please the taste buds of just about anyone from tea-totaling party-pooper to hard charging rum drinker (maybe float a little something extra for him or her on top).

Postscript

Have you been to the Blue Bee? Do you have another recipe for the Goombay Smash? Did it bother you that I didn’t bother to correct the tense agreement problems within the article? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Cheers,
Josh

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Josh Miller permalink*
    February 13, 2013 3:47 pm

    I was just looking to see if my article had been spidered by Google yet, and I turned up a recipe posted on Erik Ellestad’s Savoy Stomp site all the way back in 2008. Martin Cate (then at Forbidden Island) pointed Erik to this recipe from the UK Sauce Guide. It’s got the same recipe and proportions save for the bitters! The more I dig, the muddier the waters get…

    http://savoystomp.com/2008/06/15/goombay-smash/

  2. Kevin Upthegrove permalink
    February 18, 2013 8:10 pm

    Funny, as I was reading through I kept waiting for you to get to Cruzan Coconut instead of the Malibu.

    The Pussers in the last recipe makes a lot of sense. Not just in terms of quality, but some extra punch to counter the pineapple and coconut flavors. That plus the bitters will take the edge right off of any residual sweetness.

    I’ll bet Smith & Cross would work well as the primary rum component (though I say that about many cocktails). I’d also be curious to try the final recipe with the apricot brandy in place of the Cointreau. I really like the Marie Brizard Apry and look for excuses to use more of it.

    kevin

  3. M Cooper permalink
    June 11, 2013 8:25 pm

    I was just there at the Blue Bee this past January. I have been searching the recipe while the taste was still fresh in my mind. I got a gallon of Goombay for the New Years Day celebration “junkanoo”. One of the best days I’ve ever had that I don’t really remember. Thank God for video cameras. I got to know Ms Violet really well (one of the sweetest people in the Bahamas) and several of the locals there in New Plymouth. We even joked about being possibly related since I have the same last name as her mother Ms Emily Cooper. I will try to connect to get the inside scoop — especially with the fruit juice mix. I’ve got the alcohol down — including the secret ingredient up in my cabin in the NC mountains. I plan to experiment over the 4th of July week and will report back my scientific findings.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      June 12, 2013 11:33 am

      Sounds like a great time! I look forward to hearing your findings. Cheers!

  4. Norm Bolinger permalink
    July 10, 2013 11:06 am

    Josh, I don’t remember all the ingredients in Miss Emily’s Goombay Smash but I do remember that when I was in the Blue Bee Bar in the late ’60s-early ’70s one of them was condensed milk. Norm………..nbolnor@aol.com.

  5. M Cooper permalink
    July 11, 2013 12:52 pm

    Wow Norm — that sounds very interesting !! I might even try that. It would make it almost like a coconut–cream cycle. The original Goombay Smash may have been like that back in the time period you mentioned — Ms Emily was still alive back then. However, after being at the Blue Bee just this past January — I can assure you that her daughter Ms Violet used no milk products of any type in the current formula being used.

    I just spent last week up at my cabin in the NC mountains experimenting with several things in attempt to replicate from memory the taste of the original that is unforgettable. As soon as I get my notes together, I will report my findings.

  6. M Cooper permalink
    July 26, 2013 6:42 pm

    This is my report from my week of experimenting with Goombay Smash. First off, it is with Great Disappointment that I must say there is no possible duplication of the original flavor, color, intensity and tropical bliss that comes from Ms Violet’s homegrown secret recipe. I tried every possible combination to replicate that wonderful taste — still fresh on my lips and mind from the Blue Bee this past January. I am still working on a couple of my local connections there at Green Turtle Cay — at least for the juice portion. That’s where I found it the most difficult — with the juice part rather than the alcohol.

    General Notes: keep in mind that all my comments and opinions are based solely on my wonderful experience with the real and original recipe.

    I first attempted the scientific approach with the exact measurements for a single drink. I followed all the recipes given in this article. And you’re correct Josh — after 5 or 6 trials, you might as well stop and try again the next day because you’re too looped to be of sound judgment. I did discover that the best of these and closest to the original for taste and color was Josh’s own “Experimental Smash # 2”. The lime was a great idea ! I did not care for the recipe with the bitters, nor spice rum — but could easily see how that might be appealing.

    Inside scoop: I learned from a very reliable source (Nipper’s bartender a couple of islands down) the secret ingredient that Ms Violet refers to in her video as “a little something extra” that really gives it its potency is locally homemade distilled liquor. I had that covered up at my cabin in the NC mountains and was very excited to make good use of it. The equivalent in your local liquor store would be something like Everclear. However, I found that my elixir (mostly from rye) would probably have quite a different flavor than that of the islands being mostly cane based, I imagine. Now that I think back though, it wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t actually derived from pure coconut “milk” or juice. Smooth coconut flavor is what stood out the most with me and the original recipe. I really never was able to duplicated that flavor no matter how much coconut rum I added. The favorite local drink there at Green Turtle Cay was to simply fill a large cup with ice and 1/2 vodka and top it off with fresh from the coconut juice. My rye based elixir did throw off the total flavor quite a bit. But, after 3 10oz cups — it didn’t really matter.

    I did find that in making individual drinks — premium brands make a huge difference. However, if making it by the gallon like I was ( for my “Fireworks on the Mountain”) the less expensive brands will work fine. I almost promise you that Ms Violet doesn’t use the “good stuff” in her mixture. The rum of choice there in the Abacos (all and any flavor) is Ricardo.

    Here’s what I came up with.

    1) Individual / scientific
    .5 dark rum — Pusser’s
    .5 light rum — Shellback
    .5 gold rum — Mount gay
    .5 Cointreau
    .5 Apricot Brandy (not absolutely necessary)
    .5 “rye elixir”– Everclear. I do not recommend substituting Barcardi 151. It throws off the total flavor and intensity.
    2 oz coconut rum — Cruzan
    2 oz pineapple juice
    .5 orange juice
    .25 lime juice

    2) By the gallon. This is much less scientific and deals mostly in portions. You should have a ratio of 1/2 alcohol and 1/2 juice. The multiple alcohols (like any good “punch”) will blend splendidly together and not seem to be harsh or intense with potency. And the results will still be very pleasant and effective.
    1 portion dark rum
    1 portion light rum
    1 portion gold rum
    1 portion Apricot Brandy
    1 portion “rye elixir” or Everclear
    2 portions orange liquor or Cointreau
    3 portions coconut rum
    3 portions pineapple juice
    1 portion orange juice (anything but canned Bluebird brand). That really sucked in the islands — that’s all they had. I promise Ms Violet didn’t use that crap.
    Lime juice to taste

    Footnote ; With the larger quantity of liquids here, I found that if I added 1 portion of Mango juice — it chilled or mellowed out the harshness of the rye elixir and made it much more pleasant. I would not recommend doing that with individual drinks as the mango would then over-dominate the drink.

    Well, it wasn’t quite the magical mixture I was deeply hoping to discover once again. But, my 2 gallons served my crew of about 20 very efficiently and effectively. Everyone seemed to love it and even stated that the fireworks were especially beautiful this year !!

    Cheers

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      July 28, 2013 11:28 am

      Wow! That is quite a lot of good research there. Thank you very much for sharing. Looks like I’ll have to get to the Blue Bee one day to sample the real deal. Cheers!

  7. Marcia permalink
    April 24, 2014 12:15 pm

    I have enjoyed reading all of these recipes for Miss Emily’s Goombay Smash so I feel I have to relate this true story from about 1988. While staying at Green Turtle Cay on our boat we had gotten used to having Miss Emily’s concoction on a daily basic, getting it by the gallon jug. On our last day there we had run out so my husband and I ran up to Miss Emily’s just as she was closing and being as nice as she was she said she would make us another jug. So we handed her our empty jug and she walked into the back room with the door opened enough for us to see in. I looked at my husband and said ” you don’t think she is going to let us see her secret recipe?” As we watched feeling a little guilty she opened a bottle of Bacardi rum and poured the whole bottle into the jug and then she opened a can of Dole pineapple juice and poured it into the jug and as we were watching and waiting for whatever else was to come she slowly put the cap onto the jug and screwed it down and then shook it up real good and came back out through the partially opened door and with her big smile she said “enjoy.” We kindly paid her and said thank you then left to hurry back to our boat and have a glass. It tasted exactly the same as all the previous ones we had drank so the only conclusion we could think of was that the so called secret ingredient was whatever anyone wanted to think it was.

    • Mike Cooper permalink
      April 26, 2014 2:42 pm

      I so enjoyed your story. It must have been awesome to have met Miss Emily. I met her daughter Ms. Violet 2 years ago while visiting Turtle Cay via a sailboat as well. I could easily see the island hospitality was handed down through the family. Although, I find your story somewhat hard to believe. There had to be something else in the mixture if Ms. Violet was carrying on the true “family tradition”. I definitely got a hint of coconut in our mixture. I too, bought it by the gallon and had the best time for their New Years or “junkanoo” celebration. I was told by a nearby local island bartender that Ms. Violet uses a homemade distilled alcohol to make it currently so potent. It would not surprise me if it was derived from coconut milk that is readily available on the island. Whatever it was or is — I can’t wait to get back to have some more. I will make a special effort when next time in the Bahamas to visit that part of the Abacos. It’s that good and memorable.

  8. Robert Washburn permalink
    August 22, 2014 8:56 pm

    Not going to claim any great insight but the recipe I’ve been using since my visit is:
    1 part Coconut Rum (Blue Chair Bay is a major step up from even cruzan)
    1 part pineapple rum
    1 part dark or golden (the difference between the two is imperceptible in the mix)
    1 part light rum
    3 parts pineapple juice
    1 part mango juice (smoother than orange, doesn’t overpower the pineapple)
    bitters to taste (also corrects the color)
    serve with a stick of pineapple
    At least for the first batch the difference using quality rums is noticeable. Since this is so smooth, using 151 could be an issue for the unwary. As mixed it is 20% or 40 proof.

    Reading the story of watching it being made, I wonder if she had premixed her contents into the Bacardi bottle?

    • Mike Cooper permalink
      September 1, 2014 6:50 am

      Thanks Robert. That recipe makes perfect sense to me — I will have to try it.

    • September 1, 2014 7:05 am

      One correction – Grenadine not bitters to taste and color correction. Just a dash of bitters.

    • August 2, 2016 11:35 am

      Latest recipe update. With the problem finding a good pineapple rum, I’ve been leaving it out and replacing it with another part of light rum. With the 3 parts pineapple juice in the recipe the omission is not noticeable, other than a slight improvement from the loss of a mediocre (at best) pineapple rum.

  9. Mike Cooper permalink
    September 1, 2014 10:15 am

    That actually makes a lot of sense — compared to what I remember from the Blue Bee.

  10. Rachel Dayton permalink
    July 11, 2016 7:31 pm

    In 92-’93 we sailed Siskiwit our 40′ sloop from Knife River on Lake Superior to the Bahamas. We cruised the islands for 6 months and eventually left out boat in Black Sound on Green Turtle for 5 years. We spent MANY a visit at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar eating conch fritters and sipping on the Goombay Smash. I have never quite nailed it myself, but thru the years have mixed various rums (with Mt Gay at the base) along w/pineapple juice and fresh lime. The originals were killer good. As we prepare to host our 9th “On Again Off Again Shipwreck Bar Party’ (think Powell Cay back in the 90’s), in the heart of the Rockies where I’ve been ‘dry docked’ for 20 years, I came online to google Goombay Smash recipes and Pete’s Pub “LIttle Harbor Blaster. I think you’ve done a righteous job of providing me some good options here and Miss Emily will be smiling down on us all for the legacy she’s left us.
    I might mention, our party has 3 options for some tasty rums.. A Tiki bar that every year sports 5 or 6 high level rums served neat or on a rock; the shipwreck bar supplied with everything you could possibly desire for concocting tasty boat drinks, and a fresh Mojito Bar.
    Needless to say, this is a coveted affair to attend and we have launched a whole host of rum afficianados who used to only know good whiskey.
    Jimmy B, bring on the tunes and here’s to next week’s party time.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      July 11, 2016 7:45 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Your sailing days and parties sound epic! Here’s to many more 🙂

  11. July 27, 2016 9:37 am

    On a recent family trip to the Florida Keys, (Hawks Cay Resort) my wife and I enjoyed the resort version of the Goombay Smash (I’m usually not a sugary cocktail fan, preferring Manhattans and Old Fashioneds or various whiskeys or rums (mmmmm, Cuban Havana Club Anejo) on the rocks or with a bit of water. Having just made the last recipe (using Blue Chair Bay instead of Cruzan), I have to say that it is indeed an awesome drink. It’s difficult to imagine a more perfect (gr?) poolside drink.

    P.S. Really great drinks website. Much appreciated Josh.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      August 2, 2016 10:05 am

      Happy to help! Drinks like that help us all re-connect with good times in good places. Thanks for the kind words.

  12. Karen Kingston permalink
    October 4, 2016 10:37 pm

    Loved reading this post. When I was at the Blue Bee they added Nassau Royale Liqueur to the rum and pineapple mix.

Trackbacks

  1. New Article: Searching for the Real Goombay Smash « Inu a Kena
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