Jet Age Cocktails: A Look Behind the Test Pilot and Jet Pilot Tiki Drinks

October 15, 2017

The middle of the 20th century was an exciting time in the history of modern aviation. Known as The Jet Age, exploration of this new form of aircraft engine began in England during World War II. The scientist and engineers were looking at ways to apply turbine engines to aircrafts and moving beyond the limitations of the standard piston-powered engines which were commonly used during the war. With this challenge and a motto of “Higher, Faster, Farther”, this new engine would not only have powerful military applications, but would unlock a new era of global trade and travel.

During the late ’40s and ’50s, the testing and innovations witnessed by the public created a sense of excitement and stimulated the imagination. In North America, Edwards Air Force base, located in southern California, hosted several public and private tests. It was during these public tests when U.S. pilots broke both altitude and speed records beginning in May of 1948. Captain “Chuck” Yeager broke the world’s altitude record flying a Bell X-1 to 60,000 feet.


Tiki cocktail pioneer Donn Beach, a World War II veteran and stalwart supporter of the armed forces, created the Test Pilot cocktail, which captured the energy and popularity of this new age of aviation. According to Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the cocktail inspired several different version over the years with names such as the Astronaut, Space Pilot and the well-known Jet Pilot.

Don the Beachcomber Test Pilot / Photo Credit: modexotic

1941 Don the Beachcomber Test Pilot
from Beachbum Berry’s Remixed

-0.5 oz fresh lime juice
-0.5 oz Falernum
-1.5 oz dark Jamaican rum
-0.75 oz light Puerto Rican rum
-0.5 oz Cointreau
-dash Angostura Bitters
-6 drops (1/8 tsp) Pernod
-1 cup (8 oz) crushed ice

Put everything in a blender. Blend at high speed for 5 seconds. Pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass, adding more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with a cocktail cherry speared to a oyster fork.

The Jet Pilot at Hale Pele / Photo Credit: Hale Pele

Test Pilot
Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide Revised Edition

This is another version of a Test Pilot that was created by the bartenders at Trader Vic’s.

-0.25 oz lemon juice
-0.25 oz Falernum
-0.75 oz light Puerto Rico rum
-1.75 oz dark Jamaican rum
-0.25 oz Cointreau

Shake all ingredients with cubed ice. Pour into ten-ounce glass.


Second only to the Test Pilot, the Jet Pilot cocktail was a popular cocktail at Steve Crane’s Luau Restaurant. This recipe was served in the late 1950’s at the Beverly Hills location. The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale has their own version using a secret recipe.

The Test Pilot / Photo Credit: a75

Jet Pilot from The Luau circa 1958
from Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Safari

-0.5 oz fresh lime juice
-0.5 oz fresh grapefruit juice
-1 oz dark Jamaican rum
-0.75 oz gold Puerto Rican rum
-0.75 oz 151-proof Lemon Hart Demerara Rum
-dash of Angostura Bitters
-6 drops of Pernod
-0.5 oz cinnamon-infused syrup
-0.5 oz Falernum
-4 oz of crushed ice

Pour all ingredients in blender saving the ice for last. Blend for five seconds and pour in Old-Fashioned glass.


You can continue your Jet Age Cocktail exploration by visiting Tiki bars and restaurants across the United States. The following locations are known to offer them on or off their menus: Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 in New Orleans; The Mai-Kai Polynesian Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Fla; Hale Pele in Portland, Ore.; Tiki Ti in Los Angeles; and Tonga Hut in North Hollywood and Palm Springs.

You have the recipe, now it’s time to find the rum!

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