Living life between the barrel staves in Bourbon Country

Return to The Black Marlin


The bike path through the center of Hilton Head Island, leading to The Black Marlin Bayside Grill at the Palmetto Bay Marina.

“He was a fugitive with a pseudo-name. Lost his mind in a hurricane.”
Jimmy Buffett “Nobody Speaks to the Captain”

It’s 1:30pm and I’m two hurricane’s into a Sunday lunch of fried eggs, smoked bacon and cheddar cheese on a toasted hoagie roll, what the restaurant calls a McMarlin Sandwich. While I could do without the McD’s reference, whatever the name it is a mountain of artery clogging scrumptiousness. However, while the food at the Black Marlin Bayside Grill is always fantastic, I’m here for the drinks.


Edgar Allen Poe drank himself into an early grave. For Oscar Wilde is was the absinthe that did him in. I’ve never been one to drink to excess, but in the Black Marlin Hurricane I may have at last found my alcoholic Achilles heel. It’s been two years since I discovered it, at the end of a long bike ride through the center of Hilton Head before landing, almost miraculously, at the Palmetto Bay Marina. Hungry, thirsty – more thirsty than hungry really, I told the bartender to serve whatever they would recommend most highly. I was hooked after the first and in love after the fourth. Somewhere around the third I decided I had to figure out how to make it for myself. I spent the better part of the next week trying to talk them out of the recipe. I like to fancy myself a reasonably well educated culinary deconstructionist – able to decipher ingredients and flavors by taste. The Hurricane had me stumped. Turns out it was the Amaretto that I couldn’t identify. After returning home I spent the remainder of the summer testing, retesting, and ultimately tweaking the recipe. The Black Marlin’s drink was good, hell it was better than good, but I was determined to make it my own. It has since become the drink of legend at my house during the warmer months, at our tailgate parties and it is, hands down, the single most requested drink in my repertoire.


Pups on the Prowl – The Hurricane Bar keeps water bowls on hand in case a thirsty patron happens to be accompanied by an equally thirsty pooch fresh off the boat.

I’m still not sure if I found the drink or it found me. For the record, I think my version is better. The original uses Cruzan Light Rum, Malibu Passionfruit Rum and Cruzun 151 proof Rum, all served with “exotic juices”. The Amaretto goes in with the juice mix – the lone secret the bartender would let slip – and the rums are added on call at the time of service. Now, 151 proof Rum might be fine for sterilizing surgical instruments or anesthetizing Yankee tourists during a week’s vacation at the beach, but it’s not something I normally keep in my bartending arsenal. It’s presence in the drink is also one reason I don’t recommend consuming 4 or 5 of these and trying to bike back to the condo 5 miles away. In Hilton Head you really do need to watch out for the alligators (click here to check out Zach’s Gator Page for proof). That, however, is another story. What follows is my modified version of the Black Marlin Hurricane, whose name I’ve kept out of tribute to the original.

The Black Marlin Hurricane (my version) – serves 2

  • 2 oz Captain Morgan’s Silver Spiced Rum
  • 1 oz Malibu Passionfruit Rum
  • 1 oz Rhum Barbancourt four-year old Haitian Rum
  • 1/2 oz Amaretto
  • 1/2 oz Triple Sec
  • 7 oz Orange Juice
  • 2 oz Passionfruit Nectar
  • 1 oz Pineapple Juice
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • splash of Grenadine
  • dash of Angostura Bitters

Oh, who am I kidding, no one is going to share this. Shake ingredients together in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a tall cocktail or hurricane glass filled with ice. Garnish with wedges of orange and lime and a cherry. If it all won’t fit in the glass, set the shaker aside. It won’t be long before your guests are reaching to refill on their own.

This drink has proved so popular and so versatile that several variations have popped up on my tailgating menus in the last couple of years. The first was for last year’s “Let Me Take You Down To Cabo” menu for the High Hope Steeplechase. Believing that rum had no place in a menu dedicated to the flavors of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and the Baja Peninsula of California, I substituted tequila for what turned out to be a successful variation on a theme. That is if you consider your guests consuming three gallons of them in the course of the afternoon as a success. With the culinary change from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, I thought a change in name was called for as well.  Thus, the Baja Typhoon was born.

The Maelstrom

Back a Black Marlin Hurricane as per above recipe then divided into two glasses (or not, if you’re feeling greedy).  Float a shot of Kraken Black Rum on top of each drink.

The Baja Typhoon

Mix as original modified Black Marlin Hurricane recipe above in the same proportions, with the following substitutions:

  • substitute Patron Anejo Tequila for the Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum
  • substitute Margaritaville Passionfruit Tequila for the Malibu Passionfruit Rum
  • substitute Patron Repasado Tequila for the Rhum Barbancourt

Be warned this concoction packs a bit more of a punch than it’s rum based cousin. Want to really have fun? Down a shot of Cabo Wabo Repasado and chase it with a sip of a Baja Typhoon. Live dangerously. Just make sure you aren’t driving (or biking!) home. Remember, gators are only cute from a distance.

This year’s High Hope Steeplechase featured a New Orleans inspired menu. The original Hurricane cocktail emanated from Pat O’Brien’s bar in the Big Easy, so I had to include the drink on the menu. However, I decided to do it my way and tinker with the recipe yet again, and gave the drink yet another incarnation and name change.  It didn’t take much effort to create the Bourbon Street Hurricane.

The Bourbon Street Hurricane

Mix as original modified Black Marlin Hurricane recipe above in the same proportions, with the following substitution:

  • substitute Buffalo Trace Bourbon for the Rhum Barbancourt

I chose Buffalo Trace because it’s parent company in New Orlean’s own Sazerac company, so what could be more appropriate, but you could use Woodford Reserve instead if you wished. The inclusion of bourbon isn’t as strange as it first sounds. Many aged rums spend quality time in barrels which formerly housed Kentucky bourbon, so the flavor profiles have some similarities.

One drink, four variations – all equally good. Truth be told, I don’t have a favorite. It depends on the setting, the food and the company. After all, this is more than just a cocktail. It’s a state of mind. For now, I’m content to sit in the shade of the Cross Island Parkway looking out at the Palmetto Bay Marina. Oscar Wilde was haunted by the Green Faerie escaping from his bottle of wormwood infused absinthe. I’m haunted by one of a more sunset hue of orangish-pink emanating from my hurricane glass. Inspired by the Columbian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story “No One Writes to the Colonel”, Jimmy Buffett once wrote “He was a fugitive, with a pseudo-name. Lost his mind in a hurricane.” The context may be different, but right now, I think I know how he feels.



One response

  1. Jackie Crawford

    My first experience with 151 rum was in the Dominican Republic. We spent a week down there and it was so hot all we could do was stay at the pool and drink at the bar that was in the pool (convenient). The drinks seemed pretty week so we had them start using the 151. They told us you couldn’t get it in the States (obviously not true). Anyway we became known as the Americans who drank 151. We just thought it made the drinks better.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:12 pm

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