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How The Jet Pilot Cocktail Got Its Name

Jet PIlot

The Test Pilot cocktail was one of the most copied drinks by other tiki bartenders, Jet Pilot being one of the famous and most successful variations. The jet pilot is an epitome of a tropical drink for a cookout or a summer party featuring three different rums- Demerara, Puerto Rican, and Jamaican rum- and other tropical ingredients. It also comes with fascinating flavor accents such as bitters, cinnamon, and anise, making it captivating to taste buds and a great frozen drink. Here is a complete review of the Jet Pilot Cocktail history, original recipe, and how it got its name.

The History of The Jet Pilot Cocktail

The Jet Pilot cocktail dates back to 1958 and was based on Don the Beachcomber's Test Pilot. According to Cold Glass, the test pilot was a major inspiration for other tiki bartenders who used the base ingredients to make their accompaniments with names such as Astronaut, Ace Pilot and Space Pilot. Jet Pilot was one of the most popular and successful successors of the Test Jet cocktail.

So, what is the origin story of the Jet Pilot Cocktail?

This cocktail is accredited to the notorious socialite and Hollywood star Steven Crane. After having a failed movie career, a spell abroad, and a divorce with Lana Turner, Crane went to Los Angeles in 1953 to open Luau. The Luau featured all the best elements of high-end tropical-themed bars, overriding them to become the center stage of tiki culture in the USA. Inspired by the Test Pilot cocktail, Crane developed the Jet Pilot at the Luau in 1958. The jet pilot was similar to the 1941 Test pilot but slightly spicier with the addition of grapefruit juice, cinnamon syrup, and more potent rum. To create the Jet Pilot Cocktail, they took the Test Pilot recipe and added another juice, overproof rum, and cinnamon syrup. With time, the Jet Pilot's popularity overran the Test pilot cocktail, arguably a part of the tiki canon rather than the original Donn Beach. The addition of cinnamon and grapefruit is excellent. The cinnamon is the key flavor that stands out compared to the Test Pilot, but the demerara rum makes itself noticed too. While it's only ¾ ounce, the demerara rum has a rich styling, and a kick of extra alcohol provides the Jet Pilot some enthusiasm that is missing from the predecessor. Although the Luau has closed, the original Jet Pilot lives on today, especially in old-school tiki meccas such as the Mai Kai Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

How Did the Jet Pilot Cocktail Get Its Name?

The Jet Pilot Cocktail was inspired by the test pilot, a famous cocktail at the time. Don the Beachcomber, the inventor of the Tiki drink movement, named the drink after the rush of in-flight advancements during the 1940s. This cocktail inspired other variations of aviation cocktails, including the Jet Pilot cocktail. Therefore, Steven Crane named Jet Pilot as a variation cocktail of the test pilot. The word 'Jet' is also attributed to the fact that the cocktail has a stronger rum that tends to take people to space much quicker, similar to a jet. According to Distiller, what distinguishes these two cocktails is the cinnamon syrup in the Jet Pilot. Both are tiki cocktails influenced by the Pacific and Caribbean Islands flavors but are American inventions.

The Classic Jet Pilot Cocktail Recipe

Mixing three styles of rum is the key to preparing the jet pilot. There are also available options to add anise flavor. While most individuals choose to go with Herbsaint or Pernod, there is a range of absinthes available. Pernod is an anise-flavored liqueur and hence relatively sweeter, while Absinthe has higher proof with a stronger herbal flavor. It was discovered as an alternative to Absinthe in 1930 in France. Whichever option you choose, always keep the anise in check as it can overpower the flavor of the drink quickly. Other ingredients that add flavor to the Jet Pilot Cocktail include Falernum, a Caribbean liqueur or syrup with lime, ginger, almond, and clove available in both nonalcoholic and alcoholic versions. The jet pilot cocktail usually uses the liquor. What makes the cocktail quickly recognizable is the relishing garnish of fresh fruit such as lime, banana, pineapple, lemon, and flowers. But you can also keep the garnish basic and straightforward with a cherry garnish.


  • 3/4 ounce 151-proof Demerara rum
  • 1-ounce Jamaican rum
  • 3/4-ounce Puerto Rican rum
  • 1/2-ounce cinnamon syrup
  • 1/2-ounce Falernum
  • 1/2-ounce grapefruit juice
  • 1/2-ounce lime juice
  • Six dashes absinthe, or Pernod
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • One dash of aromatic bitters
  • Cherry, for garnish


  • Gather all the ingredients.
  • Pour the rums, cinnamon syrup, lime and grapefruit juices, Pernod or Absinthe, Falernum, bitters, and crushed ice in a blender.
  • Blend the ingredients at a fast speed for five to ten seconds.
  • Pour the cocktail into a margarita or hurricane glass.
  • Garnish it with a cherry. Serve it and enjoy.

Jet Pilot Flavor

The initial flavor impression of the Jet pilot cocktail is the fruit, with the cocktail's grapefruit, a great addition to the lime. The core of the taste is the rum, followed by a hit of the cinnamon. The swallowing taste is sweet, followed by lingering cinnamon and fruit in the long taste. Cinnamon plays a significant flavor-changing role and tends to be more dominant as the drink dilutes and is warm. The Jet Pilot is only different from the Test Pilot in terms of a little extra lushness and a touch of cinnamon spice.

How Strong Is the Jet Pilot?

The jet pilot is not a soft drink by any person's standards especially compared to other blended drinks. The cocktails pack a lot of rum, and the Pernod dashes are only a small dose, so it won't help to bring down the strength of the drink. According to The Spruce Eats, the average jet pilot cocktail has 16% ABV.

Bottom Line

We hope you understand how the Jet Pilot Cocktail got its name, including its history and recipe. This cocktail is delicious and stands up well for slow sipping. However, being relatively strong, ensure to drink responsibly.

Lily Wordsmith

Written by Lily Wordsmith

Lily Wordsmith is a freelance writer who has had a love affair with the written word for decades. You can find her writing blog posts and articles while sitting under a tree at the local park watching her kids play, or typing away on her tablet in line at the DMV. In addition to her freelance career, she is pursuing ebook writing with an ever-growing repertoire of witty ebooks to her name. Her diversity is boundless, and she has written about everything from astrobotany to zookeepers. Her real passions are her family, baking desserts and all things luxe.

Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith

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