The Bushwacker: How it Became Pensacola's Official Drink and Where to Get It
Great discoveries can change history. Take, for example, the Bushwacker.
Over 40 years ago, Linda Taylor Murphy was exploring the Virgin Islands and discovered a chocolaty icy rum concoction the locals loved to drink. She brought the recipe back to her bar on Pensacola Beach, the Sandshaker Lounge, and tailored and tweaked it into her own version, trying it out on thirsty customers.
The year was 1975. The drink? The Bushwacker. The bar? The Shaker.
In the decades since the Bushwacker immigrated to Pensacola Beach, the booze-laced adult milkshake has blended itself up and down the coast to become Pensacola’s signature drink.
Our infamous adult beverage even has a festival held in its honor every August on Pensacola Beach, hosted by the Shaker. Tourists and locals can look forward to live music and entertainment, rum tastings, bikini contests, and, of course, a plethora of ice-cold Bushwackers.
Today, the Bushwacker is spun up in bars and restaurants from Pensacola to Perdido Key — and beyond. And each has its own special, secret recipes. Let’s take a look at some notable takes on our favorite local Bushwackers.
The Secret Google Recipe
So what is a Bushwacker? It depends on whose secret recipe you Google.
Usually, it involves rum, Kahlua, creme de cacao, cream of coconut, wrapped in a cloak of milk and ice.
Every bartender will likely promise they make the best Bushwacker, so the ingredients get swapped out. Some places have more of a coffee flavor laced with booze that you can’t really taste. Hence the name “Bushwacker.”
151 and Other Potent Floaters
“You want a floater?” It’s a phrase that strikes fear at pool parties, but if you’re talking Bushwackers, it usually means they can “float” or “top” your beverage with 151 proof rum.
It’s like jet fuel, but it adds an instant kick. Within seconds you can hear the fizz as the 151 attempts to ignite the ice cream and begins meltdown — it’s like a time-lapse of our polar ice caps.
You can definitely taste the alcohol, but the bushwacker is strong enough on its own. I usually pass, although I have asked for an extra splash of Myers’ rum — for flavor.
The Shaker — Take a Fruity Twist
The Sandshaker’s original take is still a local favorite. The Bushwacker's ancestral Pensacola home sees the machines swirling year-round — even through the depths of our weeks-long winter. Bushwacker batches are made by hand at The Shaker and prepped for the machine. The rum is added last.
You can take a fruity twist and the bartender can add fresh bananas or strawberries. It’s a dastardly dessert.
Flounder if You Ask for a Refill
Famous for serving up large portions, Flounder’s Chowder House doesn’t skimp on bushwackers either. While not in the same size as the Flounder’s explosive Diesel Fuel (32 ounces) mason jar, the tasty Bushwacker is big in its own right. You can choose between a 16-ounce and a 23-ouncer. It’s a great way to laze away the evening listening to music or become comfortably numb as your kids bounce around the playground.
Once a regular at the Sandshaker, Flora-Bama co-owner Pat McClellan “bushwacked” his own recipe and brought it to the state-line lounge. The thick, creamy Flora-Bama-fied” bushwacker is a popular mainstay at the world-famous beachfront honky tonk bar in Perdido Key.
The Paradise Bushwacker
Tucked behind the Paradise Motel on the north side of Via de Luna, this casual juke joint serves up amazingly good casual fare and rock n’ roll, with many folks rolling up to the dock on boat or paddleboard. Beach loungers and picnic tables are an ideal place to enjoy the Paradise wacker. It’s thick and flavorful — you won’t need the floater!
Going Caramel at Casino Beach Bar & Grill
The CBB has grown a rooftop restaurant! That aside, the beachfront CBB, located at the foot of the Pensacola Gulf Pier has wonderful cocktails and serves up a Bushwacker species topped with caramel. Just like the view, it’s amazing.
You never know where you’ll find your best Bushwacker. So what the heck. Try them all!