The Black Magic Cocktail and How to sub a Defunct Rum

Black Magic 1

Oh how i wish sometimes that i could just for a day or two transport myself back to the time where the tiki drinks were served with rums like the 17 year old JWray, the quintessential Mai Tai rum or for example the Jamaican Dagger rums…

Well, there IS still some of those rums left…maybe a bottle or three? and these are kept by a few rum collectors..but i actually once did have a smaller bottle of one of the dagger rums. And yep i won`t forget that rum. Or the other vintage rums i`ve luckily been able to taste in various places.

Many of these rums had a flavor profile that of old jamaican pot still plus so much more…and it seems to me that more and more rum companies are trying to re-create that flavor profile again – a good example is Smith and Cross. But these – even though they are very good to my taste – haven`t been able to duplicate the flavor those vintage rums had. We the rum drinkers who are or have not been in a position to collect some of those elusive vintage rums must make do with substitutions.

I`m going to make an example here with a vintage tiki drink called the Black Magic. Dark rums and coffee is what gave this drink it´s name and it was made by Mariano Licudine while he was still working for Don the Beachcomber in the Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Chicago. He later moved on to Fort Lauderdale to work at the Mai Kai.

I have read that he had 48 drinks on his cocktail menu that called for 43 different kinds of rum…so he knew his rums and how to blend different rums to create new flavor profiles for his cocktails – much like Don the Beachcomber.

So when he went to work at the Mai Kai he brought with him many of the recipes of Don Beach drinks and made his own twist on them.

What made the Black Magic so distinctive was not just the blend of dark rums and coffee which is delicious – but it was also the rums used and in this drink one of the Jamaican dagger rums played an important part.


Dagger was a Jamaican dark rum brand which is now defunct. The one i tried had a dark mahogany color and dark tones of burnt molasses and dried fruits, and it was spicy and woody, balanced and complex with a vintage feel.

There are different dagger rums with different agings and here´s what the Bum wrote about one of Mariano´s old dagger rums he tried at the Mai Kai´s back bar, stucked away on a shelf as it was.

“It puts the current dark Jamaican offerings on the market to shame; nothing in the Appleton or Myers’s portfolio even comes close.”

So what to do? how do we sub rums like that?

Reading more on the Atomic Grog`s website thought me that the same company that made the dagger rums now makes a rum that is hard to find – but not impossible – the Kohala Bay.

Now i have no way of finding Kohala Bay so then what to do? i kept reading and found out that they suggested an equal mix of Smith and Cross and El Dorado 12 year old demerara rum.

And finally – i can do that. What i can say is that these rums made a nice drink, tasty and strong but if it comes anywhere close to how the original Black Magic tasted when made with the jamaican dagger rum – it surely ain`t.

And close to how it tastes with the Kohala Bay rum? i cannot tell…all i can say that it´s a tasty drink and that the Smith and Cross/El Dorado 12 yo combo is a good one.

Try it for yourselves..this recipe is the Tribute to the Dark Magic as found on the Atomic Grog.

On the Mai Kai menu it said –


The owner’s choice. A superbly smooth but forthright blending of fine dark rums and tropical juices, subtly laced with coffee and truly refreshing.

Read the rest of the review here.

Black Magic 3

Tribute to The Mai-Kai’s Black Magic

* 3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
* 3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
* 3/4 ounce white grapefruit juice
* 3/4 ounce rich honey mix
(2:1 honey to water, mixed and cooled)
* 1 1/2 ounces strong Kona coffee,
freshly brewed, then chilled
* 1 1/2 ounces Coruba dark Jamaican rum
* 1 1/2 ounces Kohala Bay dark Jamaican rum
(substitution suggestion below)
* 1/2 ounce Don’s Mix
(2 parts grapefruit juice to 1 part cinnamon syrup)
* 1/2 teaspoon allspice dram (aka pimento liquor)
* 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Blend with up to 1 1/2 cups of crushed ice in a top-down mixer for around 5 seconds, or until frothy. Pour into a large snifter glass with more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Something about the coffee…try to get real Hawaiian Kona coffee if you can but if you can`t try to get either Louisiana Community coffee dark roast or Jamaican Blue Mountain. I don`t think any other coffee will do. You need a full flavored and strong coffee like these.

Instead of a snifter i decided to let this drink christen my new awesome tiki mug created by Scott Taylor who lives on Maui, Hawaii. if you want to see the awesome and very detailed mugs he makes you can go and check out his pictures on instagram ( type the name tikipop )

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His shop “Beach Bumz” is one of the stops of Maui Tiki Tours owned by another great tiki mug artist – Rob Hawes – who`s Kala mug i featured in this earlier post. You find his pics on instagram too, (type tikirob)

If you go to Maui make sure to stop by the shop, you will find tiki mugs by Scott, Rob and some other local artists, tiki farm, etc.

Also Gecko on Oahu will be releasing Scott´s new Ka’oha design mug in a much more affordable run than the others that have sold..most likely in July on his website.

The pics below (by Scott Taylor) are some of Scott´s tiki mugs:

Scott Taylor mugs 4 Coconut Beachcomber & Tapa Tri-Foota

Scott Taylor mugs 5 Marquesan Pineapple bowl

Scott Taylor mugs 2

12 Replies to “The Black Magic Cocktail and How to sub a Defunct Rum”

  1. That was a GREAT post!! and so very interesting, i`m on the hunt for some Kohala Bay…hope one day i can find a bottle!

  2. Hi! i actually missed that altogether! if i had known…i did meet the Bum and should of asked where to get it… didn`t see it in Nola though bec that i would have noticed!

    But there will be a day when i get a bottle of the Kohala Bay….somehow things have a way of happening at the right time…

    But it sure would be nice to see that rum at the UK Rumfest…

  3. Tiare,

    Sorry I’m late to the party on this post but I thought I’d say mahalo for spreading the word about the Black Magic and The Mai-Kai’s cocktails. As Joe points out, Kohala Bay is a crucial component. It’s featured in quite a few classics:

    The substitute rums are just fine, but you don’t get that 100% accurate Mai-Kai taste.

    I’m hoping somebody hooked you up with some in New Orleans. A certain Bum went home from The Hukilau in June with several bottles. I’m also seeing reports that it may be available outside of Florida.

    P.S. Those are some great mugs!

  4. Great write-up as usual Tiare!

    If you like the Atomic Grog Black Magic tribute recipe then make sure you give the Mutiny tribute recipe a try as well if you haven’t already done so. I Really like the Black Magic (both the Mai-Kai version and the tribute), but I LOVE the Mutiny. To me, the drink just hits the perfect balance between the Kona coffee notes, the dark rum, and the sweet citrus and syrups.

  5. P.S. While Kohala Bay isn’t exactly like Dagger Punch, it’s INTEGRAL to the rum blend the Mai-Kai uses in its Black Magic. It’s a good bargain, too.

  6. T.,

    I’m fortunate that I have a place that somehow manages to stock Kohala Bay. It’s not QUITE like Dagger Punch Rum, of course. My suggestion for approximating it is 4:1 Kohala Bay to El Dorado Special Dark.

    NEXT year when you head over to TotC, have a quick layover in Miami, which features a lot of “small” rums as we are the crossroads of the Caribbean. Or maybe some kind Florida resident will be heading to New Orleans for TotC and you can swap something interesting?

  7. Thanks for the info Dr Coruba! well i won`t be in Florida but i`ll be in New Orleans and there i know Coruba is widely available so i`ll get a bottle of that, it´s a very good mixing rum i think:-)

  8. The Kohala Bay dark Jamaican rum isn’t impossible to find, you do have to jump through a few hoops to get it. The US importer of the rum is Carriage Importers, in Springfield, New Jersey. The curious fact is that almost no one has it on their shelf for retail sale, they are supplying just a couple of “big” buyers of the rum, one being the Mai-Kai in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

    Carriage supplies Republic National Distributors with Kohala Bay in Florida. After speaking with the Republic in Florida, they were kind enough to let me know that while their only client current client for it is the Mai-Kai, they serve many large South Florida liquor stores including ABC, Total Wine, and Crown. While none of these stores are shelving Kohala Bay, all these stores (and others) can special order it from Republic and have it in just a couple of days. (Fyi, the distributor only has it in 1.75 liter bottles)

    So, IF you are Southern Florida, AND you have a few days to spare, you can get this very illusive rum to take home with you!

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