We live in an age of tiki transparency—an age in which falernum is a backbar staple, and Gardenia Mix is no longer an inscrutable mystery whose composition is known only to Don the Beachcomber insiders. But for every Zombie, Pearl Diver or Test Pilot that’s earned newfound notoriety, dozens of other recipes originating from tiki godfather Donn Beach still fly beneath the radar. Take the Queen’s Road, a Daiquiri deviation buried deep within the Polynesian panoply that’s overdue for its moment.
Lynnette Marrero, bar director of New York’s Llama Inn and the newly opened Llama San, came upon the royal build in the pages of tikidom’s sacred text: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s 2007 Sippin’ Safari. “I was always playing around with the recipes he had. I just found the Queen’s Road, and it really stuck,” says Marrero, who first poured it for paying customers around a decade ago, at the short-lived Manhattan lounge Woodson & Ford.
The cocktail can be traced back to the Hollywood location of Don the Beachcomber, where, in 1941, it was priced at 85 cents (about $14 today). Likely named after the colonial thoroughfares tracing Hong Kong’s northern coast, the Queen’s Road is an anomaly even within Beach’s own oeuvre.
Instead of an intricate base comprising numerous rums, the Queen’s Road relies on just one: an ounce and a half of Puerto Rican gold rum. Where many tiki drinks of the time demanded elaborate barware, this one called for a simple stemmed glass—downright demure compared to the kitschy vessels typically associated with the genre.
Subtle as its composition may read, however, the Queen’s Road is not lacking in personality. Honey, a signature Donn Beach touch, joins the rum; rounding things out are lime and orange juices, shaken with a tongue-tingling ginger syrup, which Marrero believes is the key to its charm. “It’s funny—I started putting this drink into the rotation before the whole Penicillin and Moscow Mule kick really hit,” says Marrero, noting the crowd-pleasing nature of the two ginger-forward cocktails.
In her updated version of the Queen’s Road, Marrero makes one significant tweak from the version Berry extracted from the scribblings of Mariano Licudine, a revered, prolific Beach protégé who’d go on to open the Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. “That’s the thing when you’re demystifying the drinks in Jeff’s books. Often, you’re trying to find products that don’t exist anymore,” says Marrero. She notes that the Puerto Rican gold rums available today bear little resemblance to the ones Beach and his contemporaries worked with in tiki’s midcentury heyday, so she opts instead for a much older spirit. “Aged rums are far more rich and robust, and the ginger works well with all those natural flavors,” says Marrero, who counts Guatemalan Ron Zacapa and Guyanese El Dorado among her go-tos.
In another slight deviation from the original, Marrero prefers a rocks glass for serving—“I just like this drink with ice down, instead of tall,” she says—but otherwise sticks to the original plan unearthed by Berry’s detective work, down to the orange juice. “Orange juice is kinda taboo as an ingredient. It doesn’t ever seem like it adds anything,” says Marrero. But here, alongside the rum’s underpinnings of citrus peel and zest, she observes, “it’s a beautiful note.”