‘Painkiller’ With a Punch

It is called “The Painkiller”, and as it contains liberal quantities of rum this is a drink that undoubtedly lives up to its name – provided that you do not over-indulge.

It is the favourite tipple of residents and visitors alike on the beautiful Caribbean island of Tortola, one of the remarkably unspoiled British Virgin Islands. Tortola is where yachtsmen and sun-worshippers go if they want to experience the West Indies as they used to be, before the demands of the vast American travel industry turned much of the region into a Florida lookalike.

Once, Tortola was the haunt of pirates, explorers and adventurers. Now it is a holiday experience not to be missed. There is a smattering of shops and souvenir stalls beside the jetty in Road Town, the island’s tiny capital, and the rest of Tortola seems to consist mostly of jungle-encrusted hillsides and glorious sandy beaches. No wonder that, before long, everybody in the know heads for Pusser’s, in what passes for the heart of Road Town.

What is Pusser’s? It is hard to say, really. A mixture of shop, bar, restaurant, yacht chandlery, rum distillery, TV lounge and museum, I suppose. But as it has been on the island for an awfully long time, it has obviously got the recipe right.

I discovered it one year when I ducked through its ramshackle doorway to escape a sudden shower and promptly had what appeared to be an enamel mug filled with fruit juice thrust into my hand. On the TV, the West Indies were playing in a Test match, and the Pusser’s partisans were cheering them on.

Never mind that the “fruit juice” was really the famous “Painkiller” (made to a secret recipe consisting of Pusser’s own rum mixed with fruit juices, cocoanut cream and nutmeg, then poured over a mug of crushed ice); there was wonderful Caribbean food on offer too. And the West Indies were winning the cricket. If there is a better place to spend a holiday afternoon, I have yet to find it.

As if that were not enough, the all-purpose building contains a huge shop filled with hard-wearing holiday gear as well as yachting necessities and the inevitable decanters of Pusser’s rum.

If you are planning a Caribbean cruise, it is worth checking to ensure that your ship will visit Tortola. The beaches alone are worth the trip, but the island does not yet seem to be on the itineraries of the vast floating resorts which American cruise ships, in particular, have become.

And when you are in Road Town, don’t forget to pop into Pusser’s. They’ll make you feel truly welcome, and it is a great place for lunch as well as for doing your shopping. A “Painkiller” or two will go down well in the heat – but beware sampling too many of these delicious drinks if you want to avoid the real pain of getting back to your ship late and finding that she has sailed!


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