Refueling Fire Island’s Iconic Cocktail

A summer staple grows up.

Oh, the infamous Rocket Fuel. What began as a tasty respite from calorie-counting and real life has ultimately become a cultural movement.

Long Islanders familiar with the Fire Island party scene have no doubt encountered the iconic Rocket Fuel—the frozen, sweet concoction synonymous with summer. The Rocket Fuel, legend has it, originated at Ocean Beach’s CJ’s, the bar inside of the Palms Hotel. What began as a tasty respite from calorie-counting and real life has ultimately become a cultural movement. The bars on Fire Island are now populated with more than their fair share of fuel-slinging bartenders.

What is the Rocket Fuel? In layman’s terms, it’s an expanded piña colada, boasting the addition of amaretto and overproof rum. But given today’s move toward craft cocktails, the drink feels a bit rooted in the 1990s. But Brandan Scibek, bar manager at Hampton Bays’ RUMBA and beverage director for Rooted Hospitality Group (which also includes Hampton Bays’ Cowfish and Patchogue’s RHUM), intends to correct that.

“The Rocket Fuel is compelling because it starts with the well-loved piña colada and elevates it by adding the [Bacardi] 151,” Scibek says. “That’s important to know, because it’s the ingredients from the traditional piña colada that help to mask the potency of the 151. But outside of what’s in the drink, how and where it’s enjoyed have really turned it into a summer staple on Long Island. It’s the full experience—jump on the ferry, spend the day on Fire Island, enjoy cocktails with friends with that view of the ocean … it really feels like you’re on vacation and far from the madness of tourist season on Long Island. The beach, the dunes, the Rocket Fuel.”  

Mr. Scibek’s adapted version of the drink includes the same nods to summer—with coconut as the starring note.

Mr. Scibek’s adapted version of the drink includes the same nods to summer—with coconut as the starring note—as well as some welcome additions, including Bailey’s Irish Cream and a housemade banana-vanilla rum, “for some island flair.” “Now, at RUMBA, we like to say, ‘Get here fast, then take it slow,’” Scibek says. “Island style on island time.”

Scibek’s reimagining of the Rocket Fuel substitutes coconut-pineapple puree for the saccharine, thick Coco Lopez; banana-vanilla rum infused with Tahitian vanilla beans for the standard white rum; and Gosling’s dark rum for the overproof Bacardi. Scibek also adds a half-ounce of Bailey’s for a creamy, nutty texture—and a natural complement to the almond-flavored amaretto liqueur.

“Our RUMBA Fuel is really something special,” says Scibek, “because we’ve really made it our own.”

Make a RUMBA Fuel at Home

Scibek’s reimagining of the Rocket Fuel substitutes coconut-pineapple puree for the saccharine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce banana-vanilla rum (you can make this yourself by choosing a neutral, white rum, like Bacardi, and steeping in it split vanilla beans and whole bananas for several days)
  • .5 ounce amaretto
  • .5 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 3 ounces coconut-pineapple purée (see the RUMBA recipe below)
  • .25 ounce Gosling’s rum, as a floater

Method:

Combine ingredients (save for the Gosling’s) in a blender with a half-cup of ice until smooth. Pour into chilled hurricane or highball. Top with Gosling’s floater. This drink can also be shaken over ice and strained over fresh ice, if you don’t happen to have a blender.

RUMBA’s Coconut-Pineapple Puree

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pineapple flesh
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 ounces simple syrup
  • 6 ounces cream of coconut

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a blender or bullet. Pulse until smooth. Reserve for later use. Puree can hold up to several weeks in the refrigerator.

 

Want to read about another iconic Long Island cocktail? Check out Alicia Kennedy’s story on the Long Island Iced Tea here.

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Hannah Selinger

Hannah Selinger is a freelance food and wine writer and sommelier living in East Hampton. Her work has appeared in the such publications as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and RawStory.com. She is the wine columnist for the Southampton Press.