Originally created at the end of World War II by Tiki grand-pappy Don the Beachcomber, and lovingly revitalized by Beachbum Berry in his book Sippin’ Safari; the three dots & a dash cocktail is fundamentally and undeniably tiki. The name means “V” (for victory) in Morse code, and the trademark three-cherry garnish symbolizes the aforementioned dots. This makes it instantly recognizable to those in the know, though folks outside the know also rejoice, because hey look three tasty cherries.
With joyous whiffs of cherry, clove, vanilla and buttery sugarcane, this drink smells like a magical tiki explosion. Like most great tiki drinks, it engages the front of the tongue with citrusy flavors, before separating itself from the pack with a deeply transfixing wash of rum and clove. This drink will reward lovers of tiki spice, as the double dose of falernum and allspice dram create a strong backbone that recurs through every step of the drink. Citrus is reduced to a secondary role here. As with most tiki fare, this cocktail makes an excellent summer sipper, but its strong allspice, vanilla, and clove elements give it a complexity that transcends season.
This drink, like many from its era, calls for a blender. We don’t like using blenders to make our cocktails, so instead we shake it to the moon and back over crushed ice, then strain the drink into another glass filled with more crushed ice. We’ve never felt like this method held us back, and if you are a slow sipper, it can yield a longer window before the drink becomes watery. If you do like using a blender, most books recommend a flash blend poured with a gated finish.
Recipes can be very specific about what rum bottles to use, though most recommend a combination of aged and dark rums, usually emphasizing the former. The excellent Smuggler’s Cove cocktail book recommends an ounce-and-a-half of AOC Martinique Rhum Agricole Vieux combined with a half-ounce of blended aged rum. AOC Martinique Rhum Agricole Vieux is a generally expensive aged rum with a smooth character. AOC Martinique is a set of production standards—like those used for bourbon and scotch—which helps deliver a consistent terroir. If you have some, definitely reach that way; it gives the drink sophistication without resorting to intense funky notes, which might overwhelm the other flavors. If you don’t have that on hand, any combination of aged, black, or demerara rums would work well; just be thoughtful about what you choose, and lean towards something medium-aged or smooth if you have it.
If you don’t have both falernum and allspice dram, you can make this drink with just one (sorry to all the purists). Dram tends to be a little more intensely spiced than falernum, so consider cutting back a quarter ounce or more when substituting. Some people like this drink with dry curacao instead of fresh orange juice. While we agree this could be good, we are rarely in the mood to mess with perfection. Pour this tall drink on a sunny day, or any time when victories—either long term or short—are at hand.