Headhunter Cocktail Recipe

Jump to Recipe ⬇️

Headhunter Nutrition Facts






Created by

Nic Polotnianko

I fell in love with the art of mixology 6 years ago. Since then, I've honed my skills, crafting a myriad of cocktail recipes, and sharing my passion with other enthusiasts.

Last Updated: January 7, 2024


The Headhunter cocktail is a tiki-style drink that originated in the 1960s. It was created by Don the Beachcomber, a legendary bartender and the father of tiki culture. This exotic cocktail is perfect for those who love tropical flavors and a bit of mystery.

  • The name 'Headhunter' is inspired by the tribal warriors of the South Pacific
  • Tiki culture became popular in the United States during the post-World War II era
  • This cocktail is often served in a tiki mug or a glass with a tribal design

How Headhunter Tastes?

The Headhunter cocktail is a delightful mix of sweet, sour, and fruity flavors. It has a strong tropical taste, with hints of citrus and pineapple. The rum adds a warm, smooth finish to the drink.

Interesting facts about Headhunter

  • The Headhunter cocktail is often garnished with a pineapple wedge, cherry, and a sprig of mint
  • Tiki cocktails are known for their elaborate garnishes and presentation
  • The Headhunter cocktail is sometimes served on fire, with a flaming sugar cube or a small pool of overproof rum ignited on top


Light Rum

  • The light rum provides a mellow, sweet base without overpowering the other flavors. If you skimp, you'll lose some booze buzz; too much, and it's pirate night. Alternatives? White rum's cousin, cachaça, could swing in, adding a grassier note.

Alex Green

Dark Rum

  • Dark rum adds depth and complexity with its caramel and vanilla notes. No dark rum, no rich whispers in your tiki tale; too much and it's a molasses monsoon. Sub it with bourbon for a southern twang.

Emma Rose

Lime Juice

  • Lime juice brings zesty freshness that cuts through the sweetness. No lime, no zing; it's like a beach without sun. Too tart and your face might implode. Swap with lemon if you want a different kind of zesty kick.

Mary Mitkina

Pineapple Juice

  • It's the tropical backbone, folks. Pineapple juice gives a fruity punch; no pineapple, and you're just another landlubber. Overdo it and you're swimming in a pineapple pool. Mango juice could be a splashy sub.

Alex Green

Simple Syrup

  • Sweetness's middle name. It's the balancing act for the tart and the spirits. Forget it, and your smile might go sour. Too much, and you're stirring a sugar pot. Honey could whisper the same sweet nothings here.

Emma Rose

Angostura Bitters

  • Two dashes to rule them all - Angostura bitters are the cocktail's earthy spice. Omit them, and the complexity crashes. Add too much, and it's a bitter battleground. You could try orange bitters for a citrusy change-up.

Mary Mitkina


  • A dash of pomegranate prettiness. Grenadine lends a hint of color and sweetness. No grenadine, no blushing tiki; overpour, and it's a saccharine swamp. Raspberry syrup could wink in its stead.

Alex Green

Orange Juice

  • The citrus squeezer. Orange juice brings a zing that plays well with the rums and sweeteners. Too little and the cocktail lacks body; overdo it, and it's breakfast in a glass. Try peach nectar for a fuzzier feel.

Emma Rose

Garnish: Pineapple Wedge, Cherry, Mint Sprig

  • The finishing tropical touch that makes your drink a looker. Skimp on the garnish, and it's like a lei with no flowers. No garnish, no glamour; but substitute it with whatever fruit you've got, and the beach party goes on.

Mary Mitkina

Recipe. How to make Headhunter Drink

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice
  2. Add light rum, dark rum, lime juice, pineapple juice, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, grenadine, and orange juice
  3. Shake well until chilled and combined
  4. Strain into a tiki mug or glass filled with crushed ice
  5. Garnish with a pineapple wedge, cherry, and mint sprig

Pro Tips

  • Shake the cocktail shaker vigorously to ensure all ingredients are well mixed
  • Use fresh lime juice and pineapple juice for the best flavor
  • For an extra touch, flame the orange peel before adding it to the cocktail

Perfect Pairings

Food Pairings

  • Grilled Seafood: The citrusy notes of the cocktail complement the light, smoky flavors of grilled fish or shrimp.
  • Hawaiian Pizza: The pineapple in both the pizza and the cocktail create a harmonious tropical taste experience.
  • Spicy Asian Dishes: The sweetness of the Headhunter can cool down the heat from dishes like Thai or Szechuan cuisine.

Drink Pairings

  • Iced Tea: To refresh the palate between sips of the cocktail.
  • Coconut Water: To hydrate and balance the strong flavors of the Headhunter with a mild, sweet alternative.

🍹 Discover the Top 50 All-Time Recipes! 🍹

Enter your email, and we'll send the exclusive list straight to your inbox.

We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously

What you could change in Headhunter

  • Light Rum: Can be replaced with white rum
  • Dark Rum: Can be substituted with spiced rum
  • Simple Syrup: Honey or agave nectar can be used as a substitute

Explore all drinks starting with H here

And of course - twists🍹

The Beachcomber's Headhunter

  • Replace light rum with coconut rum for an extra tropical hint.
  • Add a splash of blue curacao for a mesmerizing ocean hue.
  • Garnish with an edible flower instead of a cherry to give an exotic allure.

The result is a more visually striking cocktail with a lighter, breezier feel -- it’s like a short vacation in a glass.

The Spice Trader's Headhunter

  • Switch out the Angostura bitters for cardamom bitters for an exotic, spicy twist.
  • Use palm sugar instead of simple syrup for a richer, more molasses-like sweetness.

This variation takes you on a spice route journey with every sip, adding a touch more mystery to each mouthful.

The Sunset Headhunter

  • Substitute grenadine for a splash of passion fruit syrup for a tangy twist.
  • Spike it with a small measure of Aperol for a gentle bitterness and sunset color.
  • Garnish with a sprig of thyme instead of mint for an aromatic surprise.

The Sunset Headhunter is a more complex, bittersweet affair, reminiscent of a tropical evening sky.

In case you forgot basics how to make Headhunter

The basic composition of simple syrup is relatively straightforward – a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. This mixture is heated until the sugar dissolves, resulting in a clear, sweet syrup.

Learn everything about simple syrup

Add your ingredients to the shaker first, then ice. Fill it up to ¾ of its capacity to ensure enough space for shaking. Hold the shaker with both hands (one on the top and one on the bottom) and shake vigorously. The shake should come from your shoulders, not your wrists.

Learn everything on how to shake

Place your chosen strainer on top of the shaker or mixing glass, ensuring a secure fit. Pour the cocktail into a glass through the strainer, which will catch solid ingredients and ice. If double straining, hold the fine mesh strainer between the shaker and the glass.

Learn everything on how to strain

Garnishing a bar drink depends on the type of garnish and the cocktail. Generally, it involves preparing the garnish (like cutting a citrus wheel or picking a sprig of mint), and then adding it to the drink in a visually appealing way (like perching it on the rim or floating it on top).

Learn everything on garnishing

Find the cocktail you'd love!

If you want to drink something else - you can use our AI-augmented search to find the best cocktail for you!
Completely free!

Frequently Asked Questions on Headhunter

What kind of rum is best for the Headhunter cocktail?

To stay true to the recipe, both light and dark rum are recommended. A gold rum can be used for a richer flavor or a spiced rum can add interesting nuances.

Can I use other types of bitters instead of Angostura?

Yes, you can experiment with different bitters to tweak the flavor of the cocktail, but Angostura is traditional.

What other fruits can I use as garnish for the Headhunter cocktail?

In addition to pineapple and cherry, other tropical fruits like mango and papaya can also make for a tasty and exotic garnish.

What kind of glass is suitable if I do not have a tiki mug?

Any large glass will do, but for the full effect try using a glass with an interesting shape or pattern.

I’m not a fan of rum. What other base spirits might work in the Headhunter?

Tequila can be a good substitution for rum in the Headhunter, giving it a bit of a kick and changing the flavor profile without sacrificing the overall tropical vibe.

More similar recipes to Headhunter!

Explore new cocktails you'd love!

Please rate this recipe