The Flying Tiger Cocktail


Disney designed the Flying Tigers decal.

I found this one on CocktailDB while looking around for drinks using grenadine. In my post on The Fogcutter I mentioned how small quantities of gin can make an interesting contribution to rum cocktails. Since this drink is another example of that idea I thought it would be worth a try.



This drink appears to have been named after the legendary Flying Tigers. The Flying Tigers were a squadron of U.S. volunteer pilots who assisted China in resisting Japanese aggression before and during WWII. They were based in Kunming (the capital of Yunnan province in southwest China), and commanded by Claire Chennault. Their successes became the stuff of legend, and included protecting the inhabitants of Kunming against Japanese bombing raids for the entire duration of their deployment there, adopting novel tactics that saw them massively outperform the RAF in the defense of Burma, and allegedly destroying nearly 300 Japanese planes for the loss of just 14 of their own pilots. The Flying Tigers formed a crucial part of China’s air defenses, and were a rare U.S. success story during the bleak period of Japanese advances that followed Pearl Harbor.


Flying Tigers “Blood Chit” worn on the back of pilots’ flying jackets: the Chinese reads “This foreigner has come to China to help in the war effort. Soldiers and civilians, one and all, should rescue, protect, and care for him”

The unit had a reputation for hard drinking, though not to the extent that discipline broke down, and some members of the unit were dismissed by Chennault for drinking. One member to be dismissed was Gregory Boyington, whose alcoholism eventually saw him sent to New Zealand for four months to ‘recuperate’. Incidentally, Boyington would go on to lead the Black Sheep, the colorful Solomons based air squadron partly made up of pilots stood down from their original units over disciplinary issues.

I have been to the Flying Tigers museum in Chongqing and even bought a Flying Tigers t-shirt. Maybe it is time to try the cocktail?



1 ¾ oz light rum (Havana Club)

½ oz gin (Plymouth)

¼ oz grenadine (homemade)

1 dash aromatic bitters


This is a sweetish but not uninteresting drink. It tastes heavily of rum, but with the grenadine giving lots of body and fruitiness. The gin and bitters add some light spicy and herbal notes to make things interesting. It may not be hugely exciting, but it shows what gin can do when used as a flavoring rather than the base spirit. It is also one of those handy drinks that does not require any hard to find ingredients – provided you either have good grenadine or can put up with average stuff.

Incidentally, how is this for coincidence? The Rough Riders were a unit of U.S. volunteers who allegedly invented the Cuba Libre, which allegedly combines rum and gin. The Flying Tigers were a unit of U.S. volunteers with an associated cocktail, invented by themselves for all we know, that again combines rum and gin. Spooky? Absolutely! It was probably after a discovery like this one that early man first got all philosophical and asked himself whether the universe had an intelligent designer.

3 Responses to “The Flying Tiger Cocktail”

  1. Bunnyhugs » Blog Archive » Ugly Nationalistic Chinese Demonstration in Auckland Says:

    [...] that specifically asked Chinese people to assist this friendly foreigner (you can see the design on this page). Clearly I was not a member of the mysterious “Dalai Lama Clique”, but was I some other, [...]

  2. Bunnyhugs » Blog Archive » Olympic Cocktails: Some China Inspired Drinks for Beijing 2008 Says:

    [...] [...]

  3. Herrmill Says:

    Tried visiting the Stillwell /Flying Tigers Museum today & was told they are closed until 1 March. Guess I’ll have to wait for the shirt, but will ask the barkeep at Dee Dees to make the cocktail for me while I’m in CQ.

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