Cocktail of the Month: ‘I Shall Return’ to The MacArthur

Drinking rum conjures up images of Caribbean islands, private yachts, jerk chicken, calypso music and treasure chests. But what about live crucifixions, eating fertilized duck eggs, tricycles for public transportation and coffins hanging from jungle cliffs?  

There’s no doubt the West Indies is the epicenter of rum, whether your referring to fruity and aromatic Jamaican rum, the earthy cane-pressed Agricole spirits of the French isles or its birthplace of Barbados, where its origins date back to 1650. Today’s worldwide behemoth brands of Bacardi and Captain Morgan are also based there. 

But what about the Philippines, an archipelagic country in the Southwest Pacific,  that most Americans associate with the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his wife Imelda and her 3,000 pairs of shoes?  

While I was able to experience all the above-mentioned oddities on an Easter road to trip around the main island of Luzon, I was also able to learn about the rum culture there. Having previously traveled to the popular islands of Cebu, Boracay and Palawan, I was already familiar with the full-bodied taste of Filipino rum and was looking forward to enjoying some cocktails on my holiday.  

However, I was quite surprised when Gareth Johnson, a part-time Manila resident and founder of Young Pioneer Tours, told me that the world’s best-selling rum was Tanduay from the Philippines. Utterly remarkable, because this brand is little known in the rest of the world.  

According to the latest data from July 2022, “Tanduay continued to outsell other global rum brands for five years in a row,” according to Drinks International Magazine. “The leading Filipino rum sold more than 23.7 million 9-liter cases last year.”  

When I asked Johnson for advice on where to find the best cocktails, he took me to the Hotel Manila, a local landmark with a rich history all it’s own.  

When it opened in 1912, it was the first five-star hotel in the country. It became known as the “Address of Prestige” in the Far East for presidents, royalty, public figures and rock stars. Despite suffering major damage, it survived the Japanese invasion of World War II and served as the official residence of General Douglas MacArthur.  

When we arrived, the grand lobby exuded old-world glamour and grandeur with ornate chandeliers, a sculpture exhibit, arched entranceways and wood-paneled ceilings. Tucked along the side was an intimate bar decorated in hushed tones of burgundy and gold.  

One of their signature cocktails, which is named after Gen. MacArthur, boasts two types of rum, a white spirit from Tanduay and aged rum called Don Papa. Since I was unfamiliar with latter, I asked to sample it on its own. Don Papa, is a relative newcomer to the rum market, but it’s been growing significantly over the last five years and has even been gaining popularity in the U.S.A. The molasses-based, Spanish style rum is aged in sherry casks and has a multi-layered nectar-like flavor. 

In addition to rum, the MacArthur cocktail also includes Cointreau, egg white, bitters and calamansi, a small green skinned orange citrus fruit. Bartender Kay Santos carefully concocted my drink and poured the frothy-topped mixture into a chilled martini glass.  

The result was extraordinary. The cocktail had a perfume-like flowery aroma. The flavor was bold but smooth, with orange candy notes. The egg-white lent it a creamy texture, which along with the vanilla hints from the rum gave it a rich dessert-like feel. Although there was no chocolate at all, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was drinking a liqueur-filled Godiva truffle. 

“Bartender Kay Santos carefully concocted my drink and poured the frothy-topped mixture into a chilled martini glass…”

For someone who abhors overly sweet drinks, this was an anomaly. It invoked the flavor of an exquisite confectionary treat but with a complex sophistication of a rare cognac. It’s truly a sweet cocktail for people who hate sweet cocktails. 

While the exact recipe was not disclosed, after close observation, I came up with a copy-cat version. Both Tanduey and Don Papa rum can be bought online and delivered to D.C. Some good substitutes would be Flor de Cana white rum and Mount Gay Extra Old. Tangerine or kumquat may be used in place of the calamansi juice. If you’re interested in seeing any the attractions in this article you can visit 

The MacArthur 

1.5 oz Tanduay white rum 

1.5 oz Don Papa rum 

1 oz Cointreau  

½ oz Calamansi juice 

Dash of ginger bitters 

One egg white 

Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker until frothy. Pour into a chilled martini glass. 



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *