Mixing Magic: James Murphy's Secret Bushwacker Bonanza in Seaside - 30A


Mixing Magic: James Murphy’s Secret Bushwacker Bonanza in Seaside

By: Carrie Honaker | Posted May 16, 2024

Two vintage silver trailers sit in the center of the iconic Airstream Row in Seaside. They belong to James Murphy, the owner of Barefoot BBQ in Seaside in Walton County, Florida. Everyone calls him “Murph” and his drinks are legendary.

Tables are littered with flip flops serving as table numbers, hundreds of stickers from Murph’s travels, doggie dishes so furry friends can stay hydrated, and table tents with the story of the Bushwacker cocktail. Murph brought this frosty beverage over from St. Thomas where he lived previously. A Sudis sticker affixed to the trailer comes from the original home of the Bushwacker. In 1975 the Ship’s Store & Sapphire Pub opened on St. Thomas. Bartender Angie Congliaro and Restaurant Manager Tom Brokamp came up with the drink and named it after a guest’s dog, Bushwack. The cocktail quickly spread through the Virgin Islands and is now served worldwide.

But Murph makes the best one around, even Brokamp who recently visited Seaside agreed in a tweet he sent out to the world.

“The Bushwacker was our drink on St. Thomas. Then I got to the United States, and I’ve been told it’s from Maine, Alabama, Mississippi, Key West, Georgia, and even Nashville. I’ve tried to trademark it a couple of different ways, but it’s all tied up in courts. Floribama claims they invented it—I respect them; they are the Vatican of bars, but Angie brought it to the Sandshaker in Pensacola so my vote is with her,” Murph said. Though contentious in the South who made the Bushwacker, Murph added, “I know the two people who made it and now one of them has tried mine. I’m not saying I have the best, but he sure thinks I might.”

Barefoot BBQ opened in 2009 and Murph has been blending up his version of the Bushwacker since then. He experimented with a blender but moved to a machine for better texture. “I made them myself when I became a bartender in the islands so I always knew recreating would be easy. I grew up with that flavor profile. It took me four months and 36 changes to get the recipe right. I became obsessed with getting the color just like I remembered and when you see it now, it’s perfect,” Murph said.

With a wink, he let me in on some of the ingredients: Vodka, Rum, Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Coconut. He garnishes it with whipped cream, grated nutmeg, and a chocolate drizzle, and friends, it is as delicious as he says. Murph also designed the Bushwacker stickers and logo for the ones he serves at Barefoot BBQ.

But he is not giving up his recipe.

“I’ve never shown one person. I make every batch when I come in at 6 a.m.,” Murph said. “I tell my staff if I die tonight on the way home, that’s it guys. You got whatever we got in-house, maybe 30 gallons, and that’s it. “

“I’ve never shown anybody how to make it. I’ve never written it down. It’s all in my head.”

With a flavor somewhere between a Piña Colada, a Mudslide, and a chocolate milkshake, the Bushwackers go down real easy, especially on a hot day on the Gulf, but be careful, it’s potent. Murph suggests pairing it with a plate of his BBQ Nachos topped with tender meats smoked right out back with Murph’s signature technique.

To learn more, visit Barefoot BBQ or follow their updates on Facebook.


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Carrie Honaker is a Florida-based freelance writer who is not sure where she will land next, but it will involve messy eating, a spicy Tempranillo, and finding the local dive bar. Her work has been featured in Wine Enthusiast, Bon Appetit, and others. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @writeonhonaker.