For nearly 50 years, CJ’s Restaurant & Bar has been serving the Fire Island community in various ways, but what it’s ultimately become known for is one of its piña colada-esque cocktails, giving the iconic establishment the nickname of “Home of the Rocket Fuel.”
“The Rocket Fuel was founded in 1971 at CJ’s Fire Island,” says Chris Mercogliano, a manager at The Palms Hotel, which owns the Fire Island staple. “It has become the drink of Fire Island and is served at many bars and restaurants. However, the best and still original version is served at CJ’s.”
To accommodate demand for the cocktail in the 1970s, when it was opened in Ocean Beach by John “Gio” Palermo and named after his son, Christopher John, CJ’s had five high-speed blenders and designated several employees to be “special Rocket Fuel makers,” whose only job was to make the cocktail, Mercogliano says.
Today, CJ’s still has teams of “blender guys and girls” behind the bar to ensure Rocket Fuels are concocted as quickly as they’re ordered.
When asked how he’d describe the Rocket Fuel, he replies, “As the drink of the locals and all of Fire Island.”
Basically, the Rocket Fuel is a “151-proof rum-infused piña colada,” Mercogliano says.
The cocktail contains 151-proof rum, Coco Lopez, pineapple juice, amaretto, and ice. After the ingredients are blended and poured into a cup, a cherry is then added as a garnish.
Rob Weber, the restaurant’s general manager, would describe the drink to someone who’s never had it before as “Imagine what heaven would taste like if it would fit in a glass.”
“People come to CJ’s specifically for an original Rocket Fuel the same way people travel to Nathan’s in Coney Island for an original Nathan’s hot dog,” Mercogliano says.