When one talks of the Caribbean, white sandy shores, turquoise waters and tasty tropical beverages come to mind with those tiny umbrellas. Yet no Caribbean island is similar and the same concept refers to their signature cocktails.
These libations, cooked with local ingredients and spirits, are not only refreshing drinks but also highlight the history and culture of these islands.
The Bahama Mama (The Bahamas)
Not much is known about the Bahama Mama’s roots, but it’s possible that this rum cocktail was created during the heyday of the Bahamas as a smuggling centre. The Bahama Mama is more complicated than it seems, with a combination of dark and high-proof white rum, and other ingredients like coffee or coconut liqueur, ginger, and pineapple juice.
The Goombay Smash (Bahamas)
Born in the humble Blue Bee Bar on Great Turtle Cay in the Bahamas’ Out Islands, this potent libation has four types of rum in it. The Goombay Smash is the Bahamas’ national cocktail, produced by Blue Bee Bar’s creator Miss Emily. It is named after the popular style, close to calypso, of drum-oriented Bahamian music.
Rum Punch: Planter’s Punch (Jamaica) and Bajan Punch (Barbados)
Caribbean Rum Punch began in the mid-17th century as a Caribbean rum hybrid and a five-ingredient alcoholic “punch” brought in from India by British sailors. There are as many rum punches as islands in the Caribbean (or fish in the sea). But typical Barbados mixing instructions call for “One of Sour, Two of Nice, Three of Solid, and Four of Heavy.” Planter’s Punch is a combination of Jamaican rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, and grenadine with the Bajan variation containing a splash of Angostura bitters and nutmeg.
The Pina Colada (Cuba/Puerto Rico)
Perhaps the most famous Caribbean cocktail on the planet, Puerto Rico’s national drink is traditionally served on the rocks, with a strong pineapple flavour. The smoother frozen variety, which tends to favour the coconut flavour over the pineapple, is known to most people. Given the high official reputation of the cocktail in Puerto Rico, the Pina Colada may possibly have been invented in the neighbouring country of Cuba, but both the San Juan restaurant Caribe Hilton and Barrachina are said to be the birthplace of the cocktail.
The Mojito (Cuba)
Cuba is the mojito’s undisputed birthplace, and the mixture of gin, limes, sugar, sparkling water and spearmint may date back to the earliest days of Caribbean gin manufacturing. The famous writer who lived in Cuba as well as Key West, Ernest Hemingway, helped make the drink popular by writing about his days consuming mojitos at La Bodeguita del Medio bar in Havana, which still serves the drink to visitors today.
The Daiquiri (Cuba)
The Daiquiri may have been named after a beach (near Santiago, Cuba). There are countless variations in the simple mix of rum, sugar, lime and white rum (including banana flavouring, a common variation). The Daiquiri achieved worldwide popularity in the 1950s while serving visitors at the El Floridita bar in Havana. The iteration was made with maraschino cherry liqueur, and you can still buy one today at the Old Havana restaurant.
The Cuba Libre (Cuba)
The Cuba Libre on the Rum and Coke has a minor change of adding lime and lime juice. The drink’s origin goes back to the Spanish-American War when American soldiers were in Cuba in order to “liberate” the country from Spanish colonization. The success of rum and coke in the Caribbean extends way beyond Cuba. Stop at any roadside rum shop and you’ll be offered a glass of rum and a bottle of cola.
The Painkiller (British Virgin Islands)
Invented on the British Virgin Islands at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke, the Painkiller is a combination of black rum (traditionally Pusser’s, diluted in the BVI, and is regarded as the Royal Navy Liquor), pineapple juice, orange milk, light coconut cream, and shaved ice. It is topped with a nutmeg scatter, a rising Caraïbean seasoning. Pusser ‘s offers a painkiller blend — just add gin, if you want a quick shortcut.
The Dark and Stormy (Bermuda)
The Dark and Stormy is almost associated with Bermuda and purists can convince you that utilizing the initial recipes is the only way to enjoy one. Dark Gosling’s Rum and Barritt’s ginger beer, both Bermuda-born are a must-try in the Caribbean.
Ti Punch (French Caribbean)
French Martinique and Guadeloupe ‘s special “Rhum Agricole” is the secret to the Ti Punch taste, a basic combination of white rum, cane sugar, and lime. Unlike related Caribbean rum/sugar/lime cocktails, typically the Ti Punch is consumed alone, not over a glass, just as an aperitif. Order one of them in the French Caribbean and your bartender would presumably place a bottle of gin, some sugar syrup and lime before you. Feel free to blend the cocktail as intensely as you want. If you prefer less sweet, make it directly from sugar cane and not molasses to let the rum’s unique taste mix in as well. You can pick up a Ti Punch in St. Barths, St. Martin or Haiti too.
The Rum Runner (Florida Keys)
The Rum Runner is a comparatively new cocktail, created in 1972 by “Tiki John” Ebert of the Islamorada Holiday Isle Resort in the Florida Keys. Ebert discovered large quantities of blackberry brandy, banana liqueur, and 151-proof rum in a storeroom. This tale that would melt the core of every bar owner, and urge them to try out this new cocktail.
The Margarita (Mexico)
Some of the great pleasures of visiting Mexican Caribbean towns like Playa del Carmen is exploring the nearby tequila shops with their almost infinite collection of this agave-based liqueur. The most popular tequila drink in the world, the margarita, is sometimes dumbed into a bland frozen concoction without a touch of lime juice. But attempt to create it with top-shelf tequila, fresh lime and triple sec and you’ll realize why this iconic Mexican cocktail, produced in the 1930s, is still much loved.
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