Miami, October, 29, 2013. A guide to the signature cocktails of ten popular Caribbean islands
Cuba – Mojito No competition here – Cuba’s signature drink is the mojito, whose history goes back to the 16th century, when Francis Drake and his comrades drank a mixture of crushed mint leaves, lime and unrefined rum. It became famous in its modern-day form when Ernest Hemingway drank them at Le Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, and James Bond enjoyed one in 2002’s Die Another Day, a suitable drink for the Cuban back drop.
Jamaica – Planter’s Punch Rum has an official classification system on Jamaica, categorising the alcohol from light and clear to rich and dark varieties. Planter’s Punch, an International Bartenders’ Association Official Cocktail, combines dark rum, lemon juice, grenadine syrup and Angostura bitters, a potent mix of 44.7 per cent alcohol, herbs and spices that comes from Trinidad and Tobago. According to the online magazine Charleston City Paper, London magazine Fun ran recipe instructions in verse in September 1878: A wine-glass with lemon juice fill, of sugar the same glass fill twice/Then rub them together until/The mixture looks smooth, soft, and nice./Of rum then three wine glasses add, /And four of cold water please take. A drink then you’ll have that’s not bad / At least, so they say in Jamaica.
Dominican Republic – Mama Juana Described by Lonely Planet’s guide to the Dominican Republic as the “DR’s homemade version of Viagra”, this concoction is not exactly a cocktail, but rather a potent blend of herbs, honey, wine, rum and dried bark, steeped together for a month, that is believed to have medicinal properties, curing illnesses and replacing vitamins. We might stick with a pina colada.
French Caribbean – Ti Punch This simple mix of white rum, cane sugar and lime is usually served straight as an aperitif on the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. It is often served “to taste”: drinkers are presented with a glass of rum, a lime and some syrup to make it up as they wish.
Curaçao – Curaçao Curaçao has an eponymous liqueur, meaning the whole island is now commonly associated with the potent alcohol, often coloured blue or orange to make vibrant cocktails. The alcohol is flavoured with the dried peel of the laraha citrus fruit which have grown on the island since importation by Spanish explorers. Varieties flavoured with coffee, chocolate and rum and raisin are also sold.
The Bahamas – Bahama Mama It’s thought this complicated cocktail was first made during the Prohibition era when the Bahamas were a smuggling hotspot. It features two types of rum – dark rum and 75.5 per cent volume 151 proof – and some of the numerous variations also include coffee and coconut liqueurs. It is a popular all-rounder, often served in a coconut.
Grenada – Calabash Rum Cocktail Grenada grows 20 per cent of the world’s nutmeg – hence its name, the “Spice Isle” – so it’s not surprising that the ingredient makes its way into the island’s classic drinks. The Calabash rum cocktail sees white River Antoine rum mixed with Grenadian nutmeg syrup, freshly squeezed lime juice, a spoon of caster sugar and – for colour – a dash of Blue Curacao. All this is topped with more grated nutmeg – so you’ve got to like the stuff to enjoy this tipple.
British Virgin Islands – the Painkiller cocktail The Painkiller Cocktail may not live up to its name – indeed, one too many may have the opposite effect. Made with Pusser’s Rum, it originated at the six-seat Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke island in the BVIs, where English owner Daphne Henderson had become famous for her strong rum cocktails. She made friends with the founder of Pusser’s distillery, Charles Tobias, but only after much persuasion did he manage to extract from her the secret rum recipe. After a taste test, drinkers deemed Tobias’ version superior, and the Painkiller has garnered fame throughout the Caribbean.
Trinidad – Blanchisseuse Rum Punch Blanchisseuse Rum Punch is unique to Trinidad and was named after a beach party at Blanchisseuse, a village on the northern coast. The addition of Portugal juice means it is a little more challenging to make than your average cocktail, but these tangerine-like fruits – grown extensively on Trinidad and pronounced poo-tee-gal(s) – add extra zing, if it was ever needed.
Puerto Rico – Pina Colada The Pina Colada has become probably the world’s most famous way to use pineapple juice. With a name that literally means “pressed pineapple”, this drink was actually concocted not by a Caribbean resident, but by a man named Ricardo Garcia, who was born in Barcelona in 1914. It is said he invented it by accident, when coconut cutters went on strike and Mr Garcia needed something to put in the drinks he was serving guests at the Caribe Hilton Hotel on Puerto Rico. He used pineapples instead to house the Coco-Loco cocktails he made, and added crushed iced and strained pineapple, and the pina colada was born.