Tropical cocktails — Photo courtesy of iStock / Goami
Many of the world’s most iconic tropical cocktails were mixed for the first time during the early 20th century in the Caribbean. Using flavors of coconut, pineapple, citrus and, more often than not, rum, these libations were designed for beachside sipping. If you want to try them at their source, here’s where to go.
The Painkiller | Soggy Dollar Bar
Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Enjoyed throughout the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, the creamy, dreamy Painkiller originated at this quintessential beach bar. The Soggy Dollar was voted the best in the Caribbean and named for the condition of sailors’ currency after wading in from their yachts.
Invented in the 1970s, this iconic cocktail not only eases pain, it induces imbibers into a sweet island lull with its blend of dark rum, pineapple and orange juices, cream of coconut and a grate of nutmeg.
Goombay Smash | Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar
Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas
Home to the Goombay Smash — Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton
A rum concoction that does pretty much what its name promises, most Goombay Smash recipes call for four types of rum – coconut, light, gold and dark – with pineapple and orange juices.
The original recipe, kept under tightly locked lips, was created in the 1970s by teetotaling Miss Emily, whose daughter Violet survives her at this out island outpost, which a ferry ride away from Great Abaco. Like many of Abaco’s out island bars, it attracts the yachtie crowd that likes to leave T-shirts and other apparel hanging from the walls and ceilings.
Dark ‘n’ Stormy | Harry’s
Iconic island drinks often have a sailing tale in their genes, and the Dark ‘n’ Stormy is no exception. Said to have been created by a sailor who likened its light-and-black layering to storm clouds at sea, it requires Bermuda’s own Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and the island’s spicy ginger beer. Add a splash of lime, and you’re ready to weather the drink, now popular with mariners around the world.
Harry’s, a waterfront institution, is one of the most popular spots to rub elbows with sailors come ashore for their ration of post-sailing rum.
Piña Colada | Caribe Hilton
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Arguably one of the Caribbean’s most iconic cocktails, the piña colada is also one of the earliest invented in the islands. In 1954, Caribe Hilton bartender Ramon “Monchito” Marrero blended together coconut cream and heavy cream with pineapple juice and white rum for a cocktail that has endured across generations.
Marrero personally served his creation for 35 years as a hotel bartender. In 1978, it was declared the official cocktail of Puerto Rico, and in 2004, Governor Sila Maria Calderon signed a proclamation supporting the 50th anniversary of the piña colada.
Killer Bee | Sunshine’s Bar & Grill
Sunshine’s, home of the Killer Bee — Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton
Imbibing on Nevis often involves getting stung by a secret-recipe rum concoction known as the Killer Bee. It can be found at a beach shack on Pinney’s Beach, named for its locally famous owner who invented the fruity libation. The grilled chicken, ribs, lobster and fish here are nearly as legendary as the drinks.
Wise beach-goers order a helping before they’ve imbibed more than one Killer Bee, an intoxicating blend of rum, sweet-tart passion fruit juice, orange juice, honey, club soda, nutmeg and black pepper. Have a look around the walls, and you’ll find you’re in good company at Sunshine’s – past guests have included Oprah, Beyoncé and Kevin Bacon.
Nipper Juice | Nipper’s Beach Bar & Grill
Gorgeous beach and frozen drinks at Nipper’s — Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton
Now famous for its Sunday wild boar roast buffet that brings in up to 1,000 revelers, Nipper’s has long been quenching salty thirsts and feeding beach-bum appetites on Great Guana Cay. A spot of cranberry juice adds color and differentiation to the OJ, pineapple juice and rum equation in the frozen Nipper Juice.
Aruba Ariba | Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino
Aruba’s Hilton Resort recently celebrated the 55th anniversary of a cocktail invented by bar manager Juan “Jocky” Tromp in July 1963: the Aruba Ariba. Tromp was working at the time for the Aruba Caribbean Resort, where the Hilton stands today. His concoction varies slightly from the typical rum and fruit formula by adding vodka, Grand Marnier orange liqueur and crème de banana to the fruit punch.
Mojito | La Bodeguita del Medio
Ernest Hemingway, local lore has it, took his daiquiris at famed El Floridita. But his mojitos? They required a visit to La Bodeguita del Medio, a half-mile away. Today it remains one of Havana’s most popular bars for residents and tourists alike, who queue up for the classic muddle of Havana Club white rum, fresh mint, lime juice, sugar and seltzer poured over ice.
No one can say decisively who invented the mojito, but popular theories include Sir Francis Drake and slaves working the sugarcane fields.
Rum Punch | Barbados rum shops
Smiles and authentic rum punches in Barbados — Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton
The term “rum punch” gets slung around a bit carelessly in the islands, and the recipe often includes canned fruit juices. The most authentic rum punch, however, comes from Barbados, the birthplace of rum. True to the Sanskrit origins of the word “punch,” meaning five, the Bajan rum punch has five ingredients: one part sour (lime juice), two parts sweet (sugar), three parts strong (Mount Gay Rum) and four parts weak (water). The fifth ingredient is a grind of nutmeg, and most Bajans will add Angostura bitters.
Barbados is said to have one rum shop for every 160 people.
Green Bonaire | Divi Flamingo Beach Resort Bar
Cadushy – a creation of the local Cadushy of Bonaire distillery – is the only spirit in the world made from the pulp of kadushy cactus. And the Green Bonaire recipe was the result of a contest held by Cadushy.
This cocktail is a standout for another big reason, though: it contains no rum! This relative newcomer to the iconic Caribbean sipping scene breaks a few rules, in fact. The Cadushy liqueur is mixed with triple sec or blue curacao, vodka and apple juice and tastes a bit like a sweet and sour Jolly Rancher.
You can try it in the distillery’s tasting garden or partake at the fun and friendly Divi Flamingo Bar.