“Food” You Can Drink: Caribbean Libations

The warm breezes, the swaying palms, the swaying you after a couple of these...

"Ah, there they are. So what are you ordering for yourself?" By the way, these are hurricane glasses. I think it is illegal to put anything other than tropical drinks and loose change (not at the same time) in a hurricane glass.

With the hot weather bearing down on us, it is time to break out the tropical drinks, paper umbrellas optional. Here is a small round-up of drinks common to different Caribbean islands, plus a side trip to the Bahamas and Bermuda.

The Bahamas: The Goombay Smash

This is Bon Apétit’s version and it is not authentic. No one’s is, because the Goombay Smash was invented by Emily Cooper in the 1960s and unless you travel to Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar on Green Turtle Cay you won’t be served one made according to the closely held secret recipe.

Ice cubes

6 tablespoons pineapple juice

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup Malibu rum or other coconut-flavored rum

2 tablespoons light rum

2 tablespoons gold rum

2 tablespoons dark rum

2 pineapple wedges

2 orange slices 

Fill cocktail shaker with ice; add pineapple juice, orange juice, and all rum. Cover and shake until very cold. Fill 2 short glasses with ice. Strain cocktail mixture over, dividing equally. Garnish with pineapple wedges and orange slices.

This is annoyingly over-complicated, as a lot of Bon Apétit’s recipes are. There are 16 tablespoons in a cup, so 4 tablespoons in 1/4 cup. The ratios are 3 parts pineapple juice, 2 parts orange juice and 2 parts Malibu rum, and 1 part each of three varieties of rum. Do your best.

Bermuda: The Dark ’n Stormy

These couldn’t be simpler to make. Fill a rocks glass or a highball glass with ice (big ice cubes, not shaved ice.) Fill about 1/3 of the way with dark rum, squeeze in a little lime juice, and top with ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge. 

You’re counterfeiting though if you don’t use use Gosling’s Black Seal rum and Gosling’s ginger beer. They actually hold a worldwide patent on the name Dark ’n Stormy and are both vigilant and litigious if they find any establishment selling Dark ’n Stormys with non-Gosling’s ingredients.

I’d like to add that the Dark ’n Stormy, like the Cosmopolitan, seems to have come from nowhere (well the Cosmo came from “Sex and the City”) and then suddenly everyone was serving and drinking them. And now suddenly they’re not. Just like how Pabst Blue Ribbon became the official Hipster Beer™ seemingly overnight, for no good reason. All very mysterious.

British Virgin Islands: The Painkiller

2 ounces Pusser’s rum*

4 ounces pineapple juice

1 ounce orange juice, freshly squeezed

1 ounce cream of coconut

Garnish: nutmeg, freshly grated

Garnish: pineapple wedge

Add the rum, pineapple juice, orange juice and cream of coconut to a shaker with ice and shake vigorously but briefly to combine. Strain into a hurricane glass or snifter over crushed ice. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and a pineapple wedge. Serve with a straw.

*Pusser’s is a bar/restaurant/lodging/liquor mini-conglomerate on the island of Tortola. To make an authentic Painkiller, which is copyrighted by Pusser’s, you must use Pusser’s rum, a dark rum blended to replicate the rum handed out as part of British Navy provisions. Good luck finding it. Otherwise just use whatever dark rum, who cares, and maybe a little more than this recipe calls for.

Cuba: The Cuba Libre

I throw this in to disabuse you of a myth. This was not invented in Cuba. One story goes that it was invented in Florida by members of the Rough Riders waiting to set sail, who got their hands on the relatively new Coca Cola, added cheap local rum to it, and toasted Free Cuba, by which they meant Cuba under American, not Spanish, control. I kind of believe this because the gin and tonic was invented by the British Navy, whose sailors used to mix their quinine with their gin rations to make it tolerable. In any event, one can only imagine what would have happened to a Cuban who shouted “¡Qué Viva La Cuba Libre!” under the Battista or Castro regimes. Well, maybe the Castro regiments would have gotten away with it while besieging Battista’s Havana, but not for much longer.

Fill a rocks or highball glass with ice, pour in light rum and Coke in whatever ratio you want (I don’t like Coke so mine would be about 6 or 7:1), squeeze in the juice of a lime wedge if you want, and garnish with that very same lime wedge or pick another.

Jamaica: Aqua de Jamaica

This, disappointingly, is just hibiscus tea, served chilled/over ice. I suppose when your island is awash in that other crop you wouldn’t bother to be roused to set up a rum distillery. Further research reveals that they do drink rum, often mixed with something called Ting, a locally produced grapefruit soda which actually sounds delicious. And, of course, Red Stripe beer.

St-Martin/St Maarten

This dual-nation island is mad about the locally made guavaberry liqueur, and it is considered the national drink. Think of a citrus-based drink and see whether it sounds like you’d like to replace the base alcohol with it. A guavaberry sunrise, for example, would be made with guavaberry liqueur, not tequila. A guavaberry margarita would be made with 1/2-tequila, 1/2-guavaberry liqueur. Guavaberry screwdrivers. & etc. A guavaberry kir would be a little of the liqueur and a lot of champagne.

Trinidad: The Trinidad Sour

1 1/2 ounces Angostura bitters

1/2 ounce rye whiskey

3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 ounce orgeat

Garnish: lemon twist

This is an interesting libation. Contrary to what some people who have never had Angostura bitters believe, they are in fact alcoholic, clocking in around 90 proof. Orgeat is an almond/sugar syrup, which you can sub with Amaretto, to make this thing even more potent. After a couple of these you’ll be belting out a Calypso tune while slithering, probably unsuccessfully, under the limbo stick.

U.S. Virgin Islands: The Bushwacker

½ oz. Vodka

½ oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream

½ oz. Cruzan Coconut Rum

½ oz. Kahlua

½ oz. Amaretto

½ oz. Cruzan Dark Rum

¾ cup Crushed Ice

Throw everything in the blender and serve chilled in a large martini glass. 

Amusing as the name is, just reading this list of ingredients in combination makes me gag, but how U.S. of the USVI to come up with a drink so suited to us Americans, many of whom have the refined palate of a spring break college sophomore when it comes to alcohol. An excessive blend of too much, and no decent American would ever turn down the opportunity to develop Type 2 diabetes. Whoever came up with this ghastly thing?

The Bushwacker Cocktail was first invented and sold in 1975 at The Ship’s Store & Sapphire Pub on St. Thomas. The creator of this delectable concoction was Angie Conigliaro, a cousin of Tony Conigliaro of the Boston Red Sox, with some help from restaurant manager Tom Brokamp.

How am I not surprised that there is a (tenuous) Red Sox tie-in? Can you imagine what the hometown fans would be like if they served these at Fenway? They have enough trouble maintaining self-control after two wildly overpriced cups of watery American beer.

Luckily for us, Captain Morgan rum is produced at a single distillery facility in St. Croix, so drink as much Captain Morgan as you like, light, dark, spiced, whatever. One year we had a few folks over around the holidays and I spiked the hot chocolate with Captain Morgan’s spiced rum and it was a big hit.


And, on that cheerful and shamefully unpatriotic and Sox-bashing note, I think I’ll stop here, but there are many more islands to cover. Maybe I’ll do a Part II before the summer is out.



    • You are up in your island’s highlands, perhaps along a volcanic ridge, and after a hard day’s search for evidence of an ancient civilization which you believe must have lived where you are now, you can stop and refresh yourself. You do have three or four porters with you, don’t you? Someone to unpack the rum and squeeze the local fruits? Make sure to use plenty of mosquito netting when you set up camp.

  1. This is annoyingly over-complicated, as a lot of Bon Apétit’s recipes are.

    Seriously, what’s the point of equal parts light, gold and dark rum in something that also has pineapple juice, orange juice and coconut rum and served over ice? You can guarantee nobody is going to notice if you just use one type.

    • Sometimes, with rum anyway, the coloring changes, so light rum gives you one thing, dark rum another, and a blend something else. When I make my celebrated (by me at least) Blue Hawaiian Punch if I only use light rum it turns that nice shade of electric aqua; if I use a blend it turns a strange “It Came From The Swamp” lurid green, perfect for Halloween, and if I only use dark it becomes kind of dark but like no other color on the Pantone spectrum.

  2. Shocked and appalled you excluded Belize and their delightful Panty Ripper from your list. Officially their national drink is a “rum punch” but that’s a damn dirty lie.

    2 parts pineapple juice

    1 part coconut rum

    1 part dark rum (a cheap brand, like One Barrel or parrot rum)

    Splash of coconut cream or grenadine optional, skip the grenadine it doesn’t add anything worthwhile

    Mix all together and serve over ice.

    *I don’t remember what the actual brand is for parrot rum. It was the slightly more expensive than One Barrel variety sold there that has a macaw parrot on the label, so you just say parrot rum if you need that one. Also, One Barrel is a great rum for mixing with strong things like pineapple juice or soda, but alone tastes like something you could use to strip paint off walls.

    • In my defense, I stuck to the islands, and I barely scratched the surface. Some of the stuff served in the nearby Cancún/Cozumel/Tulum/Wherever-else-in-Caribbean-Mexico-is-overrun-with-American Spring Breakers-and honeymooners deserves its own post. Or more like a warning: kids, don’t try this at home.

      Somewhere I have a Trader Vic’s cocktail manual: that would make for another good post. The “Polynesia” of the midcentury imagination. It only requires about ten ingredients, tops, including garnishes, and you just keep recombining to come up with dozens of variants.

Leave a Reply