Imagine a Caribbean vacation. No matter what island or activities you include, you’ll likely factor a fruity or island-fresh cocktail into the itinerary.
Caribbean history is filled with spirits that fueled the region’s economy during the 17th and 18th centuries. While rum ran the game for many decades, inventive cocktails eventually came along catering to travelers looking for something exotic. Other cocktails were simple combinations of whatever a bartender had on hand. Regardless of their origins, one thing’s for sure—the Caribbean serves up amazing libations perfect for every taste.
Here are seven favorites to try during your next visit to the region, or for a little Caribbean flavor at home.
Coecoei & the Aruba Ariba, Aruba
A local Aruban spirit, Coecoei boasts a long history. It was originally created by native tribes from agave sap, rum and cane sugar—which give it a red hue. While you can’t purchase Coecoei outside Aruba, you can bring some home with you to recreate its signature cocktail, the Aruba Ariba. If you’re in a bind and there’s no Coecoei to be had, some travelers who’ve developed a taste for the drink substitute passion fruit nectar (though that won’t provide Coecoei’s 100-proof punch).
Aruba Ariba (Divi Resorts)
- ½ ounce of vodka
- ½ ounce of 151 proof rum
- 1/8 ounce of coecoei
- 1/8-ounce crème de bananas
- ½ cup of orange juice
- ½ cup of cranberry juice
- ½ cup of pineapple juice
Pour into a glass, stir slightly, splash with grenadine, top with Grand Marnier and garnish with a slice of orange.
Antiguan Smile, Antigua
The Antiguan Smile incorporates two particularly special local ingredients—black pineapples (yes, black, though they turn green when ripe) and Cavalier rum from Antigua Distillery Limited. Since 1947, the distiller’s been creating clear rum by fermenting molasses and aging the spirit in bourbon barrels for two or more years. The cocktail doesn’t feature many more ingredients and it’s easy to whip up at home.
- 2 ounces of rum (Cavalier if possible, another clear rum if not)
- 1 ounce of crème de banana
- 4 ounces of pineapple juice
Shake all ingredients together, pour over ice and garnish with a slice of pineapple.
Mojitos & the Cuba Libre, Cuba
While you’re likely already familiar with these two cocktails, do you know their origins? Though often served in restaurants in the States, mojitos are actually Cuban, made with only a handful of fresh ingredients. The history is somewhat muddled, but it’s known that the drink was considered a local remedy for various illnesses and Sir Francis Drake and his crew used it to treat dysentery and scurvy aboard their ships.
Classic Mojito (Bacardi)
- 2 parts Bacardi Superior Rum
- 4 lime wedges
- 12 fresh mint leaves
- 2 heaped tsp. caster sugar
- 1 part soda water / club soda
- Sprig of fresh mint
Take the lime wedges and squeeze them in the glass. Gently press together the limes and sugar.
Bruise the mint leaves by clapping them between your palms, rub them on the rim of the glass
and drop them in. Next, half fill the glass with crushed ice, add the rum and stir. Top with
crushed ice, a splash of soda and a sprig of mint.
The Cuba Libre comes along a little later, following the advent of Coca-Cola. The stories say a
man at a Havana bar ordered Bacardi rum mixed with Coke, which caught the eye of U.S.
soldiers who were stationed there following the Spanish-American War. They ordered a round
for themselves and the drink’s popularity spread, taking its name from the Cuban independence
Classic Cuba Libre (Bacardi)
- 1 part Baracdi Gold Rum
- 2 parts cola (bottled)
- 2 lime wedges
To build this legendary cocktail, fill a highball glass with ice. Then squeeze two lime wedges over the ice and drop them into the glass. Pour in the rum, followed by chilled cola and give it all a gentle stir. Garnish with lime.
Blue Curaçao, Curaçao
This vibrant-blue liqueur shares a name with its island of origin. It’s created using the dried peels of the “lahara”—a bitter orange native to the island. Its history is traced to the Lucas Bols Distillery, founded in 1575 in Amsterdam. The distillery owner supposedly had shares in West and East Indies Companies, which shipped oils extracted from the lahara back to Amsterdam. Stop by Senior & Co. Distillery, operational since 1896, for a tour and tasting experience. One of their most popular drinks is the Blue Lagoon.
Blue Lagoon (Senior & Co. Distillery)
- 1 part vodka
- 1/2 part lemon juice
- Lemon-lime soda
- 1 part Blue Curaçao
- Strawberry or lime slice
Add the Curaçao, vodka and lemon juice to a shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and shake well. Fill your glass with ice and strain the cocktail into the glass. Top it off with soda and garnish with a lime slice, strawberry or both.
Guavaberry Colada, St. Maarten
St. Maarten natives have been making the flavored liqueur Guavaberry for centuries. Guavaberry fruit grows on trees and shrubs throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America and is used primarily in drinks (historically just around the holiday season), but also has some medicinal purposes. The liqueur is now produced by the Sint Maarten Guavaberry Company exclusively and combines guavaberries, rum and cane sugar. You must try a Guavaberry Colada when visiting St. Maarten—you can find it at just about any restaurant or resort.
Guavaberry Colada (Sint Maarten Guavaberry Company)
- 2 ounces of Guavaberry liqueur
- 1 ounce of coconut cream
- 3 ounces of pineapple juice or pieces
- Pineapple, toasted coconut, nutmeg
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend well. Pour into a glass and garnish with pineapple, toasted coconut and fresh nutmeg.
Small Punch, Martinique
Small Punch or “ti’ punch,” is a rum-based drink similar to a daiquiri. It’s found on several Caribbean islands, but is especially popular on French-speaking Martinique. A tradition surrounding Small Punch is called “chacun prépare sa propre mort” or “each prepares his own death.” Rather than making the drink for your guests, the host provides all the ingredients and each individual makes the drink to their own taste.
- 2 ounces of cane juice rum (not molasses rum)
- Cane sugar
Pour your rum into a glass, squeeze the lime juice out on top and add the sugar to taste. Serve without ice.