Ever had a Dirty Banana? Can you handle a few Painkillers? They’re both related, but not how you might think. See, when you belly up to a Caribbean bar, chances are these drinks will appear on a cocktail menu. Sure, you’ll see some familiar mixes like mojitos, piña coladas, Cuba libres (aka rum and coke), margaritas, and daiquiris, but this is a chance to sample the more unusual island drinks.
How to order? First decide which spirit you prefer. That’ll give you an idea where to head, which is especially useful when there’s a mass of unidentified, multicolored bottles staring at you from behind the bar. Vodka, gin, and tequila drinkers will always find something pleasing to their tastebuds.
Unlike the States, whiskey- and bourbon-based cocktails are not too popular in the islands. You’re better off sipping them straight. Rum drinkers are the luckiest of them all: the West Indies have a long history of rum production, so it's featured everywhere, in seemingly hundreds of variations. One of the latest brands comes from Chris Blackwell, the man who introduced Jamaica’s beloved son Bob Marley to the world. His upscale blend is so new, many locals haven’t even heard of it!
Here are some of the Caribbean’s most popular cocktails. What’ll you have?
Painkiller: The name of this drink, which originated at the legendary Soggy Dollar Bar in the British Virgin Islands is quite deceptive. After a few sips, whatever aches you may have had, the mix of local Pusser’s rum, orange and pineapple juices, and cream of coconut will make them magically disappear. But these sweet sippers go down easily, so if you’re not careful, you’ll wake up the next morning needing a painkiller of the Advil variety.
Dirty Banana: Most watering holes in Jamaica have this on the menu, and it’s available at the five bars at the just-opened Azul Sensatori, an all-inclusive resort in Negril. The first two ingredients, fresh banana and rum cream are key and locally sourced (never use banana liqueur). Tia Maria, milk, and ice are added and blended together for a refreshing milkshake-like consistency, much needed to beat the island heat.
Bushwacker: The USVI in particular, specializes in this super boozy frozen beverage made with Baileys, Frangelico, Kahlua, creme de cacao, vodka, light rum and cream of coconut. You can sample it on any of the three islands, but we like the cool, lounge atmosphere and awesome views of St. Thomas and capital Charlotte Amalie, from the Rum Bar Terrace at Marriott Frenchman’s Reef. If you’re feeling even more daring, get a bucket of Voodoo Juice at the hotel’s swim-up bar. It’s $13 for the first one, and if you get through this bizarre five rum blend, it’s $9 for the second bucket. We applaud you if you get that far.
Goombay Smash: The Bahamas’ national drink is named after the goombay drum played during the island’s Junkanoo or Carnival time. Varieties for the rum cocktail can be found at every bar, but the original 1970s recipe is only served at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar on Abaco Island. The exact ingredients are a secret, but the core mix is dark and coconut rums, apricot brandy, and pineapple and orange juices. Don’t confuse this with the popular Bahama Mama, which is more fruit juice based, and less potent than the Smash.
Green Flash: Named after the infamous, yet elusive “green flash” tourists are urged to seek during island sunsets, you’ll find this drink, made with dark rum, blue Curaçao, Amaretto, pineapple and orange juices at the Regent Palms Turks and Caicos’ new beach bar, Plunge. Have as many as you like thanks to the resorts’ summertime all-inclusive program — a boon on this notoriously expensive island. We can’t promise you’ll see the flash, but you’ll have fun looking for it.