When one thinks of the Caribbean, white sandy beaches, turquoise seas and delicious tropical drinks with those little umbrellas come to mind. But no island in the Caribbean is alike and the same idea goes for their signature cocktails.
Concocted with local ingredients and spirits, these libations are not only refreshing to drink but also highlight the history and culture of these islands. Here are seven traditional Caribbean cocktails that will have you drinking like a local on your next Caribbean adventure.
1. Piña Colada, Puerto Rico
The national drink of Puerto Rico since 1978 and cemented into pop culture thanks in part to the song “Escape" by Rupert Holmes. The Piña Colada is no doubt the most famous cocktail of the Caribbean, but the identity of the bartender and bar that invented the iconic cocktail remains a mystery. Some say the drink was created at the Caribe Hilton in 1954 by bartender Ramon “Monchito” Marrero, while other bartenders have laid claim to creating the creamy drink.
Piña Colada recipe
(Recipe courtesy of Caribe Hilton)
2 oz rum
1 oz cream of coconut
1 oz heavy cream
6 oz fresh pineapple juice
1/2 cup crushed ice
Mix rum, cream of coconut, heavy cream and pineapple juice in a blender. Add ice and mix for 15 seconds. Serve in a 12-ounce glass and garnish with fresh pineapple and a cherry
2. Gully Wash, Bahamas
Gully Wash is the unofficial drink of the Bahamas and usually served at house parties, BBQ’s and local bars. It’s made with coconut water, sweetened condensed milk and gin, which is strange for an island that’s known for its rum. But this Caribbean drink is popular among the locals because the ingredients are accessible, cheap and easy to make.
Gully Wash recipe
(Recipe courtesy of Deneki Outdoors)
1 gallon of fresh coconut water
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coconut flavored rum
1 cup Gilbert’s gin
2 cans condensed milk
Mix up well, serve chilled
Related article: Festive drinks from around the world
3. Mama Juana, Dominican Republic
Mama Juana or Mamajuana is a medicinal elixir from the Dominican Republic made by combining rum, red wine and honey and then soaked with tree bark and herbs. Invented in the 1950s by Jesus Rodriguez, this drink was sold as herbal medicine and aphrodisiac.
It became popular all over the island as people made their versions of this drink and sold it on the streets. The homemade version of Mama Juana was outlawed during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo so he could control the production and only those with a certified medical license could make Mama Juana. The ban didn’t stop the love for the brew that's the national drink of the island.
Mama Juana recipe
(Recipe courtesy of Dame Cacao)
A handful of seasoned Mama Juana bark
16 oz dark rum (preferably Dominican)
8.5 oz red wine
4-10 tsp of honey
Combine all the ingredients in a jar and store for several days
4. Antiguan Smile, Antigua
The Antiguan Smile is a fruity tropical drink shaped by two key local ingredients – Cavalier Rum from the Antigua Distillery and black pineapples, the signature fruit of the island. Be careful, this cocktail packs a punch.
Antiguan Smile recipe
(Recipe courtesy of beach.com)
2 oz of rum (Cavalier if possible, another clear rum if not)
1 oz of crème de banana
4 oz of pineapple juice
Shake all ingredients together, pour over ice and garnish with a slice of pineapple
5. Aruba Ariba, Aruba
Created by bartender Juan “Jocky” Tromp at the Hilton Aruba in 1963, the Aruba Ariba’s main ingredient is Coecoei, a sweet red liquor made from an agave plant and later mixed with rum and cane sugar. The popular spirit can only be found on the island.
Aruba Ariba recipe
(Recipe courtesy of visitaruba.com)
1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz 151 rum (better if using Ron Rico from Aruba, higher proof)
1/8 oz cocoa
1/8 oz. creme de banana
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup pineapple juice
Pour all the ingredients into a tall glass, stir slightly, add a splash of grenadine and top with gr Grand Marnier. Garnish with a slice of orange or cherry
6. Ti Punch, Martinique
Ti Punch, Martinique’s national cocktail, is a simple drink made with just three key ingredients. Ti Punch is short for little punch and can only be made with Rhum Agricole, the island’s native spirit. The potent drink is best enjoyed before a meal.
Ti Punch recipe
(Recipe courtesy of PUNCH)
2 oz Rhum Agricole, light or dark
1 bar spoon cane syrup
1 wedge lime
Garnish: lime peel coin
In a rocks glass, add a splash of cane syrup and a squeeze of lime. Add Rhum Agricole and a few ice cubes. Stir gently and garnish with a lime coin.
7. Cuba Libra, Cuba
More than just a rum and coke, Cuba Libre’s origin is associated with the United States’ involvement during the Spanish–American War when they helped Cuba gain its independence from Spain. According to legend, this drink’s name came from the slogan of the Cuban independence movement “Cuba Libre” (Free Cuba).
Cuba Libra recipe
(Recipe courtesy of Bacardi)
2 oz. Bacardi rum
2 lime wedges
Fill a highball glass with ice. Squeeze limes into the glass and toss them in too. Add the rum top with chilled cola (bottled is preferable) and stir
You might also like: What you need to know about drinking in the Caribbean