If it has rum in it, chances are it came from the Caribbean. But plenty of the region’s tropical island cocktails also rely on a host of other delicious local ingredients that have helped make them famous worldwide.
Here are seven of the best Caribbean cocktails that are Grand Cayman dining favorites as well as famous around the world.
The Mojito: This refreshing rum staple from Havana, Cuba, has been around for almost 500 years when it was allegedly popularized by pirate-entrepreneur and naval adventurer Francis Drake and his crew who used the concoction to combat scurvy while sailing the Caribbean. The traditional mix of rum, sugarcane juice, lime, and crushed mint was also a favorite of Ernest Hemmingway during his time in Havana and is still the most popular recipe used today.
The Mudslide: A concoction that is totally the Cayman Islands, the origins of the Mudslide go back to either the 1950s or the 1970s, depending on who’s telling the story. Old Judd, a bartender at the Wreck Bar on Grand Cayman’s Rum Point, was asked one day to prepare a White Russian, a drink requiring fresh cream. A serendipitous lack of cream on the premises meant Old Judd had to improvise, substituting with Bailey’s Irish Cream and tossing the mix in a blender, thereby accidentally creating a classic. The Mudslide is made from equal parts of Baileys Irish Cream, Kahlua, and Vodka and is very popular in the best restaurants in Grand Cayman. The spirits are thoroughly blended with ice, dusted with cinnamon (sometimes with chocolate flakes as well), and topped off with a maraschino cherry.
The Dark and Stormy: This very simple cocktail from Bermuda consists of rum and ginger beer. But it must be Gosling’s Rum and Barritt’s ginger beer, both made locally before it can legally be called a Dark and Stormy. Such is the insistence on using these two ingredients, and these ingredients only (even adding a wedge of lime can cause arguments), that Gosling has been known to take legal action against bars using a substitute rum, as Gosling owns the trademark on the name Dark and Stormy.
The Pina Colada: From Puerto Rico comes the deceptively powerful drink of “pressed pineapple”, the Pina Colada. The pineapple is mixed with rum, coconut milk, and ice. Legend has it that the drink was invented by accident in the 1950s when a strike by plantation workers caused a shortage of coconut, forcing a local barman to incorporate some crushed pineapple and ice into a Coco-Loco mix. The Pina Colada is traditionally made with Bacardi rum and is now the national drink of Puerto Rico.
The Painkiller: It’s simple, it’s effective and it lives up to its name. This blend of orange juice, creamed coconut, pineapple juice, and rum poured over crushed ice with a garnish of nutmeg is known as the unofficial national drink of the British Virgin Islands. The Painkiller was invented at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke, the smallest of the four main islands of the BVI, in the 1970s. Today the Painkiller is a trademarked drink of Pussers Rum, whose founder, Charles Tobias, so enjoyed the taste of the original he developed his own recipe to match it.
The Margarita: Sometimes it seems that more people claim to have invented the margarita than have actually tasted one. What we do know is that it’s been around since at least 1938 and first found fame in Tijuana, Mexico. The simplicity of the mix – tequila, lime, and Cointreau in a glass with a salted rim – has been complicated over the years with multiple variations on the theme, but it is still the common favorite.
The Daiquiri: Cuba has given the world a fair few famous cocktails, including the daiquiri, named after a local beach near Santiago and a popular drink since around 1900. The basic mix of white rum, lime, and gum sugar (and sometimes cherry liqueur) was allegedly protection against yellow fever and was promoted as such by a visiting American naval doctor. By the 1950s it was a tourist favorite in Havana.