Drinks of the Caribbean are unique and varied. Caribbean mixed drinks are characterized by their sweet, fruity taste and bright, tropical colors. These concoctions can be deceptively strong and pack a delayed punch, so imbibe carefully.
Beer and rum are island staples. Several of the islands produce their own beer--the Carib brand, for example, has breweries on several islands. Hairoun Lager of St. Vincent and Banks of Barbados are both popular brews. Dragon Stout, made in Jamaica by Desnoes and Geddes (makers of the quintessential Jamaican beer Red Stripe) has a following around the world for its unusual sweet and spicy finish. Familiar brands such as Miller or Heineken are also widely available.
Though it may be little known, wines are also produced in the Caribbean. Brands such as Bellaforma Wine produce premium wines from the fruits and flowers that are ever present throughout the islands. Their flavors include passion fruit, pineapple, and sorrel.
In addition to wines and ales, consider these other Caribbean drinks:
The "mauby," made from the bark of a tree, tastes a bit like an exotic sarsaparilla.
"Irish moss," or "sea moss" is made by extracting gelatin from seaweed, adding sweetener, and combining the mixture with milk or ginger.
Coconut water, which comes from the meat of the nut, is not to be confused with coconut milk or coconut cream. It's found on virtually every corner of every island market. Coconuts are abundant, inexpensive, fun, and safe to drink.
Try a thick ginger beer, a soft drink variation from Trinidad.
"Ting," a grapefruit-based sweet drink, can be found on many of the islands.
Many feel, however, that Caribbean drinks are not complete without the premier island ingredient: rum. Originally discovered in Barbados, this sweet liquor distilled from sugarcane can be enjoyed in a multitude of varieties on the islands. Take your pick: dark, amber, white, or spiced.
Rum punch, called "planteur" in the French islands, is every Caribbean bartender's pride, and each has his or her own secret recipe. Mostly a blend of sugary fruit juices, the more subtle punches combine light and dark rum with a little lime juice and ice.
Islanders' favorite rums are often tied in with loyalty to a local distillery or bottling plant, and they love to give recommendations. Reputable bottlers put the country of origin on their labels, and you may recognize many of the brand names that are popularly exported such as Cruzan from St. Croix, Malibu from Barbados, and the world's most largely consumed brand of rum: Puerto Rico's Bacardi. You may find it rewarding, however, to try the local artisanal rums available throughout the Caribbean.
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