Generalizing about "Caribbean cuisine" is difficult once you recognize that the region is actually a mass of islands, most of which have been owned and occupied by various european countries. Over the years, these invaders have added their own flavors, spices and vegetation to the native landscape:
Rum, the undisputed regional spirit of choice, is distilled from the sugarcane that Christopher Columbus brought over to the new World. The spanish were also responsible for introducing the coconut and pineapple to the West Indies. When you look at things this way, the most famous island drink, The Pina Colada, really owes its origins to spain!
Coffee, an economic mainstay for many of the Caribbean islands, literally came over on a boat from France in the 1700’s. Captain Gabriel mathieu de Clieu , the maritime captain of martinique, is alleged to have stolen a seedling from France’s Jardins des Plantes. Once safely back at home, Clieu fervently tended to his coffee crop and began to share seeds with other countries in the area including Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Guadeloupe.
The Portuguese, dutch, danish, British and swedes all brought their own influences with them, including oranges, limes, and mangoes—key elements in Island fare and fauna, and critical accents in bringing Island drinks to life. Even the African slaves the europeans brought with them contributed to the mix of flavors. Plantains, bananas and many of the well-known spices in Caribbean food and drink are of African origin.
Of course, the one beverage created uniquely to satisfy the Caribbean climate, is beer. While almost all Caribbean brews share a cool, smooth and easy drinkability, each island infuses its blend with a unique flavor profile. Taste them all before deciding which best pleases your palate.
The drinks below are all inspired by the mix and match of these various influences. Once you get a feel for the region and its native crops, you can mix up your own masterpieces!
You can’t serve up Caribbean drinks without paying homage to the infamous PinaColada. But you don’t have to stick with the same-old-drink, either. Try this updated, fruit-forward smoothie that’s equally delicious with or without the “punch”!
Whether you think of this next cock- tail as a morning “eye-opener” or a cool and creamy after-dinner drink, with or without the alcohol you are in for a treat!
The Merengue Mary
Stir, sip and savor this creative Caribbean twist on the original Bloody Mary. (If you prefer, omit the rum and you will still have a drink worth dancing for!)