You may not choose your vacation destination based on the cocktails available, but it’s hard to deny that some destinations have more alcoholic appeal than others! Here are five tropical cocktails to enjoy in their country of origin for an utmost authentic experience.
Classic tropical cocktails: a Piña Colada in Puerto Rico
The Piña Colada was invented at the Caribe Hilton Hotel in San Juan in 1954. Bartender Don Ramón “Monchito” Marrero’s goal? To create a cocktail that captured the flavors of the island.
Officially declared the national drink in 1978, the Piña Colada can be found in every bar in Puerto Rico. But beware, not all are created equal! The absolute best ones are served in their homeland, with top local ingredients for the best possible tropical flavors.
To extend the journey, mix your own at home with white and brown rum, pure pineapple juice, cream of coconut and ice cubes. Don’t forget the pineapple slice and maraschino cherry for garnish!
Tropical rum cocktails: a Mojito in Cuba
It’s said that when the English pirate Francis Drake landed in Cuba in 1586, he drank a sugar cane spirit with some mint leaves, to which lemon juice was later added. Called “mojo,” which means magic in the language of the slaves, the mixture seems to have gone through several variations. At one point in history, aficionados even called it “Draque” or… “Drake”. The mojito as we know it today, with rum, is said to have been first concocted by a bartender in Havana.
Today, La Bodeguita del Medio remains one of the most popular places to sip the national drink in a timeless setting. Watching the bartender prepare it is part of the pleasure.
While everyone can add their own personal touches, the base remains simple enough to transport you to Cuba from the first sip: put about ten mint leaves in a glass, add white sugar and a little sparkling water, crush everything with a pestle, add lime juice and rum, then ice and a little more sparkling water, and enjoy.
“My mojito at La Bodeguita, my daiquiri at El Floridita,” said Hemingway. Luckily, these two tropical cocktails are always there to welcome visitors!
Popular tropical cocktails: a Margarita in Mexico
Created 80 years ago, the margarita is shrouded in mystery. The more you read about it, the more it seems there are as many stories as there are women named Margarita. One of the most implausible but perhaps most delightful claims is that it was conceived for a certain Margarita Carmen Cansino in Tijuana, Mexico. This woman was none other than the future Rita Hayworth.
Another theory centers on actress Marjorie King, who claimed to be allergic to all spirits except tequila. Carlos Danny Herrera of Rancho La Gloria supposedly thought to add citrus juice and sugar for beauty. Even his epitaph claims he was the inventor of the famous drink!
However, most sources point to Margarita Sames. He liked to serve his guests a mix of tequila, lime juice and Cointreau.
To make a successful Margarita, first frost the rim of a glass with fine salt. Then pour the tequila and citrus liqueur into a shaker filled with ice cubes. Add lime juice and shake before straining the contents into a glass.
Simple tropical cocktails: a Ti-Punch in Martinique
The Ti-Punch may only have three ingredients – the main one being agricultural rum – but to its fans it’s a form of high art. In Martinique, rum is taken seriously. It’s said that during the sugar cane weeding season, workers began their day with a rum-based “takeoff” to give them courage. The day was punctuated with moments to drink rum.
Today, the Ti-Punch allows people to get together and chat over a glass. Tradition dictates that everyone prepares their glass in their own way. Others use cane syrup instead of sugar.
“The Creole custom is to place on the table the bottle of rum, a lime, a knife, brown sugar or cane sugar syrup, some ice cubes, a small spoon and a bottle of chilled water so that everyone can make their ti-punch as they wish,” summarizes La Compagnie du rhum. Traditionally, it’s stirred with a bois-lélé, a small branch. Purists will tell you not to add ice cubes!
Note that tropical cocktails similar to Ti-Punch are also drunk elsewhere in the Antiles, such as in Guadeloupe, as well as in other French overseas departments such as French Guiana and Réunion Island.
Peruvian cocktails: a Pisco Sour in Peru
Born in the vineyards of South America, pisco, the spirit at the base of the cocktail, took flight to Peru and Chile. But it’s in Lima where the magic really happened.
In the 1920s, an American bartender named Victor Vaughen Morris left the United States. He settled in the Peruvian capital and opened his bar, the Morris Bar. Here he began to experiment, mixing pisco with lime, sugar… and, unexpectedly, egg white, creating a creamy, frothy texture that would become today’s signature pisco sour.
Sipping a pisco sour in the taverns of Miraflores in Lima is like a one-way ticket to an unforgettable taste adventure.