Our Favorite Tropical Drinks: Where they Came From and Why They’re So Good
Though recipes vary from island to island and day to day and the stories of their origins change just as often, here is what we came up with on our favorite tropical cocktails.
Made with Rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, and usually topped with a maraschino cherry, this tropical concoction’s original inventor’s name may be in dispute, but it was definitely first conjured in Puerto Rico. Served blended or usually frozen it has contributed greatly to the rash of brain freeze incidents throughout the Caribbean.
Made famous at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke in the Virgin Islands, this drink lives up to its name. Made with pineapple juice, orange juice, cream of coconut, an optional sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg, and as many shots of rum as you can handle, the painkiller will definitely cure what ails you.
Supposedly, a Tahitian guest at Trader Vic’s in Oakland, CA in 1944 remarked “Maita’i roa ae” upon sipping this concoction of light rum, orange curacao, orgeat syrup (made from almonds), and lime—thus bestowing its name of Mai Tai.
Gin and Tonic
The story goes that the British in India first added gin to tonic to offset its bitter taste while drinking tonic as an anti-malarial remedy. Add a slice of lime and this basic summer cocktail is now known worldwide as a refresher from the heat.
A newer sensation in the tropical drink culture is the Mojito, hailing from Cuba. Mixed with white rum or vodka, sugar, lime, sparkling water, and mint, then poured over ice, this is a sweet drink for cooling you off. Its combination of citrus and mint allows for more rum than you may be used to.
One rumor of the Margarita’s origin is it was made by a bartender in Tijuana to impress Rita Hayworth. There are many more stories so your guess is as good as ours. Made with Tequila, Cointreau, and lime and poured into a glass lined with salt this is the probably the most popular cocktail in Mexico and definitely in any Mexican restaurant in the U.S.
This island favorite was allegedly invented at the Holiday Isle Tiki Bar in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys in the late 1950s. The original version is said to contain Pineapple and orange juice, blackberry and banana liqueur, along with light and dark rums with a splash of grenadine. There are so many versions of this cocktail your head will spin, and not just from the rum.
Daiquiris may have been named for a beach near Santiago, Chile, or an iron mine nearby that was once owned by an American congressman. They just as well could have been invented by Jennings Cox, an American engineer who was in Cuba during the Spanish-American war. There may also be a bartender somewhere claiming the distinction—but whoever it was, they came up with one very popular drink. Frozen fruit varieties seem the most popular with bananas or strawberries added to light rum, triple sec, lime juice and sugar, along with of course, ice and then blended.
by Michael Ryan