Make These Famous Caribbean Hotel Drinks to Pretend You’re on Vacation
Rums with a view.
One of my favorite things about rum is its diversity. Many traditional rum cocktails can be traced back to local drinking traditions in the Caribbean—examples range from the Cuban hot toddy to a highball simply composed of the grapefruit soda and high-proof Jamaica rum.
But, of course, what made these cocktails talked about around the world was the influx of tourism. As the presence of Americans and Europeans grew in the Caribbean in the 1890s, so did bars that catered to their desire to enjoy drinks. Some of these companies went so far as to build hotels and grand resorts, where they could host visiting clients.
The most successful and memorable hotels had bars—and a signature cocktail—at the center of their guest experience. In an effort to stand out from competitors, each one came up with a signature serve, some of which were provided as a complimentary welcome drink at the check-in desk.
“And while the fancy clientele that sipped them ranged from celebrities to politicos, these drinks are fairly simple and easy to make at home.”
These cocktails are from some of the region’s most iconic hotels in Jamaica, Trinidad, and Haiti. And while the fancy clientele that sipped them ranged from celebrities to politicos, these drinks are fairly simple, easy to make at home, and, best of all, allow the unique rum character to shine through. In fact, I recommend sticking to one from the island where the recipe originated, to be fully transported by the experience.
How to make a Myrtle Bank Punch
The signature serve of the hotel of the same name in Kingston, Jamaica, this cocktail was essentially a version of the Planter’s Punch. As the name suggests, this drink was popular among the plantation owners in the sugar trade, first in Barbados, and later in Jamaica. The resort-style Hotel Titchfield served a version that simply consisted of dark rum, sugar, and lime—essentially a daiquiri on ice. This was eventually adopted by Myer’s Rum as its signature brand drink with added black tea, like a boozy, tropical Arnold Palmer. This was likely the version served at the hotel starting in the 1920s.
“When you look at the history of rum punch, its origin story has been lost over time,” says Marc Farrell, the Trinidadian founder of Ten To One Rum. “The Planter’s Punch is a perfect example of that, with history attributing it to an American hotel when in fact its origins stretch back to the Caribbean. By using both of our white and dark expressions in rum punch with distillation methods from four different countries, the cocktail allows us to put the spotlight back on its Caribbean roots.”
The following version, unearthed by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, emerged in the 1940s and has remained popular in tiki circles. This recipe skips the tea, opting to lengthen the original drink with grapefruit juice, soda water, and Angostura bitters. True to form, it calls for two rums, and gives the home bartender the opportunity to try their hand at experimentation for balance. (If you want to skip this step, use a blended rum such as Denizen Merchant’s Reserve, which is a blend of Jamaican and Martinique rums.)
• 1½ ounces dark Jamaica rum
• ¾ ounce gold Jamaica rum
• ¾ ounce lime juice
• ¾ ounce grapefruit juice
• ¾ ounce honey syrup
• ¾ ounce soda water
• 2 dashes Angostura bitters
1. Combine all in a shaker with ice.
2. Shake and strain into a slim Collins glass over crushed ice.
3. Garnish with 2-3 pineapple fronds and maraschino cherries on a skewer, then serve.
How to make a Queens Park Swizzle
In Trinidad, the Queens Park Hotel was busy entertaining visitors from around the globe and quenching their thirst with their own signature serve called a swizzle. A swizzle by definition is generally a mix of rum, water, and aromatics and inspired the name of the stirring tool, a swizzle stick, which helps to aerate a cocktail and bring out its flavors. There is no clear recorded attribution to the drink’s creator, but it is not a stretch of the imagination that this particular cocktail—with its muddled mint and lime—takes some cues from the mojito.
The major difference here, of course, is the use of dark rum—some recipes call for Guyana rum, which is dark and earthy, others call for Angostura 7-Year, which is Trinidadian, but was not created until the 1990s. The moral of the story: Use the rum that you enjoy the most and take it from there. I recommend Ten To One Dark, as it is a blend of Caribbean rums from Trinidad, Barbados, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica.
• 2 ounces aged rum
• 1 ounce fresh lime juice
• ¾ ounce Demerara Syrup
• Lime wedges
• 5-6 mint leaves, and mint sprig
• Angostura bitters
1. In a footed pilsner or similar shaped vessel, gently muddle 2-3 lime wedges with mint.
2. Add 1 ounce of rum, and fill the glass halfway with crushed ice.
3. Stir with a swizzle stick to chill, until glass begins to frost, add remaining rum and sugar, and fill with ice to fill.
4. Stir with a swizzle stick once more to fully mix the drink.
5. Top with angostura bitters, and garnish with a generous mint bouquet.
How to make a Oloffson’s Rum Punch
This cocktail hails from a hotel situated in the center of Port Au Prince, Haiti, and like the drink, The Hotel Oloffson has a multilayered backstory and has undergone numerous changes over the decades.
Originally built to be the private residence of then President Tirésias Simon Sam in the late 1890s, the Oloffson was converted into a hotel in 1935. By the time the 1960s rolled around, its ownership changed, and the property became a favorite destination for artists, musicians, and hosted the likes of Jackie Kennedy and The Rolling Stones. Political turmoil in the 1980s put a halt to tourism on the island, and ownership changed yet again, to current owner Richard Auguste Morse, who eventually created a music and dance troupe, which hosts weekly performances at the hotel.
The building is over a century old, and full of charming touches—art lines the wall, the grounds are flush with vegetation—which I had a chance to try firsthand while having dinner hosted by Morse himself with a group of bartenders visiting the island to learn about clairin, a Haitian rhum agricole. During my visit, I discovered that there are 300-odd distilleries, many of them small operations called guildives that produce a village-style rum called clairin. Clairins are produced with methods that were developed centuries ago: the cane is grown close to the site of distillation, often cut by hand, and produced on stills that are powered by natural materials.
If you want to try a funkier version of the cocktail, consider using a clairin. Most of those available in the U.S. are bottled between 45-50% ABV and this, combined with their raw expression of sugarcane, will make for a more assertively flavored cocktail.
• 2½ ounces rhum agricole
• ½ ounce dark Jamaica rum (for the float)
• ¼ ounce Maraschino liqueur
• 1½ ounces fresh squeezed orange juice
• ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
• 1 teaspoon white sugar
• Mint for garnish
1. In a shaker, combine the sugar and lime, then stir to dissolve.
2. Add the remaining ingredients—except for the Jamaican rum—with ice, then shake to mix.
3. Strain into a Collins glass over crushed ice.
4. Float dark rum on top, garnish with mint, then serve.