Few experiences beat sipping a refreshing Caribbean cocktail as the sun dips on the horizon while on vacation. And there are so many to choose from. Most islands produce their own liquors—namely rum—forming the basis of some much-loved Caribbean drinks that have sprung up on cocktail menus worldwide in the years since their invention.
From well-known classics to concoctions that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in the world, these delicious Caribbean cocktails will make your island getaway that much sweeter.
Chances are you’ve heard of, and probably tasted, a piña colada before. This jaunty Caribbean drink, which translates as “strained pineapple”, combines pineapple juice, rum, and coconut milk, blended or shaken before strained over ice. A juicy pineapple wedge and a ruby-red Maraschino cherry are often added as a flamboyant finish.
For a genuine piña colada, you’ll want to try one in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the drink originated. Head to Casa Bacardi to tour the world’s largest rum distillery. You can learn about how rum is made and attend a mixology class to learn how to make a selection of cocktails, including a creamy and sweet piña colada.
The Bacardí distillery is easily reached from Old San Juan by taking a ferry across the peninsula. You could also seek out one of the many characterful bars or speakeasies of the pretty old town.
Bajan Rum Punch
Barbados is known for being the birthplace of rum, first created on the island’s sugar cane plantations in the 1640s. The oldest rum distiller globally is Mount Gay Rum, which started in 1703 in Barbados, so it’s little surprise that its national cocktail features the island’s famous liquor as its main ingredient.
The Bajan Rum Punch ticks four main flavor categories—sweet, sour, spice, and bitter—with a heady mix of freshly squeezed lime juice, sugar syrup, dark rum, soda water, Angostura bitters, and freshly grated nutmeg. In Bridgetown, Barbados’s colorful capital, you won’t have to look hard to find a rum shack or corner bar serving Bajan rum punch.
Head to one of the beaches of Barbados, such as Brownes or Pebbles Beach, where you can soak up the salty ocean air and sip on a Bajan Rum Punch made right on the shore. You could also sample this silky-smooth Caribbean cocktail at the Mount Gay plant in the north of Barbados, following a tour of the distillery.
The classic Caribbean cocktail is another rum-based drink. Born in Havana, Cuba, a mojito contains five main components, including a mix of white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water, and cooling mint. The ingredients are muddled together, which helps release the herby flavor of the mint while also dissolving the sugar—garnished with extra sprigs of mint and a slice of lime.
From Bonaire to the British Virgin Islands, you’ll find this crisp and cool drink poured in bars and on beaches all over the Caribbean.
The famous Goombay Smash is a lip-smacking Bahamian drink created at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bay, a bright, cyan-colored bar and restaurant in Green Turtle Cay, off the island of Abaco. The Goombay Smash is a mixture of dark, light, gold, and coconut rum (such as Malibu) with pineapple and orange juice.
Legend has it that the inventor of the Goombay Smash, Miss Emily Cooper, never tried her creation. Indeed, nor had any alcohol ever touched her lips. Now, the drink is synonymous with The Bahamas, so head to any beach bar to try it for yourself.
Served in a sling or Collins highball glass, variations of the Goombay Smash (the original recipe is a secret) are served in just about every bar in The Bahamas, some with spiced rum and apricot liqueur.
You’re likely to encounter the Ti’ Punch all over the French Caribbean islands, though Martinique claims it as its national cocktail. This simple Caribbean drink consists of rhum agricole (pure rum), sugar cane syrup, and lime.
Rhum agricole is the cane sugar juice distilled directly from pressed cane sugar instead of molasses—leading to a crisp and grassy finish.
Clément Blanc Rhum or Saint James Impérial are two of Martinique’s finest rhum agricole products. You can visit the Clément Rhum distillery, Habitation Clément, the site of the original sugar plantation where the sugar cane is grown in Le François.
The distillery has been producing rhum agricole since 1887. Savor a cocktail or two, and look out for the exhibitions showcasing local artists’ works on display at Habitation Clément.
This electric blue Caribbean drink is as luminous as the turquoise waters that lap on the island’s shores. If you’ve seen Blue Curaçao before but never tasted it, you might be surprised to learn that it’s produced using candied oranges and the dried peel of the island’s native bitter laraha citrus fruit. The drink’s blue hue results from a touch of alchemy—E133 brilliant blue food coloring.
Technically, Blue Curaçao is a liquor and the foundation of many cocktails, including the Blue Lagoon and Blue Margarita. One of the best things to do in Curaçao is to visit the Curaçao Liqueur Distillery in Willemstad to learn about the distillation process, followed by a tasting and cocktail-making session to enjoy your creations.
Among the pastel-colored buildings and bustling market stalls that line Handelskade, Willemstad’s charismatic waterfront, relax with a chilled Blue Curaçao-based drink as you watch the busy comings and goings of the harbor.
A soothing libation developed in the British Virgin Islands, the Painkiller is a mixture of one part rum, four parts pineapple juice, one part cream of coconut, and one part orange juice. The sweet combination is shaken, served over ice, and topped with a sprinkling of nutmeg for a spicy, nutty finish.
The Painkiller was first fashioned in the 1970s at Jost Van Dyke’s Soggy Dollar Bar, nestled on White Bay. The bar still stands today, and you can be sure to order a Painkiller—or whatever tropical cocktail takes your fancy—and sip it barefoot in the shadow of palm trees on White Bay Beach. Will it cure your ailments? Sure.
Vacation cocktails don’t get more iconic than the daiquiri, a pleasing combination of white rum, sugar, and lime. A daiquiri is served in a cocktail glass to complete its elegant presentation.
You’ll find many variations on the daiquiri, including a blue daiquiri with Blue Curaçao, a Coconut Daiquiri with a hint of coconut milk, and a frozen Daiquirí, which has the consistency of a slushy.
Since its creation, thought to have been around the late 1800s, this Cuban cocktail has swept across the Caribbean and been popularized worldwide.
Planter’s Rum Punch
Consisting of Jamaican dark rum, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, and a dash of bitters, Planter’s rum punch is easy to make and just as easy to drink. The ingredients are mixed, shaken, and poured. Planter’s rum punch has several variations, including options with fresh pineapple or orange juice, and grenadine, which adds a pinky-purple color to this zingy drink.
In Ocho Rios, try the watering holes of Main Street, just moments from Ocho Rios Bay Beach, to sample a Planter’s rum punch. If you’re wondering where the name derives from, it’s thought to have been created by the island’s plantation workers, hence the planter’s rum punch.
The rich and buttery Myers’s Original Dark Rum is the liquor of choice that goes into making Planter’s rum punch. Distilled in Kingston since 1879, pick up a bottle as a souvenir to enjoy at home as this is one of the things that Jamaica is famous for.
Read: Best Beaches in Jamaica
Invented in Cuba (Cuba Libre translates as “Free Cuba”) following the Spanish American War in the early 20th-century, the Cuba Libre is one of the tastiest Caribbean drinks.
Coke, rum, ice, and a squeeze of lime—what’s not to love about a Cuba Libre? It’s originally made using a white rum, such as Bacardi, but you could opt for any type of rum to enjoy in this easy-going drink, just as long as it’s served in a tall Collins glass.
Also known as Sky Juice, The Bahamas’ Gully Wash is a flavorsome drink featuring frothy—and hydrating—coconut water, gin, and sweetened condensed milk.
The best way to drink a thirst-quenching Gully Wash is straight from a freshly hacked-open coconut, right on a Bahamian beach. An optional garnish includes fresh nutmeg.
Caribbean cocktails almost always include rum, but if you’re not a fan of its sweet taste, head to Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula for a taste of tequila, the star of the margarita cocktail.
Featuring Blanco tequila, Cointreau orange liqueur, and fresh lime juice, the mixture is first shaken with ice before being strained into a salt-rimmed cocktail glass. The result is a perfectly balanced citrusy, sour cocktail.
Like many Caribbean cocktails, the exact origin of the margarita is debated. One theory is that it was invented in Acapulco in the 1940s when a vacationing American socialite combined her two favorite drinks, Cointreau and tequila, with lime juice. You’ll find margaritas served all over Mexico and the Caribbean.
If you want to delve deeper into Caribbean culture, you could take part in a cooking and cocktail-making class in Cozumel, where you’ll get to create dishes such as spicy salsa and craft the perfect Margarita.
Aruba might be better known for its excellent diving opportunities and swathes of blond sand than for its drinks, but the island’s Aruba Ariba is one of the most delicious Caribbean cocktails.
The base of this cheerful-looking drink is an Aruban liquor called Coecoei—derived from the sap of the island’s agave plants—which isn’t exported outside of the island, so trying this out is one of the best things to do in Aruba.
Coecoei is mixed with a boozy blend of vodka, rum, Creme de Banana, orange juice, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice, poured over crushed ice, and topped with a dash of Grenadine.
Once you’ve explored the colorful Aruba Butterfly Farm and discovered the National Archeological Museum in Oranjestad, the island’s capital, settle down for a relaxing afternoon drink on the pristine Eagle Beach, one of the best beaches in Aruba.
The Mudslide has its origins in the Cayman Islands, where it was invented at Rum Point Club’s beachside Wreck Bar on Grand Cayman’s idyllic north coast. This luxurious cocktail is a combination of vodka paired with velvety Kahlúa coffee and Baileys Irish Cream liqueur, served over ice. A sprinkling of grated chocolate or nutmeg is sometimes scattered on top.
Enjoy the decadence of sipping on this delicious cocktail—so creamy it sometimes has the consistency and taste of a milkshake—on Seven Mile Beach. Here, you’ll find everything from upmarket beach clubs and resorts to more casual beach shacks at which to imbibe.
The delightful Bahama Mama is a dazzling fusion of Grenadine syrup, orange juice, and pineapple juice, laced with dark rum and coconut rum, and served over crushed ice.
One of the best things to do in The Bahamas is to embark on a culinary walking tour of Nassau to sample some of the islands’ coveted dishes, including fresh conch salad, washed down with a fruity Bahama Mama.
Regardless of where you are, with just one sip of this familiar Caribbean punch, you’ll be transported straight to the gorgeous pearly beaches of The Bahamas.
Mamajuana is a specialty Caribbean cocktail that you probably haven’t heard of before. The Dominican Republic is known for this drink, which combines rum, red wine, honey, tree bark, and herbs and can be picked up on the island’s beaches, roadsides stalls, and markets.
Be careful how much you consume—the deep, amber-hued drink can be potent. You’re unlikely ever to find two versions of Mamajuana the same.
Delve deeper into the Dominican Republic’s important rum industry with a visit to the island’s largest distillery, Brugal, which produces its liquor in American white oak barrels at the Puerto Plata distillery.
Explore Celebrity Cruises’ luxury cruises to the Caribbean to discover the region’s silky-soft sand and turquoise waters while sipping on the islands’ famous drinks.