6 Creative Quenchers [BVI Drinks]
- May 1st, 2013
- in Lifestyle
I frequently write about eating locally in the Virgin Islands. But what about drinking locally? Aside from rum, which usually comes to mind when one thinks of island beverages, there are numerous local non-alcoholic beverages to sample—though, in true Caribbean fashion, they are often mixed with rum. Here are some interesting beverages to look for:
Despite its name, ginger beer is a favourite soft drink throughout the Caribbean. If you love ginger, this is the beverage for you. Ginger beer aficionados usually have a preferred brand, since spiciness can vary considerably. Basic homemade versions contain only water, ginger and sugar—an easy beverage to make whether at home or on a boat.
Also known as Irish moss, this sea weed has a reputation as a Caribbean aphrodisiac for gentlemen. The sea moss is typically mixed with sweetened condensed milk and spices to make a milkshake-like beverage. Although a more popular beverage down-island than in the Virgin Islands, Sea Moss can be found bottled here.
On one of my first Caribbean holidays, I sampled Mauby while at Barbados’ famous Oistins Friday fish fry. Numerous local ladies were selling cup after cup of the beverage, brewed from the bark of a Caribbean tree. Even mixed with copious amounts of sugar and spices, my palette did not like Mauby. Let’s just say it’s an acquired taste and I haven’t yet acquired that taste. Plenty of Caribbean islanders love this drink though, so it’s definitely worth trying.
In contrast to my experience with mauby, I instantly liked sorrel tea when I first discovered it. This brilliant red beverage is made from the outer petals (technically called calyces) of the hibiscus flower. The petals are steeped with ginger and other spices, then enough sugar is added to achieve a balanced sweet-tart flavour. Although it is enjoyed all year long, sorrel tea is particularly popular during Christmastime, as it is considered a traditional holiday beverage. The tea is best when brewed at home using either fresh or dried hibiscus, but it can also be found in cans or bottles at the supermarket. Check out my December 2011/January 2012 VIPY article about Christmas drinks for my sorrel tea recipe.
TROPICAL FRUIT JUICE
Visitors to the islands will fi nd a variety of interesting Caribbean juices such as soursop, passion fruit, guava, papaya and mango. Some are consumed plain or as juice blends, while others typically are sweetened (such as passion fruit) or combined with rum and other ingredients to create fruity cocktails.
Young, green coconuts contain a water-like liquid that has long been a popular beverage in tropical locales. In recent years, coconut water has become a trendy drink in decidedly non-tropical places like the US and UK due to savvy marketing of the beverage as a natural “sports drink.” To be sure, coconut water’s high potassium content and other electrolytes assist with hydration, and its nutty and refreshing flavour make for easy drinking. (I particularly enjoy the water well chilled.) Look for coconut water in cans, bottles or ideally fresh from the coconut.
Though it may seem touristy to purchase a fresh coconut from a vendor at Roadtown’s roundabout , it’s a sight to see a vendor skillfully whack the coconut open with a machete before popping a straw into it for his eager customer. Plus, it’s just plain fun to sip out of a fresh coconut. One taste of the “real deal” will have you coming back for more. Coconut water is also a terrific addition to smoothies or cocktails. Mix coconut water with rum (of course!), a little sweetened condensed milk and freshly grated nutmeg for a delicious and slightly creamy cocktail. Then sit back and toast to the good life. In the words of Ziggy Marley, “Everything’s irie…The coconut water is sweet”.