In the next couple of posts I’ll be sharing some simple food tips to bring the Caribbean into our daily foodie lives. But first I’m kicking off with drinks thanks to some major inspiration from Montpelier Plantation & Beach on the unspoiled island of Nevis where I was a guest. This eighteenth century sugar plantation used to produce rum and stays true to the legacy with rum tastings.
Gather people round with cocktails I realized on this trip that the whole process of cocktails brings a group together. Discussing what to choose, reading out the ingredients, the anticipation of what will appear, seeing a pretty glass and its contents, that first sip, exchanging sips and comparing, enjoying the drink itself, all of this makes cocktails a fun occasion. And non-drinkers are included because there are virgin cocktails too. I enjoyed the zingy, fruity Sunrise at Montpelier which is particularly refreshing as it has soda water, and a wonderful creamy Virgin Colada at Lime Beach Bar on Pinney’s Beach, the longest beach in Nevis.
Cocktails are like a license to be lighthearted, there’s none of the prissy seriousness of wine. At Montpelier the cocktails are exceptional and the bartenders Kaddy, Garfield and Nick mix them with big smiles and pride. Kaddy is the master of the rum punch which is made in big batches with a recipe that includes two types of rum. (Here’s a video with his recipe from Caribbean expert JetSetSarah ).
I loved that as soon as we arrived rum punch was presented in champagne glasses making it an elegant welcoming drink. The sangria served at the hotel’s private beach for the evening bonfire BBQ night had something that made it superior and Nick revealed it was prosecco. Island in the Sun was one of the most evocative cocktail names for me as I have my island in the sun, Cyprus, and Garfield’s recommendation to try Mango Colada was spot on perfect liquid sunshine for me.
The day after I got back I had a guest for dinner but hadn’t had time to shop and prepare so I tested my cocktail theory by haphazardly concocting drinks with the coconut rum I brought back, a tin of coconut milk in my cupboard and some leftover baked pineapple in my freezer which I puréed. To eat I threw together some other leftovers from my freezer with some noodles, and made a quick avocado salad. Result: One very happy guest.
When we’re time starved we often shy away from inviting people over to our homes, thinking that unless we spend hours cooking we will disappoint. We tend to think of cocktail parties now as work or big social events. But we can have small cocktail gatherings for friends.
One of the key ingredients for a smooth cocktail is sugar syrup so you can have this ready prepared (I’m going to make and stash in my little freezer), buy or get a/your friend to prep.
Glasses add to the wow factor – when I move home my first project will be to invest in a variety of cocktail glasses.
Coloured straws bring out the child in all of us so don’t forget them.
Finally add some reggae or steel band music to complete the sunshine and smiles vibe .
Nevis cocktail destination: If you can handle your alcohol head to Sunshines at Pinney’s Beach for its signature Killer Bee cocktail based on a secret recipe that includes rum and honey. I’m a lightweight when it comes to drinking but although I passed the opportunity to try this potent, lethal specimen, I have to pass on the information as by all accounts Sunshines and its Killer Bee are as part of the island as the volcano Nevis Peak.
My drink inspiration doesn’t end with cocktails:
Transform your jug of water At Montpelier the jugs of water at the bar have slices of cucumber and chunks of watermelon. It’s a winning combination because it looks vibrant and pretty, tastes refreshing and has a tinge pink.
Spice up your warm drink The local Caribbean breakfast tea consists of warm milk infused with cinnamon and aromatic grated nutmeg and cocoa. Keep these flavours in mind for a soothing winter drink (use almond milk if dairy intolerant). Even grating nutmeg over an ordinary hot chocolate will deliver a sweet spicy aroma and enhance the chocolate taste,
Melons make creamy gazpacho Liquid starters are lovely in the summer and can be super simple. Melon gazpacho turns out very creamy and yet has no dairy. (More on gazpacho coming soon)