What says island living more than a fruity rum cocktail with a little umbrella in it?
Let’s face it – we islanders love our cocktails and most of us have a tendency to indulge in them abundantly. In many ways, it’s simply the lifestyle and can’t be helped. We find ourselves stuck on a hot rock with few diversions: we don’t have the luxury of movie theaters, water parks, or large, air-conditioned shopping malls. And so, we end up at the bars.
Our good friend and one of the first people we met on the island warned us that “every night is like Friday, and every Friday is like New Year’s Eve”. He wasn’t exaggerating. Because of this, I maintain a near-constant state of negligible guilt over the amount of alcohol I consume in any given week. You know those health questionnaires when they ask how many units per week you consume? I always lie. I couldn’t deal with the inevitable shame if my doctor knew the real numbers. No, five sounds better. I have rationalized that if I at least have a reason to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes, then it kinda makes it okay. And my biggest rationalization is that there’s not much else to do.
Here are just a few of the myriad of justifiable reasons that we call Game on! to our unofficial island sport…
too hot to do anything else
exasperation with island life
you’re having a bad day
you’re having a good day
the power is out
you’ve just made your 5th unproductive trip to the (fill in appropriate government office)
you’ve just had a stressful confrontation with the water company
you’ve just waited in line at the bank for 2 hours only to be told they can’t help you
milestone at your job
it’s a public holiday
there’s a hurricane or tropical storm
it’s a rainy day (yes, the island shuts down when it rains for more than 1 hour)
your internal happy hour clock alerted you it was time to mix a drink
fishing (it’s a known fact that you don’t get a bite until a beer is opened)
you hate your job
you don’t have a job
you’re playing tourist for the day
it’s Friday, Saturday, Sunday or any other day of the week
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Now, I’m an outdoorsy person, but I’m an anomaly in this climate. My choice recreational activities usually entail baring my creamy white skin to the scorching tropical sun, though I can rarely convince anyone else (creamy white or not) that any form of exertion in the heat is a good idea. My athletic genes paired with a lack of enthusiastic, heat-tolerant people with whom to share outdoor activities with, means my workouts these days tend to consist of arm curls with liquid weights under the shady, thatched roof of my local beach bar.
If I want to have any sort of a social life in the islands, it typically revolves around drinking and the bars. I have yet to find friends who want to meet up for a hike; we meet up at the bar. On an adventurous day, we pack a cooler full of ice cold beer and go fishing; or we pack a cooler with ice cold beer, borrow a car, and then drive 60 miles down Eleuthera, find food and a few more drinks, and then drive the 60 miles back, stopping at beautiful beaches along the way and – you guessed it – drinking more beer. But coordinating adventures involves organization, which oftentimes can be too much to handle in the heat, so we simply end up at the bar.
And so, evolution takes its course, and those of us who are seasoned islanders have become professional “athletes” in the field of drinking.
If you are planning to move or have just recently moved to the islands, here are some notes for the aspiring Island Sport Drinker:
1. At least one insulated tumbler is essential.
Tervis is my brand of choice. We have about 15 of them in assorted sizes complete with color coordinated no-spill lids. We have monogrammed ones, fishing ones, pirate ones, and my favorite is one that says When life gives you limes, make margaritas. A fitting tagline for an island dweller. We make roadies in our to-go tumblers whenever we drive anywhere on the 3-mile island, just to be sure you have something to sip on from the time you leave Point A until you reach the bar and can order another drink. Unfortunately, most alcohol to-go containers aren’t conducive to standard car cup holders, so if you’re really serious about your drinking and driving, you’ll spend your next trip to the States perusing the marine stores looking for an acceptable cup holder designed for a mega-yacht (which will surely fit your 24oz tumbler) and upon your return to your island, you’ll figure out an inventive way to install it in your car.
2. You’d better up your tolerance if you want to hang with the island boys (and girls).
Our drinks are strong. I secretly smile when an unknowing tourist orders a vodka/soda and takes their first sip, makes a twisted face, and proceeds to ask the bartender for extra club soda. There’s no singles or doubles, just a cup of alcohol with a splash of som’ting.
3. Take advantage of happy hour.
Drinks are expensive on my rock. I’m talking $8 US for a beer, $10 for a mixed drink, and $12-$14 for a glass of wine. Plus, starting early (generally) means ending early. Most nights I’m tucked in and lights out by 9pm.
4. Find a signature drink.
I can’t do rum punches and super sweet cocktails, so I’ve adapted my own version of a traditional Bahamian concoction called Sky Juice. This one, depending on how much sweetened condensed milk you use, is light and refreshing on a hot day. Sky Juice is typically made with gin, but the only time I drink gin is when it’s presented as a stiff, dry, dirty, olive-y martini. With Sky Juice, I substitute rum because it just seems more island-y. The other trick is to have a coconut tree in your yard, a ladder, and a machete.
As an added bonus, here’s the recipe for my go-to Sky Juice:
Sky Juice Cocktail
4oz Gin or Rum
8oz Fresh Coconut Water
2tbsp Sweetened Condensed Milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
Climb up coconut tree and pick a young coconut. Hack it open with a machete. Pour out the water and strain it through cheese cloth to remove particles.
In a 24oz Tumbler mix together alcohol, coconut water and condensed milk. Shake or stir vigorously until the condensed milk dissolves. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Add ice. Enjoy.
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What’s your go-to cocktail on your rock?