Rum is very much a part of Caribbean drinks culture. This is the home of rum and where some of the world’s best are made. So you probably won’t be surprised to find out that the Virgin Islands are home to more than a few excellent rum distilleries. Rum drinkers should definitely add the Virgin Islands to their travel bucket list – in the U.S. Virgin Islands rum can be cheaper than juice! Now tell us, what’s not to love about that?
What is rum?
Rum is made from fermented and distilled sugar cane juice or by-products like molasses. While predecessors were made many thousands of years ago, rum, as we know it today, was first created in the 17th century. It was an immediate smash hit and one of the most popular beverages both in the colonial US and on the high seas – sailors were given a daily rum ration abroad their vessels.
We associate rum with tales of pirates and rightly so. A valuable good, pirates would raid ships, steal their rum stores and often enjoy it themselves. At one point rum was even used to buy and exchange other goods. The popularity of rum and sugar in general helped to fuel the transatlantic slave trade. Eventually, it declined in popularity but has seen a resurgence since the mid-twentieth century.
Virgin Islands Rum Distilleries
Rum is very much a part of our culinary identity here, much like our many famous dishes. The fact that so much rum is made in the Virgin Islands means there’s a healthy rivalry. Competition is fierce which means each distillery is at the top of its game, making superb rums to excite and delight.
St. Croix’s Cruzan rum represents the oldest still operating producer in the US Virgin Islands. Founded way back in 1760, they make a wide variety of rums from lighter styles, to aged, and even flavored rums, which are definitely worth exploring if you love the tropical fruit flavors available in the Caribbean. Newer to the Virgin Islands’ rum scene is Captain Morgan, also located on St. Croix. Famous for its spiced rum, Captain Morgan is one of the most popular rums sold worldwide. The best part of both Cruzan and Captain Morgan are the tours they offer. You can see first hand where they make their delicious rums.
But not all rum distilleries in the Virgin Islands are big names. You’ll find exciting, local, artisan rum being made here as well. Bones makes small batch rums bottled on St. Thomas. This is as authentic as it gets. Right now they make barrel aged rum and will soon be released a spiced version – something we’re all looking forward to on St. Thomas.
Where to Taste
Your first port of call for a lesson in rum should be Blackbeard’s Castle. Catch beautiful views of the island and a little pirate history then make your way over for the rum tour where you’ll see how rum was made prior to the advent of the modern distillery.
Hop on the ferry and head over to St. John where you’ll find Asolare. This restaurant and bar has a fantastic rum tasting where you can get a crash course on the art of sipping rum. Yes, certain rum can and should be enjoyed like fine whiskey and the experts at Asolare are just the folks to teach you everything you need to know about rum. Aged rums can even be paired with cigars!
Cocktails to Sip
The most famous USVI cocktail is easily the Bushwacker. In fact, you really say you’ve had the full Virgin Islands experience without sipping on one of these ultra-refreshing cocktails at some point during your visit. The best Bushwacker on the island can be found at Paradise Point. Drink in the stunning views of the island while sipping on this delectable drink. Coconut’s Bar & Grill claim to have the absolute, hands down best Bushwacker on St. Thomas but there’s only one way to find out – head down and try it for yourself!
Although the Painkiller was technically invented over in the British Virgin Islands, ask anyone on St. Thomas and they’ll tell you we know how to make it better. Rum, pineapple and orange juices, cream of coconut and a dash of nutmeg? You’ll find it difficult to have just one! Fortunately, you can find Painkillers served up at virtually every bar on the islands.
For a real US Virgin Islands concoction that has no equal, try a Cruzan Confusion. Created on St. John, it’s a blend of some of the most popular flavored rums in the Cruzan line up, coconut and mango, mixed with a dash of tropical pineapple juice. Fun, fruity, and absolutely delicious, you’ll find it hard to have just one! While on St. John, make sure to stop by Joe’s Rum Hut and order a Lime in de Coconut. When they put the lime juice in de Cruzan coconut rum, you’ll just have to drink ’em bot up. And you’ll feel wonderfully refreshed afterward.
Interested in a mixology experience? Hop on over to St. Croix for a true farm to table at BES Cocktail Lounge in downtown Christiansted. The owner, Frank Robinson, uses fresh local ingredients to create flavorful cocktails that even sound delicious. With names like “De Healing,” “Enlighten,” and “Sensei,” Frank and his staff please your palate with their one-of-a kind spirits.
For something a little more unique, head over to Glady’s on St. Thomas which offers a delicious guavaberry rum – a real island treat. Once you’ve tasted your way through the best the Virgin Islands has to offer, if you’re in the mood to take a bottle or two home (for yourself or a friend) stop by Kmart or Cost-U-Less (our local supermarket). They have the best prices and selections.
Enjoying a rum cocktail or educating yourself on some of our excellent aged rums is just one more wonderful way to experience the gustatory delights of the US Virgin Islands. Better yet, rum is a great way to relive your island memories once you’re back home! Like fine wine or whiskey, rum is something to be savored and enjoyed, and you’ll be sure to impress your friends with your newfound knowledge.
Care to try one of our rum cocktails? Here’s a recipe for a Cruzan Confusion (courtesy of the Daily Meal).
• 1 ounce Cruzan Pineapple Rum
• 1 ounce Cruzan Banana Rum
• 1 ounce Cruzan Mango Rum
• 1 ounce Cruzan Coconut Rum
• Pineapple juice, to top
• Splash of grenadine
• Pineapple wedge or lime wheel, for garnish (optional)
• Cherry, for garnish (optional)
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Aslin has lived or traveled all across North America but has somehow always come back to her roots. “I love to travel and I love different kinds of foods.” While stationed in Nebraska, she became a beer connoisseur and New Jersey introduced her to delicious Greek and Mediterranean foods. She fell in love with afternoon tea because of her yearly travels to British Colombia. The idea for a food tour on St. Thomas came from her experience on a food tour in Seattle.
St. Thomas is finally receiving recognition for its delicious and unique cuisine and Sauer’s goal is to highlight the island’s gastronomy. “The idea behind St. Thomas Food Tours came from my travels. I noticed other places offered food tours, and St. Thomas didn’t have one. I said why not? We have the history and we surely have the food. It’s the perfect recipe for a fantastic food tour.” St. Thomas Food Tours
St. Thomas Food Tours
19 Crown Bay
St.Thomas, V.I. 00802
*Photo credit for “Cigars and Rum” Greer Rivera.