Cuban cigars and rum in the Virgin Islands. What’s legal, what’s available and where to get it.
Despite President Barack Obama moving towards normalizing relations with Cuba, it’s still not legal to buy Cuban cigars in the USVI unless you want to smoke 50+ year old tobacco from the post embargo era. So, where can you buy Cuban Cigars in the VI? If you’re hell bent on having a Cuban cigar that isn’t stale and overpriced, your best bet is to visit the BVI, as they do not have a trade embargo against Cuba. I always recommend going to the “Foxhole” on Jost Van Dyke to get cigars. They sell a ton of great stuff including cubans (cigars) so you know they’re fresher. Besides, its yet another excuse (like you need one) to explore some of the other Virgin Islands.
By far the easiest vice to procure in the Virgin Islands is rum.
Legends, books, songs, poems and movies have been written about it and for many it is analogous with the Virgin Islands. The USVI proudly produces its own brand of rum at a state of the art distillery located on St.Croix. Cruzian Rum is available just about anywhere liquid beverages are sold and in a variety of flavors and strengths. In recent years blending bars have popped up around town including my favorite, the waterfront tasting room “Bones” located in Charlotte Amalie, St.Thomas. Its a fun, touristy style of place that sells souvenirs to commemorate your island hang over(s).
If travelling to the BVI, I recommend a visit to the “Callwood Distillery” in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola. It’s a total sensory experience! This functioning distillery is a short walk from the beach and the cemetery. The distillery emerges out of old stone ruins and is surrounded by gnarled trees, vines and smoky fires. This rum shop is like something out of Pirate’s of the Caribbean movie and a must stop for rum tastings. Want a sneak peak? Here’s a great video I found on Youtube that gives a good glimpse of the place. Callwood Distillary Visit
When I first arrived in St.John after Hurricane Marilyn, one of the most common excuses I heard for the prevalence of drunkenness was that “Rum costs less than orange juice”.
You can imagine the marketing implications of this statement. In this particular instance, there is truth in advertising as you will see when you visit any grocery store in the VI. Plus, rum is good with just about any juice and is by far the spirit of choice in VI bars and restaurants..Arghhh!!! I don’t think you can brag that you’ve visited the Virgin Islands unless you sample a few rum concoctions. Here are some popular recipes for VI Rum. 5 Recipes for Rum Drinks! My favorite rum drinks are the Mojito,the Bush Wacker and the Pain Killer! Many restaurants have their own signature Rum drink, ask your bartender the next time you mosey up to the bar. If you just want a simple rum and coke, a friendly smile and a long pour, visit Skinny Legs, in Coral Bay. For those who may have a more “experienced” and sophisticated cocktail pallet, I would recommend Long Boards in downtown Cruz Bay (St.John). I found their cocktail offerings exceptional in particular their rum sipping drink “Rhum Bum“, which features a Haitian rum.
What if Rum isn’t your ting?
No worries! There are some great local beers to discover from St.John Brewers including a mango flavored beer and my daughter’s favorite, a Belgian ale called “Liquid Sunshine” that’s spiced with coriander and orange peel. Our VI bartenders keep experimenting with other spirits, essences and local infusions and some of them are down right brilliant mixologists. Luckily our local tastemakers have shared their favorite cocktails, bartenders and watering holes in this here blog.