Salud! I could never imagine that I would pack up everything, sell my car and move almost 2,000 miles, trading seasons for endless summer, but I did, and I’m happy. Really happy. Moving from “the most powerful city in the world” aka Washington D.C. to San Juan, Puerto Rico has been a game changer. The best part was rediscovering a different love for food and especially cocktails. It’s always five o’ clock in my book, and I’ve spent the better part of two years tasting the best Puerto Rico has to offer, and these are my favorites.
Rum rules this island with locals drinking Don Q and Ron del Barrilito. Ron del Barrilito is a smaller family operation with a distillery located in the suburbs of San Juan. The day I visited the distillery, the labels were being applied by hand, this rum is aged with a whiskey feel.
My favorite rum cocktail on the island is the Santurce Swizzle created to celebrate Puerto Rican Mardi Gras. The Santurce Swizzle utilizes two types of Don Q (Blanco and Anejo), local organic honey, passion fruit, St. Germain and tiki bitters. After the first sip, I almost cried tears of joy. A touch sweet, a touch sour, and just perfect. Michael Norat, Mr. World Class Puerto Rico 2015 of Santaella created this cocktail. (FYI a ‘swizzle’ historically is a rum drink stirred to a chill with the swizzle stick and garnished with an allspice branch)
My next find utilizes my favorite fruit on the island, the pineapple. If you, find yourself on the Island, do yourself a favor and try a fresh pineapple, you’ll thank me later. The Upside Down combines Don Julio Tequila, roasted pineapple with vanilla bean syrup, a habanero shrub and maraschino and pecan reduction.
The Upside Down is like a “grown and sexy” pineapple upside down cake. It’s a little fruity with a touch of spice. I could sip these at the beach all day. This cocktail was courtesy of Krystal Cobian of the Condado Vanderbilt.
One of the more unusual cocktails I’ve had on the island was the Que Mamey all because of one ingredient, zapote, aka “mamey”. You can only find this fruit in parts of South America or the Caribbean. It’s soft, velvety in texture and has the most unusual flavor. It’s been an acquired taste for me, but because of this cocktail, I became a believer.
The Que Mamey mixes the Zapote with bourbon, mint, and lime. Fresh and delicious and a little hint of pear from the Zapote. You can find the Que Mamey at La Coctelera, a new bar on Calle Loiza, as their featured drink. Local and seasonal is always best when making drinks and this Caribbean living provides some amazing ingredients and lets me meet creative people. The island life has been great, Salud!