Sometimes, simplicity is the most important element in a drink. The cocktails we reach for time and again tend to be pared-down recipes that can be made on the fly. Especially in the summer heat, no one wants a laundry list of ingredients or extensive directions getting between them and the satisfaction of that first sip. Case in point: the Caribbean classics, whose dead-simple builds demonstrate that less is almost always more when it comes to refreshing drinks. Plus, a simple formula means that each recipe can be tailored to personal preference. The Scotch and Coconut, a popular Caribbean combo, for example, can skew golden brown or pale beige, depending on the volume (and age) of its whisky base, while Ti’ Punch can be made tall with the unorthodox addition of an effervescent topper. However you choose to DIY them, these Caribbean cocktails are as easy to make as they are to drink.
Here, get to know the island classics through five simple recipes.
The Scotch and Coconut is a simple two-part drink that’s popular across the Caribbean. Coconut water’s sweet-savory profile complements blended Scotch, and the easy recipe means the cocktail can be made right on the beach. In her riff, Lynnette Marrero adds a splash of pineapple and a topper of lime and yuzu soda, with aromatic shiso leaf as the garnish.
The combination of funky rhum agricole, cane sugar and lime peel is the official drink of Martinique. Made with just three ingredients, the cocktail is also a variable one, inspiring spicy, tall and extra-citrusy takes on the format.
LLB, as it’s affectionately referred to, has roots in the 19th century, when Angostura first came to Australia. Today, the very low-alcohol Lemon-Lime & Bitters can be found in the Caribbean and traditionally at the 19th hole of golf in Australia.
The Canchánchara was created by guerilla fighters of the Cuban Wars of Independence. Made with aguardiente de caña, honey, lime juice and water, the drink was originally a restorative for enslaved people working the plantations. In his riff, Julio Cabrera uses cachaça and a ginger-infused honey syrup for a spicier take.
Also known as Rum & Ting or Ting With a Sting, the Wray & Ting is a Kingston-born highball popular at Jamaica’s rum shops. Ting, a bitter grapefruit soda, comes together with overproof rum (namely the beloved J. Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum) for a crisp drink that, according to some, provides a window into understanding the spirit. “I think the best way to understand the spirit is to drink it the way it’s traditionally consumed … and these rums are not consumed alone,” says rum educator Shannon Mustipher of the cocktail.
Following the rise of Wray & Ting, Campari, which shares a parent company with the popular rum brand Wray & Nephew, introduced the bittersweet liqueur to the citrusy Jamaican soda—and the highball took off. The bright red liqueur, with its distinctive citrus notes, is a perfect complement to Ting’s tart grapefruit flavor, and the Campari Ting is now a staple in Jamaican community bars, clubs and parties. According to Debbian Spence-Minott, CEO at Jamaica’s Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines, “There was a time when Campari was gathering dust on the backbar.” But the rise of the simple highball has made it a household name.