Food, & Drink in the Abacos.
Sandy's Solution to the Tropical Drink Dilemma
from Sandy Estabrook's Guide to The Abacos, Bahamas
On a recent trip I noticed they've ressurected an old favorite. It's called a SWIDGEL. For generations, in numerous Caribbean & Bahamian songs, Calypsonians sang about “Gin & Coconut Water”, well that's a Swidgel or as it’s sometime called Gully Water or Sky Juice. I had my first at Captain Jack’s, where I first heard it being ordered. Understand it's made with the water from inside a coconut, not the pureed canned paste used for pina coladas. A little milk is added and of course your alcohol of choice but in one time British Islands, you'll find Gin is still a popular favorite.
Miss Emily - early 90's photo.
Click pict for another image.
The Bahamian National drink is the Goombay Smash. It is the most famous drink of them all, and got its start at Miss Emily's Blue Bee Bar, a little out of the way place on Green Turtle Cay back in the 60's. Her bar has long been THE watering hole for the cruising yachtsman and early pilots who made the Abacos their getaway home. Miss Emily passed away in 1997 but the traditions of her “establishment” are now being run by her daughter Violet. The story on the drink's name name and how it came about is here in a short video in Violet's own words.
Today, throughout these islands, and the Caribbean in general, most all the specialties of the house drinks are made with assorted rums and fruit juice with pineapple and coconut being the main ingredients. In the Abacos, you will come across the Tipsy Turtle at the Green Turtle Club. The Guana Grabber was the drink of renown at the Guana Beach Resort on Guana Cay until it burnt down. It has been replaced by a drink called the Nipper, named after the cliff dwelling restaurant and bar of the same name. Others we have tried are the Bahama Breeze, Banana Flavored Yellow Bird and something called a Conch Pearl, all at the Abaco Inn, on Elbow Cay. Then there is the Reef Wreck at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge. Cracker P's has it's shotgun and if You make it all the way down to Little Harbour on Abaco's mainland to Pete's Pub, you can try his high powered Blaster. They wont serve you more than two if you came on two wheels - bike or moped.
If by chance you are a RED WINE drinker, you are out of luck in the Abacos. The red wine is right up there with all the rums and vodkas and more importantly at Abaco temperatures. So if you don't mind warm red wine or don't care about diluting your red wine with a handful of ice cubes, you'll be OK. Otherwise switch to white. Less I forget, the Beer of the Bahamas is Kalik pronounced calick and brewed in Nassau. Although in 2008 a new Beer hit the bars from a brewery in Freeport. It's called Sands. By the way, Kalik, comes in Light 4.5% Alcohol, Regular 5.0% and Gold 7.0%. Doing the math three lights equals two golds!.
And the Bartenders
An Abaco bartender number one prerqusetted is to be friendly followed by mixology. Some priopriters even take the reigns now and then. Still some come and move on to other island jobs. A few make the establishment the place its. A couple have passed on the the great bartending school in the sky. Lastly bartender Debbie has been at the Tipsy Bar at the Green Turtle CLub for over 25 years and has won the prestigious Bahamian "Cacique" award for sustainable tourism.
Please feal free to contribute a picture to our:
Bartender Picture Page
Beer Drinking - Here's a Practical Tip
This may be old news to some, but when I discovered quite by accident
sandals with a built in beer bottle opener! - I thought this is terrific, perfect for the Bahamas since Kalik doesn’t come with a screw off top. Nor does Heineken, Becks or other Bahamian imports and how many times does one find themselves with a cooler full of beer and no opener.
Fact is, my wife bought the sandals without evening noticing the opener and I only noticed the metal opener when handing her the sandals. I'll definitely add a pair of these (at least for one person in the group) to my priority item list when traveling to the Abacos. For Information on where to get them click on the picture below.
Sandy's Solutions to the Tropical Drink Dilemma.
In the Abacos you can try a different drink every day and it would take you a month to try them all.
But what happens at home? It's not practical to stock up with all sorts of fruit juice, rums and flavored liquors.
- Sandy's Solution -
On the occasion of a tropical barbecue, grouper, Bahamian lobster tails, conch salad and all, I wanted "my own" tropical drink - my house specialty to serve guests when the situation arises. And it would always taste the same on repeat visits. So, I did some experimenting and came up with what you see below. Only five ingredients are needed and I always have Mount Gay Barbados rum on hand anyway.
It's easy to make and consists of many of the same ingredients used in the islands. I played around and came up with 5 ingredients , the combination of which I will call, "Sandy's Solution" to the tropical drink dilemma. You can call it what you like. If a party isn't on your roster, it's perfect for when you are home in the frozen north wishing you were back on your favorite tropical beach or bar. Just add music.
4 oz. Mt. Gay "Eclipse" Rum*
6 oz Don Ricardo or Cruzan Coconut Rum
2 oz Apricot brandy
12 oz Mauna Lai (Motts) or other Guava juice
16 oz Pineapple Juice
Shake & serve over ice. Makes 4 - 10 oz. drinks. Of course you can add a cherry, slice of Orange or one of those silly umbrellas or even an orchid if you like. Or if you really want to impress cut the top off a pineapple, remove the fruit and core being careful not to poke a hole in the bottom. Discard the core and puree the fruit in a blender and use it in place of, or with some of the pineapple juice. Notice all the quantities are easily divided by two if you want to make half the indicated amount.
And for a Winter Escape
using the same ingredients, minus the juice.
Check out the Motu Iti in the next column.
- The Motu Iti -
Last winter, I was sitting around and in the mood for a cocktail. I wanted something reminiscent ot the tropics but not in a tall glass with all sorts of fruit juice and or sweet. I came up with my new drink. I call it the Motu Iti, Polynesian meaning "Little Island", and reminiscent of an island hopping sojourn I once made in the South Pacific. Motu Iti later became my boat name that later took me to the Abacos, which also energized this endeavor.
After experimenting with a half dozen liquoirs I came up with the Motu Iti, not realizing the ingredients were the same as my "Solution", just without the juice.
Using a small (single drink) shaker I filled it with ice of course, filling it to about a half inch from the top with Mount Gay Rum. I then filled it the rest of the way with equal amounts of Coconut Rum and Jacquin’s Apricot Brandy. That translates into 3 oz + 1/2 oz + 1/2 oz. X2 for large shaker. It was then of course, shaken not stirred.
Yup, tasted pretty darn good and now a staple in our household. You might want to give it a try. The Coconut and Apricot punch through enough to give the Motu Iti a lovely tropical bouquet and taste. Next time offer your guests a Motu Iti. And if you find yourself in a nice restaurant ask for one which I've done. You probably have to provide the bartender with the ingredients.
In both cases above I do not suggest using Baccardi / Ron Rico clear type rum.
Instead try and sticking to a medium dark rum like Mount Gay or Appletown etc and Meyers might be too heavy.
Where it all started.
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Now to the food:
The waters of the Abacos provide a great variety of fresh local fish and are prepared in a variety of ways from a sandwich on a bun and barbecue to piccata and oscar. A dish often overlooked is the Grouper Nantua appetizer found on many menus. It makes for a nice lite lunch too. Give it a try. Fresh greens are sometimes hard to find especially a ripe tomato except at the resorts. Their staples are peas & rice, BAKED macaroni & cheese, french fries and coleslaw. Chicken is abundant and you can easily find a quality steak or rack of lamb at the resort restaurants. The Absolutely best steak we ever had was at the Jib Room in Marsh Harbour on Saturday -steak night. Lobster/crawfish is local and expensive. It is available off season (summer) but frozen which is the way you usually get lobster tails anyway. Conch is another mainstay and available as; conch fritters, cracked conch, conch burger and two non fried items conch chowder and my very favorite conch salad. And of course every restaurant offers their version of the Cheeseburger in Paradise. with Nippers and Cracker P's being our favotites.
One of the conch staples is conch chowder. We made it our business one year to sample this soup at multitude of locations. Our first choice being, The Abaco Inn on Elbow Cay, runner-up the Wrecking Tree on Green Turtle and last but not least the light creamy white version at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge.
On another trip, we pretty much limited our lunches to grilled fish sandwiches. Our group was prety much in lock step with the first three. 1. Pete's Pubs Grilled Hog Fish (a snapper) accompanied by their wonderful "fruity" coleslaw. 2. Pineapples on G.T. Grilled Dolphin with all their trimmin's. and 3. Snappas in Marsh Harbour, also Dolphin (mahi mahi).
One of our favorite things is sampling the Conch Salad.
fact is we've devoted a whole page to CONCH.
Conch Salad is this mans very favorite food in the Bahamas. It's refreshing, non fattening and tasty. The prime ingredients are conch (obviously) tomato, onion, celery, cucumber and sometimes Green Pepper . To this they add a little line or orange juice plus for spice worcestershire and or tabasco sauce. It's all finely chopped up and served in a cup with a spoon. It's better than Ice cream. Each vendor or shop makes it their own way and likewise each varies slightly in taste from one to another. One of my favorite spots is the street vendor you will see just a few hundred feet to your right when leaving the Conch Inn in Marsh Harbour. His stand that has been there for years. Get your self a pint. It's also sold in the New Plymouth markets and usually off the shelves by mid morning. Dispite it's popularity it's hard for find in restaurants. We've found only three restaurants that have this as a regular item on the menu: The Wrecking Tree on Green Turtle and the Abaco Inn on Elbow Cay (dinner only) and The Bahama Beach CLub in Treasure Cay.
The drinking water, that is another thing. In the Abaco Cays we drink it right out of the tap and have been doing so for over 35 years with no problems. It is either sea water purified by reverse osmosis which includes most resorts, or it is filtered rain water. The Abaconian bottled water that is sold in the stores comes from the same source. Water is metered for marina guests will pay a pretty hefty price for hooking into their R/O systems. Washing down ones boat can be pretty costly. Another item of note: Coca-Cola still uses Saccharin in Diet Coke in the Bahamas. Probably because it's the cheapest sweetner and not regulated in the Bahamas. At last check, harder to find Diet Pepsi uses Asparatame, the lesser of two evils I guess.
Abaco Restaurant Directory