Photograph by Paul Poplis, Getty Images
Piña Colada, Puerto Rico
The pineapple, coconut, and rum slurry known as piña colada had been popular in the Caribbean for at least a hundred years before Ramon "Monchito" Marrero, a bartender at the Caribe Hilton’s Beachcomber Bar (now called Oasis Bar) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, perfected it in the 1950s using cream of coconut. Today, San Juan’s signature cocktail is sipped all over the world, but tastes best in Puerto Rico, by the beach or pool.
Made with sugar, lime, and cachaça—a spirit fermented from sugarcane juice— the caipirinha is ubiquitous in Brazil’s seaside cafés. Even vendors on the beach mix them. Variations abound, the most popular is caipifrutas, which adds one or more of the region’s wide array of fruits, such as caju (cashew fruit), passionfruit, mango, or kiwi.
Upon tasting this cocktail of rum, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup (made from almonds), and lime at Polynesian-style lounge Trader Vic’s (then called Hinky Dink) in Oakland, California, in 1944, a Tahitian guest remarked, “maita'i ro'a 'ae,” meaning “out of this world.” Hence the name mai-tai, or so the story goes. The drink got a boost in Elvis’s hit movie Blue Hawaii and has since become a staple at tiki lounges everywhere.
Red Stripe Beer, Jamaica
So identified is Red Stripe with the Jamaican national identity that when the island formally gained independence from Great Britain in 1962, one columnist suggested the real date should have been 1928, when the beer was first brewed on the island in Kingston. After a couple of marketing glitches in the U.S. market, the lager is now the most popular of all Caribbean beers.
Thanks to the prevalence of rum, lime, and sugar in the Caribbean, the trio became the base for many of the region’s cocktails (as well as the British sailor’s grog). Named for a beach near Santiago, Cuba, the first daiquiri was allegedly invented by a group of American engineers working in the area whose gin supplies had run dry. The drink today is more recognizable to Americans in its fruit-flavored frozen form.
Was it a Texas socialite in Acapulco who was looking for something to refresh her party guests on a hot afternoon or a bartender in Tijuana hoping to impress Rita Hayworth (née Margarita Cansino) with a drink in her honor? Regardless of who invented the margarita—the stories are legion—the tart blend of tequila, cointreau, and lime juice in a glass rimmed with salt has become synonymous with Mexico. It’s the top-selling tequila cocktail worldwide.
Limoncello, Southern Italy
When life gave farmers in southern Italy surplus lemons, they soaked the peels in grain alcohol and added sugar to make limoncello. The sweet-tart digestivo is traditionally sipped after dinner, but is gaining ground as a base for simple cocktails, such as splashed over ice with soda or tonic water, preferably enjoyed while taking in the stunning seaside vistas of the Amalfi Coast.
Cape Codder, Massachusetts
When cranberry giant Ocean Spray began to promote its juice cocktail as a mixer, suggestions to pair it with Canadian whiskey or rum fell flat. But vodka and cranberry—named the Cape Codder in honor of the beloved Massachusetts peninsula where cranberries thrive—hit it big, spawning multiple variations, including the trendier martini hybrid, the cosmopolitan.
Rosé, Côte d'Azur, France
Drinking pink has just started to catch on stateside, but a glass of chilled dry rosé has long been de rigueur in the seaside cafés of France’s Côte d'Azur, alongside fish soup and langoustines. Typically made by removing the skins of the red grapes after crushing, rosé is thought of as the less-serious sister to white or red wine, making it the ideal beachside quaff in Saint Tropez.
Gin and Tonic, India
Gin was first introduced to tonic to offset its bitter taste so the British, who were occupying India at the time, could stomach the stuff as an anti-malarial. The Brits ended up fancying the crisp combo, adding a wedge of lime, and it became a mainstay of the tropics long after the empire fell. Try it on the beach in Goa while watching the sun set.
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