Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Enjoy Award Winning Tropical Cocktails During the Dog Days of Summer

Summer days in the islands often mean hazy, hot afternoons when you long for nothing more than a long swim and a cold drink. The next time I’m whipping up a batch of something refreshing, I’m going to steal a page from USVI Culinary Team Bartender Brandon DeCloux, whose work I recently had the pleasure of tasting.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are well known for being home to alabaster shorelines and turquoise waters, and thanks to DeCloux, we’re now getting some love for that other pillar of island life — cocktails.

DeCloux, a bartender at Sib’s on the Mountain on the island of St. Thomas, was the bartender for the USVI Culinary Team which recently battled against 10 other countries in the annual Taste of the Caribbean culinary competition. The competition is hosted annually in Miami and the USVI team — composed of nine chefs and pastry chef members from St. Thomas and St. Croix — is sponsored by the USVI Hotel and Tourism Association.

The team returned from the competition with a total of three gold medals, three silver medals, one bronze medal and two honorable mentions. DeCloux was named Bartender of the Year with an award winning nonalcoholic beverage and vodka and rum connections as well.

DeCloux brought his bartending tools to the USVI Hotel and Tourism Association’s general membership meeting at Turtle Bay Estate House at Caneel Bay recently where he whipped up those refreshing libations for the crowd.

For an island twist on the average cream soda, shake up fresh squeezed lime juice with a quality cream of coconut, pour over ice and top with sparkling water. With the lime juice balancing the sweet coconut, this drink is like a combination of a lime and coconut and a lime rickey.

DeCloux also demonstrated how to make his Caribbean take on an Old Fashioned using Cruzan Single Barrel Rum and a home-made herbal vermouth with sorrel and cinnamon. To serve the cocktails, DeCloux rimmed the glasses with Cherry Marnier and sugar and encouraged guests to inhale the scotch-like scent, which proved delightful.

With no ripe soursop on hand to recreate his gold medal winning vodka drink — a soursop and cilantro vodka mojito — DeCloux mixed up a few grapefruit and basil vodka mojitos instead. Soursop tastes like a combination of banana and pineapple and paired perfectly with cilantro in DeCloux’s competition mojito, we were told. I tasted how well the grapefruit and basil went together in the cocktail he did make, and it’s a combination I’ve already recreated.

And now you can get a taste for the tropics and make a batch of these perfect summer drinks too. Cheers!

Written by: Jaime Elliott


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