12 of the Most Popular Jamaican Drinks
Jamaica is known internationally for its vibrant, colorful culture; its friendly, happy-go-lucky, “no problem” lifestyle; its sporting prowess; music; and yes, its amazing variety of spicy, tantalizing, homespun food…and, oh yes! Drinks!
First and foremost, Jamaica is synonymous with rum! No social gathering is complete without Jamaican white rum. And (dare we say this?) Jamaica has the dubious distinction of being very highly placed among those countries with the largest number of bars per square mile in the world.
Jamaican drinks aren’t limited to alcoholic beverages, however; not by a long shot (see what we did there?). Jamaican beverages are diverse, flavorful, and capable of adding zest to the dullest of parties. They range from alcoholic drinks to fruit and vegetable mixes, to health drinks, all the way down to the humble sugar and water, which becomes lime aid when lime juice is added. Not to mention a variety of homemade herb and root concoctions touted by street sellers with much creativity and fanfare.
Jamaican Alcoholic Drinks
Jamaican rum is iconic. It is said that Jamaica makes enough rum each year to fill 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools, and then they sell it to over 70 countries around the world.
Jamaican rum is rich, strong, and sweet, and is a mind-blowing addition to cocktails and tropical fruit drinks, creating a breezy Jamaican flavor that takes your breath away.
It is illegal to add sugar to Jamaican rums.
Renowned for having a robust and fruity flavor with an intense and spellbinding aroma, Jamaican rum is special partly because Jamaica has high-quality standards for making their high-quality rum. It is made using all-natural, GMO-free yeast, it is aged in oak barrels, and at no point in the process is sugar or artificial flavor added. All Jamaican rums are naturally sweet, and it is illegal to add sugar to them.
And one final thing of note: There is no rum in Jamaica as popular as the white overproof rum, commonly referred to as just white rum. And oh yes! A murderously strong, unprocessed variety is available (but not on shop shelves). It goes by a name that cannot be published here, but which refers to the nethermost part of the Jamaican turkey vulture.
2. Rum Punch
Jamaican rum punch is a classic, exotic drink that you can whip up at the drop of a hat. The ingredients are few, simple, and combine to overwhelm the senses and lift the dullest of spirits. Jamaican rum punch is distinctly tropical, citrusy, cool, and full of sweet excitement.
The measurements for the iconic Jamaican rum punch recipe are 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong and 4 parts weak. That is 1 part fresh lime juice, 2 parts syrup, 3 parts white rum, and 4 parts water. The water can be substituted with blended juice (pineapple, mango, or orange).
Rum punch is a favorite drink throughout the Caribbean and enjoyed on many other Caribbean islands.
3. Red Stripe Beer
No Jamaican entertainment event is complete without Red Stripe Beer. Created almost 100 years ago, Red Stripe is an authentic Jamaican lager made from malt, hop, water, and cassava starch. With an alcohol content of just 4.7%, Red Stripe allows you to enjoy its grainy sweetness and aroma reminiscent of apples, without breaking into song and spilling your most treasured secrets.
Red Stripe Flavors (melon, sorrel, lemon, and light) is a line extension of Red Stripe beer that has taken the market by storm. But the original, ubiquitous variety remains unmatched for impeccable taste and thirst-quenching satisfaction.
4. Dragon Stout
Dragon Stout is exclusively produced in Jamaica from roasted malt, caramel, and brown sugar, with the flavor of brown sugar, and roasted malt practically leaping from the bottle the moment you pop the cap.
The Jamaican Stout Punch is a mixture (some say potent mixture) of Dragon Stout, sweetened condensed milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, and raw eggs. It is notorious with men (and women too) who seek “vigor” (wink, wink!). Some combine it with peanut punch to get a richer, smoother, creamier texture, and more of the aforementioned vigor.
5. Sangster’s Rum Cream
Sangster’s Rum Cream is a Jamaican rum-based liqueur. A superb blend of premium aged rum and rich, fresh cream with just a hint of exotic fruits and spices, it is the perfect combination of elegant refinement and tropical glamour – creamy and smooth, with subtle nuances of coffee, toffee, and nuts.
Sangster’s Rum Cream was created by Scotsman Ian Sangster, who allegedly came to Jamaica to teach at one of the universities but abandoned his teaching career to create rums. Good for him, and even better for us. Sangster’s Rum Cream contains 17% alcohol. Strong, and simply exquisite!
6. Tia Maria
Tia Maria, a dark Jamaican coffee liqueur, is made using Jamaican coffee beans, rum, sugar, and vanilla beans, blended to an alcoholic content of 20%. Tia Maria is smooth, fragrant, and full-bodied while the usual notes include aromas of vanilla and coffee.
Some say a young Spanish girl who fled the plantation named the liqueur “Aunt Mary”, in honor of a female servant who had helped her. But others say late Jamaican solicitor Morris Cargill asked Dr. Ken Evans to develop the recipe based on a coffee liqueur his aunt used to make.
They partnered with others and spent days trying to come up with a name until Cargill mentioned his aunt’s original recipe, and someone blurted out, “I know exactly what we’ll call that damn liqueur: Aunt Mary – Tia Maria.”
While uncertainty might exist about its origins, there is no doubt that Tia Maria “by any other name would be just as sweet”; and just as uniquely Jamaican.
Jamaican Plant-based Cold Beverages
7. Ginger Beer
Jamaican ginger is the most aromatic and pungent ginger in the world. This old-time drink is a real Jamaican favorite, rich in flavor and easy to make.
You need just 1 lb. ginger, 4 limes, 10 cups boiled water, 2 cups carbonated water (optional) to give the drink a fizz, sugar to sweeten.
Wash the ginger then chop and purée it in a blender with 2 cups of water. Pour into a container with the remaining 8 cups of boiled water. (Use 6 cups if you intend to add carbonated water), then steep for two to four hours. For best results, steep overnight. Strain using a fine strainer. If you are using carbonated water, add it at this point. Add the lime juice and sweeten to taste.
Leave to chill, best served cold.
8. Irish Moss
Irish moss is made from the algae of the same name, introduced to Jamaica by Irish immigrants.
To prepare the beverage, the moss is washed and boiled with milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg. Variations include the addition of condensed milk, oats, or peanuts.
9. Peanut Punch
Peanut punch is made with peanut butter (or roasted peanuts), water, condensed milk, and flavorings such as vanilla, nutmeg, honey, and cinnamon. Many Jamaicans consider it an aphrodisiac, and some street vendors add local seaweed and oats to enhance its potency.
10. Ting Grapefruit Soda
Ting is a lightly carbonated sparkling citrus soda made from 100% Jamaican grapefruit sweetened with real cane sugar, and has no added preservatives.
Ting is the ultimate thirst quencher, cocktail maker, and perfect mixer, going well with white rum, coconut rum, vodka, and whisky.
Chock-full of pure goodness, Ting tingles with the refreshing zing of succulent citrus.
Jamaican Hot Beverages
11. Blue Mountain Coffee
Jamaica Blue Mountain is the king of exotic gourmet coffees.
Its name comes from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. To be called Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, it must be grown at altitudes of up to 5,800 feet. This coffee loves the nitrogen and phosphorus-rich volcanic soil, the steep elevations, regular rainfall, and the misty cloud cover. All these factors combine to develop coffee with exceptional sweetness and aroma, rich flavor, and full body with mild acidity – the “champagne of coffees”.
Prized for its lack of bitterness, Blue Mountain coffee is well-balanced and silky smooth. It has a refined taste that is mild and slightly sweet and, depending on the level of roast, may have a nutty or chocolate-like finish.
Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee can trace its origins to a gesture by a French king nearly 300 years ago. In 1723, Louis XV sent three coffee plants to the French colony of Martinique. Five years later, the Governor of Jamaica received a gift of one coffee plant from the Governor of Martinique. And the rest is history.
12. Chocolate “Tea”
If ever there was a Jamaican hot beverage that stirs the imagination, creates nostalgia, and causes the taste buds to tingle, it’s Jamaican-style hot chocolate, referred to in the local dialect as “chalk lit tea”. Using a traditional chocolate ball with cinnamon, this drink offers the most authentic taste of Jamaica imaginable.
The ingredients are Jamaican chocolate ball, 3 teaspoon sugar, 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (traditionally coconut milk is used), 1 quart water (not required if coconut milk is used), a pinch of salt, 3 cinnamon leaves.
Grate the chocolate. Bring the water to a boil. Add the chocolate and cinnamon. Allow the mixture to boil for 15 to 20 minutes. Sweeten to taste.
Sip in silence. Words might spoil the absolute beauty and quaint, old-world charm of this magical moment.