Vacations, particularly tropical ones, provide us with a unique opportunity to break away from the constant stresses of daily life while exploring all the beauty of a foreign locale. Whether you’re windsurfing in Tahiti or going full-on “no shoes, no shirt, no problem” in the Bahamas, there’s something about hopping a flight that seems to allow cares to melt away.
Sometimes, though, these locations are a little, well, lacking in the cocktail department. That’s why you should be prepared to take matters into your own hands. If you’re ready to step up your drink-nerd status to a whole different level, take the five recommendations of the bartenders below, and stuff these beloved items (and maybe the perennial favorite, the Coco Jack) into your suitcase.
Sierra Kirk (bartender, Hale Pele, Portland, Ore.): “One of my favorite tools I use on a daily basis is my ratcheting pineapple corer and slicer. It’s effortless to use, and you get perfect pineapple rings. Slice off the top, extract the rings, cut out the core and put some notches in the top for straws, and you have the perfect tropical vacation drinking vessel!”
Ryan Kuntz (lead bartender, Noble Experiment, San Diego): “I recently visited Cuba, where there were citrus trees all over the island, but none of the bars used fresh juice in their recipes. I would bring a hand juicer to make fresh tropical cocktails.”
Gui Jaroschy (lead bartender, The Broken Shaker, Miami): “The one tool to take to a tropical island would be an eight-inch chef’s knife. The beauty of tropical fruit is that it only needs very minimum preparation. Nothing beats the natural freshness of the fruit that falls right off the tree. You may only need to peel it and it's ready to eat, drink and infuse.”
James Bolt (beverage director, The Gin Joint, Charleston, S.C.): “I would take a genuine swizzle stick with me on a tropical vacation. A swizzle stick actually comes from a tree native to the Caribbean. You simply put it in the cocktail and, with both hands, move the stick up and down with the palm of your hands. It helps evenly mix the cocktail and creates a great show, all while creating a nice frost on the glass as well.
“Most swizzle cocktails have some muddled herbs or fruit on the bottom of the glass, and using a swizzle stick allows a person to mix the drink without disturbing the muddled ingredients on the bottom. The most classic swizzle drink is a Queens Park Swizzle, which is a great rum drink for vacation. You don’t need much more on a vacation than some great rum, citrus, crushed ice and a swizzle stick to make the perfect drink.”
Antonio Palacios (bartender and sommelier, Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos, Mexico): “Not quite a tool, but bring any agave spirit, and you’ll be good. We’re always trying to showcase the different agave distillates and flavors for guests, from bacanora and sotol to mezcal and tequila, so they can take that knowledge with them to try out on their own when vacationing.”
Think you know the booze?
Let’s start with some basics.