The Cayman Islands is home to just over 60,000 people, with the vast majority living on Grand Cayman. As the largest of the three islands, and big sister to Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, it’s where you’ll find most of the territory’s hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops. It’s also where you’ll find the generously-named Seven Mile Beach, which actually stretches for about six miles along Grand Cayman’s western coast.
The modestly populated island is a major tourist draw, with recent years bringing about two million visitors by land and sea. Naturally, all those people need a variety of places to eat and drink, which results in the Cayman Islands’ abundance of good food, cocktails, and wine—things that we sampled liberally on our recent trip.
If you get the chance to visit, don’t pass up the opportunity to bend an elbow with some kind locals. To get started, here’s your handy checklist of five can’t-miss drinking experiences in the Cayman Islands. Collect them all.
Check Out Cayman Cocktail Week
Occurring each October, Cayman Cocktail Week is exactly what it sounds like—a week-long celebration of all things cocktail-related. The 2018 event, which marked the event’s sixth annual affair, featured interactive tastings, cocktail pairing dinners, festive happy hours, and appearances from industry luminaries, like Master Blenders Joy Spence of Appleton Estate and Lorena Vasquez of Ron Zacapa.
That makes October a fine time to visit. Even if you can’t make one of the Cayman Cocktail Week events, branded cocktail menus are available at many bars and restaurants throughout the month of October, giving you a chance to try some creative cocktails from some of Cayman’s best bartenders.
Drink a Mudslide
The Mudslide was first served at the Rum Point Club’s Wreck Bar in the 1970s. As the story goes, a patron asked for a White Russian (vodka, Kahlua, and cream), but the bartender didn’t have cream. So he added Bailey’s in place of the cream, and the Mudslide was born. The drink often gets a bad wrap, mostly because it’s been bastardized with vanilla ice cream and other fillers by the likes of TGI Friday’s. The original is still decadent, but with three spirited ingredients, it’s more high-octane than it seems.
For a little piece of history, you can drink a Mudslide at the Wreck Bar, but it’s not a hard drink to find—nearly any bar or restaurant on the island will mix one up for you. And if you’d like to try a craftier, updated version of the classic, head for Coccoloba at the Kimpton Seafire Resort. There, the bartenders make Mudslides with Ketel One Vodka, locally-roasted cold brew coffee, creme de cacao, and coconut.
Drink Some Local Rum
You can’t (well, you shouldn’t) visit the Cayman Islands without partaking in some rum. Plenty of Caribbean rums are available at bars and restaurants, but your locals consist of brands like Tortuga, Seven Fathoms, Edward Teach, and 1780 Rum. Tortuga is most associated with Tortuga Rum Cakes—which are ubiquitous, delicious, and the Cayman Islands’ number one export. Visit the factory and retail shop to take home some duty-free rum and rum cakes.
Seven Fathoms Rum is produced by the Cayman Spirits Company, and undergoes a unique aging process. After distillation, the rum is aged underwater off the Cayman coast at a depth of 42 feet, or seven fathoms, for up to three years. Ocean currents rock the barrels, which creates more liquid-to-wood contact. The result is a rum full of caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, and oak spice, plus mild notes of salinity.
Edward Teach is named for the pirate better known as Blackbeard, who captured a vessel at Grand Cayman in 1718. The single barrel rum is released in small, hand-numbered batches, and the bottles are sealed with wax. Edward Teach 8-Year-Old is an easygoing rum that’s medium bodied, and sports flavors of coconut, banana, and molasses.
1780 Rum is only available at Pedro St. James, a national historic site that dates back to 1780. Tour the grounds, learn about life at the three-story dwelling that’s served as a plantation home, courthouse, jail, and government assembly building over the years. And then head into the gift shop to taste 1780 Rum, because that’s the only place you’ll find it on the island.
Visit Cayman Spirits Company
In addition to Seven Fathoms Rum, Cayman Spirits Company also makes Governor’s Reserve Rum, which is available in white, gold, dark, spiced, and a variety of flavors. But they’re not just a rum trick pony. The distillery produces a few unique small-batch gins, plus Gun Bay Vodka and some liqueurs. Tasting spirits is always fun, but how you taste them here is a little extra special. That’s because distiller Moises Sevilla can turn any tasting into a party, and pairs a different song with each spirit, making for a high-energy good time. If you’re lucky/willing, he might even break out the shotski.
Take a Break From Booze… With Wine
Even the biggest cocktail aficionados might want to mix in a beer or glass of wine on occasion. That’s why our trip included plenty of ice-cold Caybrews and a visit to the West Indies Wine Company. Located in the happening Camana Bay area, West Indies is a shop and tasting room that offers 80 wines by the glass. Each is doled out via a DIY enomatic machine that keeps the wine fresh while letting you pour out tasting samples or full size glasses. Simply swipe one of the provided cards at each station, and you can taste your way through as many dry whites and full-bodied reds as you’d like. Fortunately, you’re just a few steps away from a handful of solid restaurants. Because after all that tasting, you’re going to need some dinner.