One of the most fun bucket lists for a Jamaican holiday, here are all of the drinks in Jamaica you need to try. Don’t worry they are not all alcoholic, but each of them is quite the adventure. How many can you tick off the list?
I think Jamaica is one of the most underrated food destinations.
Even if you’ve never been to Jamaica or think you’ve eaten Jamaican food, you’ve probably eaten something that was influenced by Jamaican cuisine.
Jamaican immigrants brought much of the Costa Rican fruit we know and love. And the ubiquitous Caribbean rice and beansis influenced by Jamaica.
Do not stick to your regular drinks in Jamaica. This is not the time to be sipping Cuban cocktails like mojitos or daiquiris.
Yes I love them too but there is a time and place. And Jamaica is the place for great Jamaican cocktails.
Don’t worry I’ve also included some non-alcoholic drinks because if you drink all day you won’t remember what a great time you had in Jamaica.
Non Alcoholic Drinks in Jamaica
Is it safe to drink the water in Jamaica? Absolutely, unless you’re in a very rural area. But if you’re heading to Montego Bay, Kingston, Ocho Rios, Negril etc you are fine to drink the water.
It will taste different, some people find it to be hard water. But you should not have any issues.
But I’ve also drank water in restaurants in Jamaica and never had a problem. Do what feels right for you.
Ginger beer is found all over the world, but Jamaican ginger beer is upheld as the gold star standard for quality.
Like most drinks around the world, to lower the cost to make them manufacturers swapped sugar cane as the sweetener for cheap corn syrup.
This is why Coca Cola doesn’t taste the same as it did when we were kids.
But in Jamaica many ginger beers continue to use sugar cane.
Jamaican ginger beer is sweet, spicy and refreshing. It uses local Jamaican ginger, sugar, honey and lime juice.
And while I don’t think the Moscow mule cocktail is a traditional Jamaican cocktail, having it with Jamaican ginger beer will make it one of the best you’ve ever had.
But before you do that, drink ginger beer with rum, it’s the local way.
One of the most popular soft drinks in Jamaica, Ting is found nearly everywhere. It is a grapefruit soda that is refreshing and slightly bitter.
Ting means thing in Creole and I was told “Ting is the Thing to beat the heat in Jamaica.” It’s a great non alcoholic option and it’s a bit tart and just sweet enough.
It is also one half of the easy Jamaican drink – vodka and Ting. Or you can also mix it with rum to make a Ting ‘n Sting.
Also known as Jamaican sea moss. It is one of many Jamaican drinks purporting to help with energy.
It’s sad that Irish labourers brought the drink with them, it is traditionally made with red algae boiled in milk and sweetened with honey. You can find homemade versions of this or try it in the store.
This was one of the most exciting Jamaican drinks to see because I also grew up with bag juice in Nova Scotia. Although I don’t think it exists anymore.
Essentially juice in a bag, and I say juice liberally as it was more like coloured water with sugar. But it is very cheap and often cheaper than bottled water in Jamaica. So it’s popular alternative for kids.
Sorrel is the dried buds of the hibiscus flower. They are a vibrant magenta/purple and make for a great tea you can find throughout the Caribbean and also Mexico.
Jamaican sorrel is usually steeped with local ginger, sugar and chilled. It’s served cold, sometimes with a bit of carbonated water and lime.
Sorrel is synonymous with Christmas in Jamaica, and throughout the Caribbean. It is a very common Christmas punch but at this time it is usually served warm and spiced with ginger, cinnamon and allspice.
But in recent years it’s become more popular to have it all year long, in fact red Stripe also has a flavoured sorrel beer.
Fun fact: in Mexico, sorrel drink is called jamaica (pronounced hah-my-kah).
I first discovered malta in Cuba, where it is a very popular drink that is so filling I think it should be described as a Cuban food, not a drink.
Malta is one of the most popular drinks in Jamaica, and it’s a bit different here as it’s a lightly carbonated malt drink. It looks like a dark stout and is best described as a unfermented beer. It is non-alcoholic and made from barley and hops – just like beer.
Malta is sweet like molasses but smells like beer. You can have it straight from the can or over ice.
It is definitely worth trying once. Although I think you need to grow up with it in order to like the flavour. I’d rather a beer that is alcoholic and not sweet.
Blue Mountain Coffee
Jamaican coffee is known throughout the world as one of the best. It is grown in the Blue Mountains and produces only a fraction of coffee compared to other Caribbean countries.
It’s because Blue Mountain coffee takes takes much longer to grow, about 10 months. And much of it is processed by hand. Jamaica produces between 4 and 5 million pounds a year.
This makes for high quality coffee, but it’s also more expensive. Yet it is in such high demand. Ninety-five percent of Jamaican coffee is exported, and of that 75% is exported to Japan.
Needless to say, drink as much as you can while you’re in Jamaica. Blue Mountain coffee also makes for an excellent souvenir to take home.
Sour Sop Juice
But I promise you, sour sop juice is DELICIOUS. It is full of antioxidants and other healthy elements.
And this is a good thing because often sour sop punch is made by combining it with milk, sugar and different spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
It takes like a combination of kiwi-pineapple-pear and people believe it fixes everything from digestion issues to cancer.
I’m sure people in the Caribbean think it’s hilarious that we spend so much money on coconut water as a healthy food when they are surrounded by fresh coconut.
Coconut water is the liquid inside a young coconut with a thick green exterior. Beach vendors will chop off the top with a machete and serve it with a straw.
You need a young coconut. As it begins to age it dries out providing the hairy coconut we know. Inside the water is replaced by coconut meat and coconut milk.
There’s nothing better than fresh coconut water in the hot sun. But go easy on it as it is a natural laxative
Tea isn’t one singular thing in Jamaica. Basically any hot drinks in Jamaica can be called tea, which is really confusing.
But one of the most interesting is called bush tea and it refers to natural teas which are made from tree bark or local plants.
They are caffeine-free can be had for natural medicinal purposes. They are usually made from plants in people’s backyards. But through generations people have learned what makes a good tea and why.
Common bush teas may be the leaves from a bitter melon, soursop leaves, dandelion and of course sorrel mentioned above.
Some souvenir shops also sell bush tea for those who want to try it.
Jamaican Drinks with Alcohol
Most of the cocktails in Jamaica you’ll try have local rum, whether it be spiced rum or overproof. It is often THE spirit used to make drinks.
And if you don’t consider yourself a rum lover, now is the time to experiment. There are so many different kinds and flavours. Many places in Jamaica also offer a “rum tasting” which is as fascinating as a wine tasting.
There is SO much to learn.
Rum plays an important role in the Caribbean. Christopher Colombus brought to Jamaica in 1492, and eventually plantations and slavery followed.
The British also ruled Barbados, so when they took over in 1655 they also started distilling rum in Jamaica. Slavery ended in Jamaica in 1834 but rum is still one of the most important Jamaican drinks.
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
I know you’re thinking why would I drink an Irish beer in Jamaica. But while touring Dublin food and drink I learned that the beer has different recipes around the world. When you visit the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin you can buy the different versions.
It was originally brewed and sent to Jamaica for Irish labourers but locals also loved it.
Today Guinness Foreign Extra is partially made in Ireland. It is mashed on site and the factory sends liquid malt syrup to brew in Jamaica to a Diageo owned brewery.
It has a slightly different flavour reflecting local tastes and lower alcohol level – 6.5% vs 7.5% in Ireland.
There is no shortage of rum in Jamaica. And while many people can’t wait to dig into the Appleton Estate, you can buy that at home!
Instead try the more popular Jamaican drinks with overproof Rum.
The most popular is J. Wray & Nephew which accounts for 90% of all rum sold in Jamaica. And at 63% alc/vol (126 proof) this is a unique experience to have in Jamaica.
You can try it with a bit of Ting grapefruit soda or in one of many Jamaican cocktails.
Red Stripe Beer
Every country has one beer that is light, refreshing and sold everywhere. in Jamaica it is Red Stripe.
It will never win any beer awards, except for the most sold. But it’s an easy drinking lager that is refreshing to drink on a hot day.
Red Stripe is brewed in Kingston but there’s not shortage of it throughout the island. Even if you’re on a resort head out to a supermarket to look at newer innovations.
You can find flavoured red stripe with ginger, sorrel, apple and lime – although not in the adorable stubby bottles.
Red Stripe may be the most famous but beer aficionados prefer Dragon Stout for its more complex flavour.
A foreign extra stout like the style of Guinness in Jamaica, it is a dark stout known for a smokey flavour and smooth texture.
You won’t taste hops but people love its smokey flavour that is sweet and often described as burnt caramel and liquorice with a dry, molasses after taste.
Also known as Jamaican rum punch, it is one the most popular cocktails around the world. You really can’t go anywhere in the Caribbean and not find a rum punch…except for Cuba.
For some reason rum punch isn’t one of the traditional Cuban cocktails.
Jamaican rum punch, is similar to others in the Caribbean. You can count on fresh local juice like pineapple, orange, guava or lime.
A good rum punch has a generous amount of rum, but not too much to knock you off your feet. And a touch of grenadine syrup to give it a lovely red wave through the fruit juice.
Drink with caution as Jamaicans are generous people, and that applies to the rum pour. I’ve learned this the hard way.
One of the lesser known drinks in Jamaica, you may have to look for this one as it’s a bit more obscure.
It goes back to mariner times when sailors died of scurvy from lack of vitamin C. This Jamaican cocktail is named after British Admiral Edward Vernon, who had the nickname Old Grog.
In the mid 1700s he would allow his sailors one pint of rum a day, but it had to be watered down (4:1 ratio) with water, sugar and lime. Obviously the sailors did not like this. Remember the old song “what can we do with a drunken sailor” well that was actually a real issue.
So he’s split the pint into two servings so they didn’t drink it all at once. And he saved them from scurvy.
It was the predecessor to the rum punch and today is a drink made with dark rum, seasonal juice and water.
Jamaican Rum Cream
One of the most decadent drinks in Jamaica, you can drink rum cream over ice and it’s fantastic in coffee.
Similar to Kahlua in Mexico (yes it’s a Mexican drink), it’s a nice, sweet creamy addition to cocktails.
There are two major producers of rum crème in Jamaica: Sangster’s and O’Riley’s. Despite some locals saying one was better than the other I think they are both fine. You can buy the original creme or flavoured rum cream with mint, coffee etc.
A coffee liqueur with a fascinating legend behind it, Tia Maria isn’t produced in Jamaica. It’s now made in Italy using Jamaican ingredients: coffee beans, rum, sugar and vanilla from Madagascar.
But the story is what makes it interesting. They say back in the 18th century a Spanish heiress was forced to flee her plantation. She fled with her the most valuable possessions: some jewelry, a female servant and the family recipe for liqueur.
To thank the woman who helped her escape, she named the drink after her – Tia Maria. In Spanish Tia means aunt, it is common to call someone older tia, even if they aren’t technically your aunt but more of a guardian.
Tia Maria is great over ice, in coffee, with milk and oddly enough, with cola. But perhaps it is best in the Jamaican cocktail called the Dirty Banana.
Jamaican Guinness Punch
One of the interesting things I learned about Jamaican drinks was that some are called “strong back” and considered energy drinks as well as aphrodisiacs.
Guinness punch is one of them.
And I can see why, it’s a simple Jamaican punch with Guinness, oats, condensed milk and nutmeg. It is filling, sweet and probably has enough calories to do anything that requires a bit of effort!
Vodka and Ting
One of the easiest cocktails in Jamaica, it is simply a. mix of vodka and Ting. It is so common to drink the grapefruit soda that it’s a natural mixer for vodka.
Ting ‘n Sting
Also one of the easiest Jamaican drinks. This time mix two parts Ting with one part rum. If you Angostura bitters, a few drops on top is a great idea.
Kitschy Jamaican Cocktails
Fun resort drinks in Jamaica, you probably wouldn’t drink them anywhere else but they make for a fun holiday.
Bob Marley Cocktail
Invented by Sandals resorts in Jamaica, this drink is a tribute to Bob Marley using traditional Rastafarian colours of red, yellow and green. One of many frozen Jamaican cocktails, this one uses layers of mango and strawberry daiquiri.
It’s so popular you can find it at nearly all of the Jamaican resorts and bars.
Bob Marley Shot
If frozen Jamaican drinks aren’t your thing you can also try it as a shot.
The Bob Marley shot uses equal parts of strawberry syrup, crème de banana and crème de menthe topped with overproof rum.
Flaming Bob Marley
As you may guess, you can also ask your bartender to light the shot on fire.
The Dirty Banana
If you like Puerto Rican piña coladas you’ll love the Jamaican drink the dirty banana. Like a delicious milkshake, it’s a mix of banana, milk, rum and Tia Maria coffee liqueur.
And don’t forget about all the others like Jamaica’n Me Crazy, Jamaican Bobsled, Cool Runnings, Cocomania, Jamaica Smile, Steel Bottom and many others.
I didn’t include them individually as each resort seems to make them differently.
What other drinks in Jamaica do you think should be on the list? Leave a suggestion in the comments below!
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