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Close your eyes and envision the Caribbean resort you've been dreaming about visiting. Are you lounging by the pool with a frozen drink in hand, the sounds of gently crashing waves filling your head with the simple soundtrack of relaxation? For many travelers, it's the iconic image of the Caribbean getaway.
Yet, more resorts are catching onto the fact that some of us are also looking for a little bit more in the drinks department. A frozen drink to combat that scorching midday sun will never go out of style; however, high-end properties are upping the ante by providing the type of intelligent and eclectic wine lists and fine-tuned cocktail programs more reminiscent of the trendiest big city three-star restaurant than the island resorts of the past.
And while travel to some Caribbean destinations are on hold for the time being due to the coronavirus pandemic, these locales are are worth keeping on your radar for future trips.
Jade Mountain, St. Lucia
Long viewed as one of the Caribbean's preeminent culinary destinations, Jade Mountain—an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property—continues setting the standard for its food and beverage offerings. That includes partnering with A-list chefs such as Nina Compton and Michelle Bernstein for special dinners, hosting weekend long wine events, and overall keeping the cellar stocked with everything from vintage Champagne to iconic labels such as Château Lafite Rothschild. They're also always ready to take the extra step, going as far as flying in a specially requested wine at the last moment for a VIP guest (true story).
"To avoid disappointment we invite guests to dialogue with the sommelier prior to arrival," says Karolin Troubetzkoy, the executive director and co-owner of the property along with husband Nick, the architect. "We've found that serious wine loving guests are more interested in speaking to the sommelier prior to arrival than the guest services department—rather than setting up excursions, the guest wishes to set up their fine wining experience."
Atlantis, The Bahamas
Think a mega-resort can't elevate its food and beverage program? Think again. "I know the first thing that may come to mind when you think of large properties is a roster of fratty beers and daiquiris with excess sugar and concentrate," says Michael MacDonnell, the VP of food and beverage for Atlantis. However, he set out to re-imagine what was possible, focusing on authentic and fresh ingredients and an overall elevated experience at the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property.
Having over 40 venues in which guests can sit down and grab a drink provides a challenge, though each locale's menu is reflective of its unique setting. That might mean craft cocktails, no ABV libations, extensive wine lists as well as wine pairing dinner menus, as well as elaborate spirit selections for neat sipping. The 15-page drinks menu from Cafe Martinique, for instance, showcases everything from a jeroboam (3-liter bottle) of Louis Roederer Cristal 1999, to rare Bordeaux First Growth bottles from prestige houses, and a vertical of vintages from Pendols Grange spanning as far back as 1971. More accessible in such cases may be glasses of Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac or Macallan Rare M Scotch.
Further, the property partnered with John Watling's Distillery to create a house-label exclusive Atlantis Paradise Rum. They've also hosted a series of top tier boozy events headlined by the likes of renowned mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim for a cocktail blowout, and Jim Beam master distiller Fred Noe for its Bourbon Bash.
Belmond La Samanna, St. Martin
The beverage program at St. Martin's recently redesigned Belmond La Samanna—another American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property—is anchored by the historic La Cave Wine Cellar, which the hotel calls the largest private wine cellar in the Caribbean. First built in 1972, and positioned two stories below sea level, the cellar is home to 12,000 bottles, highlighted by the private label Hospices de Beaune La Samanna, a wide-ranging Champagne list, and over 150 different bottles of Bordeaux; the hotel is located on the island's French side, after all.
To improve the cocktail offerings, the hotel has brought in top talent to oversee the action behind the bar. "I'm working to change guest expectations from the poor quality of drinks from the 90s, and instead deliver high quality modern cocktails," says bartender Will Krepop, previously of bars such as Melbourne's highly-touted Jungle Boy. Whether sourcing mezcal, revamping tired recipes with improved ingredients, or riffing on classics, he's ensuring guests are well served even if a frozen drink is still what they're craving.
Le Sereno, Saint-Barthélemy
When the newly rebuilt Le Sereno St. Barth's aimed to build on the Michelin-starred dining success of sister property Il Sereno Lago di Como, there was only one option: bring in the team which led that charge. That includes executive chef Raffaele Lenzi, chef Andrea Cimino, and food and beverage director Stafano Gaiofatto. Collectively the talented trio opened the new Ristorante al Mare, an oceanfront ode to the best of Italian cuisine, alongside a 20-plus page list spanning the globe but focusing on France and Italy.
Of course, what would Italian hospitality be without a devotion to the aperitivo? So it is that Le Sereno showcases a lineup of specialty evening aperitivo cocktails, proving you can always satiate your need for spritzes in St. Barth's, too.