I was practically a cocktail virgin on my first visit to Mauritius as a tourist. I made it my mission to find the best piña colada on the island because everybody knows that’s what everybody drinks on that kind of vacation. By my definition that meant creamy, not icy, and I found it at what is now called Mavericks
Beach Bar and Grill in Pereybere in the north. A popular nightspot, it’s fairly quiet over the lunch hour, memorable not only for its quaint décor and view over a tiny beach but a charismatic waiter who supported the bar almost as well as the patrons did. He used to add his drinks to the orders of unsuspecting clients!
It was only when I stayed on the east coast and met One&Only Le Saint Géran bar manager and rum expert Oliver Ramtohul that I began to appreciate the nuances of Mauritian rum. Ask a local what their preference is — white or dark, industrial or agricultural — and they’ll probably just shake their heads as many of them don’t drink it. Industrial or traditional rum is made from molasses while agricultural rum is made from the distillation of fresh, fermented cane juice. Try Oliver’s best-selling, cleverly crafted, semi-sweet dodo cocktail at the iconic resort when it reopens in December after an extensive refurbishment this year.
There are differing opinions around the reality of a ban on production during British rule in the 1800s (they wanted the sugar cane for sugar), and Diffords Guide writes that there was never really a market for it until the early 2000s. Ian Burrell helped event organisers Enterprise Mauritius launch a rum festival on the island in 2013 to raise the profile of the products, some of which date back to 1926, and interest has been growing ever since. Distilleries include Rhumerie de Chamarel, Rhumerie de Mascareignes and St Aubin for agricultural rum and Grays, Indian Ocean Rum Company and Oxenham for traditional rum. Ones to watch are the younger producers making artisanal infusions flavoured with any number of refreshing combinations.
You’ll find plenty of infused rum at LUX* Belle Mare’s MARI KONTAN rum shack — my favourite were the vanilla and passion fruit, made by Anielle Louise but the resort is also developing its gin selection to support its resurgence similar to what vodka experienced about a decade ago.
With 74 gins currently in stock (and 88 the target), Vicky Bundhoo, who represented Mauritius as one of the six best bartenders in the Indian Ocean during the World Class Best Bartender of the Year 2016 competition, has taken the offering up a notch with his IM-A-GIN concept.
"While gin and tonic normally has a twist of lemon, the LUX* twists add totally new dimensions. Together with our own flavoured tonics and syrups, we have Twists of the Week, featuring three quirky variations on the theme, prepared on a trolley right in front of you. It's just as well you don't have to drive home afterwards," he says.
By One&Only Le Saint Géran rum expert Oliver Ramtohul
50 ml white rum
18,5ml black currant liqueur
150 ml fresh pineapple juice
12,5 ml grenadine syrup
Pour all the ingredients in a shaker.
Fill the shaker with ice cubes.
Shake for 10 seconds.
Pour the cocktail in a brandy balloon glass and serve.