Cocktail Culture Revolution

Aruba might be famous for its “Aruba Ariba” cocktail, using ingredients indigenous to the island, but rest assured, the barkeeps here are also crushing the curve on new libation trends and mixology magic.


People well-mastered behind the pine in the Caribbean are always seeking the latest in cocktail and drink chemistry options and incarnations. It’s a highly competitive industry out to promote whatever is new under the sun beyond mainstay tropical drinks like Pina Coladas. (Though that creamy classic will never go out of style for those seeking the ultimate refreshment to enjoy on a tropical beach.) But today’s cocktail consumers have never been more knowledgeable about drink creation, and creative presentation has never been in more demand. Fortunately, Aruba’s barkeeps have been proving up to the task the past few years, and you’re bound to be blown away by many of their original recipes and surprisingly stellar mixology skills.


Raising the bar on presentation…

Flaming drinks and sparkler-topped shots have been around for a while, but today’s biggest trend is now smoking cocktails. Bartenders are equipped with more tools of the trade than ever before like glass bell smokers, little torches, hickory wood chips, dry ice, surgical-style tweezers, and pharmaceutical-type muddlers to craft -up increasingly complex sensations. And smoking a cocktail can really add depth to a drink. (It also looks cool!) Traveling cocktail carts are also trending in top dining spots. The bartender brings the whole process tableside or offers to make a craft cocktail right where you sit with your ingredients of choice or choice of flavor profiles.

Sometimes it’s not as much as what goes into a drink as what it comes in that has it stand out from the rest. Playful presentations of drinks abound in many of Aruba’s establishments. Don’t be surprised to encounter cocktails like an Aperol Spritz that arrives in a compostable plastic baggie with a bamboo straw and a rubber ducky floating within it. That’s fun. Or how about props like a glass skull container with a smoking head or a little plastic bathtub as your cocktail vessel? All are to be found here.


Original recipes & organic ingredients

The focus on using few pre-mixes and sourcing locally for garnishes and flavorings has also become important in the industry. You’ll find many spots growing their own herbs and produce to use in their drinks, and bartenders striving to come up with their own homemade syrups using ingredients native to the island. Cocktails made with aloe and cactus and local flavors like tamarind, soursop, and passionfruit are popular here, as is using the island’s famous hot sauce and hot peppers to spice up a drink.

Eco-awareness is also a consideration in creation and presentation. Plastic swizzles have been replaced with items like rosemary sprigs and pineapple spears for stirring, and paper straws are the only kind allowed on this island now, too. You’ll also find more food in your glass these days like Bloody Marys that are more like a meal, garnished with everything from bacon strips to local shrimp, and build-your-own Bloody Caesar bars are often overflowing with an incredible choice of fare. And tiki drinks overladen with fruit are also making a comeback.


Sharing and pairing is big

Typically, pairing wine by the glass with gourmet bites has been the practice in most restaurants and chef’s tables, but now cocktail pairing is becoming all the rage. And artisan beers by the glass are also on tap for tapas pairing. And sharing is trending big time at many top spots. You’ll find oversized cocktails designed to share with anywhere from two-to-six people, as well as big buckets of “Beer-a-ritas”- bottles of cold beer, served upside-down in a frozen Margarita- topping many beach bar table tops.


Everything old is new again… with a twist!

Reimagining classic cocktails like martinis, mojitos, daiquiris, sours, and the like, have Aruba’s bartenders on full throttle for tapping their creativity for inspiration, too. Expect exotic additions or twists like truffle oil, lavender bitters, or edible glitter to be popping up in your drink here now. And inspiration is also gleaned from bartending competitions held on this island, the professionals love to learn from each other, and then take it to the next level. And the biggest winners of these competitions are always the patrons who get to sample the best. Cheers!


Article written by Susan Campbell