Thanks to all the readers who commented on my first-in-a-longtime blog entry! It's so nice to be loved, especially by Mondo (flattery will get you everywhere, Big Guy). Those of you hoping or mourning Bozo's elimination can rest assured, he'll still be here more than me. I just agreed to help.
Of course, despite best intentions my second blog is LATE! Fortunately, missing a deadline is much less of an issue if the webmaster has to go to bed with you that night. He knows better than to complain too much.
Since this entry is overdue, I’m going to take it easy on myself and talk about…booze! Yes, I wish I were swilling right now (ok, maybe I am). Either way, trust in my expertise on this topic. I’ve got YEARS of experience.
So if you’re provisioning for the Bahamas, how do you strategize your alcohol needs?
[SIDENOTE: Obviously, this entry is aimed at people with *some* restrictions on storage capacity or weight. If you’re single-handing a 50-foot catamaran and can carry whatever you damn well please, I hate you. Or come on by! We need real beer!!]
Following are my observations about beer, wine, and liquor prices in these beautiful islands:
A BOTTLE OF TANQUERAY NO. 10 IS CHEAPER HERE! I don't know what gods aligned to make this so, but please sacrifice to them on my behalf. It’s still very tough to find—in fact, it only arrived in Georgetown this year, but it’s $31 before the discount. Wooooohoooo!
The price increase isn’t awful. Tom's (crappy) blended whisky is more expensive than in the U.S. Total Wine is selling the 750 ml of (did I mention crappy?) Seagram’s 7 for $12 but we get 1L here for about $19. That 1L bottle is about $17 if included in 3-bottle discount or $15 if included in a 12-bottle-of-anything purchase. About the same price differential holds for most alcohol.
Bulk isn’t really a thing, outside the 3- and 12-bottle discounts in GT. The Bahamas seems to sell the 750 ml or 1L glass, rarely the 1.5L plastic (which for Tom's Seagram's 7 is $20 or less in the U.S.) so you don't have quite the same chance to get a better price in bulk.
Availability isn’t bad. Although the choices will be somewhat limited, we see flavored vodkas, including "whip” (WTF?), vanilla, various fruit flavors, etc. In most spirits categories, you'll have 5+ choices in any decent sized liquor store. I know gin best, so that means you can get Gordon's (rotgut), Gilbey's (decent), Beefeater, Tanqueray (regular), Bombay (regular), and Bombay Sapphire with decent regularity, with prices starting at $10 or less for the crap and running to less than $30 for Bombay Sapphire.
Beer is BAD. Beer is outrageous at $42 or more per case, and you're not going to get microbrews. Kalik (OK), Sands (awful), Heineken, Guinness, and the occasional Budweiser product are all you’ll ever see. In more than a decade, we have yet to see an IPA sold here. It’s OK to cry.
Wine is doable—unless you’re a snob. If you have a favorite wine in the U.S., in all likelihood, you either won't be able to get it or will not be able to afford it (those million dollar catamaran owners aside). California vintages are particularly expensive, and I rarely see product from even the cheapest cellars for less than $20 or $25. Santa Margarita, which used to be my favorite white until its quality sank, is running $27+. If you're a connoisseur, forget it. But if you've got my underdeveloped palette, there are a few choices that may not be familiar, but aren't bad. Bristol Liquors will sell Vina Maipo, cabernet sauvignon or sauvignon blanc, for less than $6 and gives a case discount. The Lazo brand is non-offensive at $7.50/bottle, with the usual 3 and 12 bottle discounts. And then there's the ubiquitous (in US and BAH) Barefoot at about $10.
What’s the takeaway? Provision strategically. The first year, I humped a bunch of gin to the boat only to find it at the same price or cheaper when we arrived in the Abacos. I don't do that any more. Here’s how we think about alcohol provisioning:
- Carry as much decent beer as you can manage. On Dream Catcher, that's not much, as we're weight sensitive. But we know people who bring 20+ cases for a season. Go for it! (And if you do, please stop by. Thomas will cook for beer!)
- Add anything you fear is too specialist to be readily available. This might be certain vintages of wine, a high-end tequila you love, etc. If you're inflexible about it, bring it. My dad’s Maker’s Mark is tough to find. I wouldn’t risk it.
- Backfill with wine, especially if you drink box wine. Box wine removed from the box (bladder only) is great to pack around other bottles in bilges, etc.
- Grab a case or so of your favorite easy-to-find spirits if you can fit them in, but don't stress too much.
- Also, consider a soda maker. We go with a straight club soda version, as we don't feel like messing with syrups, but either can be a nice addition.
A key consideration in all of this is how long you'll be away from "civilization." There aren't liquor stores in the Exuma Cays (i.e., anywhere but GT). You can get alcohol, but in most places the selection will be extremely limited and overpriced. Staniel Cay Yacht Club, for example, stocks a few things, as does “Pink House” there. Desperate, we paid $35 for basic Bacardi rum years ago.
We also made the generous but wrong choice to have a party and pour ALL of our remaining liquor for friends at Spanish Wells—only to find out the next day it’s a dry island. Now there is a ferry to the mainland Eleuthra that makes this particular situation less of an issue, but we are more careful.
A similar situation cropped up when we got pinned down by Hurricane Noel for five days and were left drinking dry vermouth on ice by the last day. It’s just as disgusting as it sounds, but you survive a hurricane and see what you’re willing to do!
Based on these experiences, our rule of thumb is to never leave “civilization” (USA, Georgetown, Salt Pond, etc.) without AT LEAST two month’s worth of alcohol provisions.
And an ending note, if you want to drink REALLY cheap, learn to love rum. The following is our “Cheater Mojito” recipe (grow mint if you can), as well as a straight-up lime daiquiri:
CHEATER 3-2-1 MOJITO
Why cheater? We infuse mint into the simple syrup so these precious leaves stretch further!
- 1 PART LIME JUICE: Fresh squeezed is best, but you can get plastic bottles for $3 and they’ll do.
- 2 PARTS RUM: White is the traditional, but anything but dark/spiced is fine.
- 3 PARTS MINT SIMPLE SYRUP.
- Pour over ice
- Fill with club soda
Mint Simple Syrup: boil 1.5/1 sugar to water until sugar dissolves. Toss in mint leaves and let stand. Strain before use.
These amounts are guidelines. Adjust these amounts until the drink tastes smooth.
This link is close enough to what we do.
Happy drinking everybody!