Though Bahamian cuisine is certainly well-worth the price of your ticket to Nassau (and more), there’s no disputing that the Bahamas is most famous for its drinks. And not just any drinks—its rum cocktails, to be exact. Thanks to the island’s plethora of fresh fruit (not to mention its long and colorful history of running rum), these beverages have become part of the island nation’s global identity—one sip of a rum punch, and you already feel halfway on a tropical vacation. (Nevermind that you’re on an afternoon layover in the Detroit airport, or mixing the ingredients at your kitchen sink—you’re transported.) It’s a Bahamas state (and taste) of mind.
We all know about the Rum Punch, the Bahama Mama, and (if you’re brave), the Bahama Papa. Maybe even the Bushwhacker, and the Painkiller, too. But what about Sky Juice? Or the more diabolical-sounding (yet equally tasty) Nipper Juice? Most importantly—where best to order all these delightful concoctions? From downtown Nassau to the remote outer islands, we’ve rounded up the best bars in the Bahamas. Read on for the cocktail companion to your next Bahamian vacation—which, after reading this, better be soon.
Frankie Gone Bananas
We’re headed to the Bahamian capital, and to the capital of Bahamian nightlife: that’s right, the Friday night Fish Fry. And nowhere is the Arawak Caye Fish Fry more happening, or more popular—not just with sunburnt tourists but with discerning locals for whom frying fish has been a Friday routine since childhood—than Frankie Gone Bananas. Don’t be alarmed to find yourself facing a wait—it’s worth it. But you don’t need to visit on a Friday to capitalize on the Bahamian ambiance, just grab a table outside any regular weeknight of your vacation, order a Kalik (a favorite Bahamian beer) and enjoy the ambiance of downtown Nassau. This watering hole has become such an institution on the island, that there is even an outpost now at Marina Village, an open-air marketplace in Atlantis, Paradise Island, now serving Frankie’s famous Coconut ‘n Kalik Soup. We’re all for Frankie’s expansion (and world domination, honestly), but when it comes to having the authentic experience, in the words of Marvin Gaye, "There ain’t nothing like the real thing."
Sip Sip Harbour Island
Sip Sip, also now has another outpost in Atlantis, Paradise Island, though when it comes to paradise (and Bahamian bars), nothing is more heavenly than the scene at the original bar’s location, in Harbour Island. Order a Sky Juice—also known locally as a Gully Wash—a fluorescent blue concoction that looks like off-brand supermarket soda (blame the coloring), but tastes like sweet deliciousness. Which is good, because the actual ingredients, when contemplated, don’t seem appealing—sweet condensed milk and gin, combined with some fresh coconut water. With a new outpost at The Cove Atlantis, Sip Sip has established itself in the nation’s capital, a move that will undoubtedly be discussed among the institution’s patrons. ‘Sip sip’ is local slang for gossip, and—despite being upscale—Sip Sip Harbour Island has a decidedly welcoming feel, with lime green walls and colorful art upon the walls. It doesn’t matter if you’re seated next to a billionaire; in the end, you’re both on island time, after all.
Speaking of Bahamian slang, you will get a true lesson in the shorthand of the culture while sipping wine at the picnic tables outside Bahama Barrels, the first-ever winery founded in the Bahamas. The colorful, Instagram-friendly architecture paired with the unusual (and yet appreciated) taste of Bahamian wine is incentive enough for a visit. But when you consider the old-school board games available on the tables outside, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever leave. Order a glass of wine and “Some Other Kool Tings” (which is the menu section’s actual name) from the outdoor restaurant. The delightfully cheery ambiance will ensure no one will tell you to “Fix ya face”—Bahamian slang for ‘cheer up.’ Afterward, explore the Bahamian museum and the exquisite Graycliff Hotel.
John Watling's Distillery
Much has been made about the flourishing Caribbean culinary scene in the Caribbean, and how it captured the world’s attention—but what about celebrating a destination that’s always been legendary for specific expertise? In the case of the Bahamas, that expertise would be rum. And nowhere do you get a better sense of Bahamian history on the island of New Providence than at a visit John Watling's Distillery. For, you can appreciate witnessing all of the bottlings still being done by hand—seeing all the effort makes the Rum Dum you drink at the bar after your tour all the more satisfying. Plus, a cocktail sipped at a historic estate always tastes sweeter.
Pirate Republic Brewing
Speaking of Bahamian history, a visit to the Pirate Republic Brewing allows the opportunity for you to book a tour with a costume-period outfitted pirate—and we highly recommend it. Learn about the history of brewing in the Bahamas, and play Jenga with the oversized blocks. Pirate Republic Bahamas has a dive-bar feel despite being in one of the more touristy cities in the Caribbean—no easy feat. You feel that this could have been your favorite bar in college—had you attended school in the tropics, of course. Perfect for wasting away the afternoon indoors—after all, if the sun is bad for us already, we may as well stay in and pour another.
Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Restaurant & Bar
Don’t let appearances deceive you—especially not when you’re in Green Turtle Cay, in the Abaco Islands. The island, which is only three miles long and half a mile wide, is home to the world-famous Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Restaurant & Bar. And, if you haven’t heard of Miss Emily, you’ve likely heard of her signature drink, the Goombay Smash. (Miss Emily would shake her punch in a plastic bottle to produce its signature fizz.) This famous Bahamian cocktail was invented at this unassuming institution in New Plymouth, with its painted-blue exterior and tee-shirts hanging from the walls inside. Miss Emily’s daughter, Violet, is the latest to own the bar, which has been a fixture in the Abaco Islands for over six decades. But don’t think these (literal) taste-makers rested on their laurels and only invented a single cocktail—Miss Emily’s is also responsible for another innovative recipe known as the Goombay Lobster. You must order the cocktail with the entrée to appreciate the full experience.
Nippers Beach Bar & Grill
From one outer island to another: For our next choice we’re taking a quick jaunt by water over from Green Turtle Cay to Great Guana Cay, home to Nippers Beach Bar & Grill. Both of our final selections are located in the Abacos Islands, but that’s not all they have in common—Nippers is also the proud inventor of their very own drink, the self-proclaimed “world-famous Nipper Juice.” Look out, Sip Sip: Who needs a chic cocktail hour on Harbour Island when you can have a Sunday pig roast at Nippers? After all, both bars have a wraparound porch and a generous pour (and re-pour, and pour again). What else do you need, really? Sip, sip.