Guavaberry: The Legendary Island Folk Liqueur

Recently, my husband and I read a missive written on the topic of Caribbean drinks, and Guavaberry was noted to be the drink for women. We chuckled, because it brought back fond memories of our vacation to St. Martin Island in the 1990’s when I discovered the Guavaberry drink!

We arrived to the island late in the afternoon, having just enough time to quickly settle into our room of the gorgeous beachfront hotel, join the other guests to gorge ourselves on the delicious, buffet-style dinner, stroll around the pool, admire the beach and hit the hay.

But, the next morning bright and early, I sauntered down to the bar, which was always open (our stay was all-inclusive, which proved to be a big bonus!), and asked the bartender what drink he would recommend. Naturally, he said the Guavaberry drink. He told me that the berries had just ripened (we were there in early January), and that this was the best time to enjoy the drink.

There is a great deal of pride in the drink and its tradition, as I learned from him that morning. He said the fruit is found high in the hills in the center of the island. The trees are irregular in size and shape, being very rare, and they blossom with small white and pink flowers. The flowers and berries attach directly to the branches, and bear a small fruit with grape-like skin. The fruit is pale green when unripe, but ripe, the guavaberry can be orange to dark red or even black.

Guavaberry is the legendary Island Folk Liqueur of Old Sint Maarten. I later learned that it is of Caribbean Amer-Indian origin, and that it was first made centuries ago in private homes. Even as recent as the 1950’s, groups of people would go from door to door singing “Good Morning, I come for me Guavaberry…”, a special Christmastime tradition!

Made from oak aged rum, cane sugar and wild Sint Maarten Guavaberry, the liqueur is woody, fruity, spicy, and bitter-sweet! Although the tree can be found in other areas of the Caribbean, St. Martin Island has more trees than anywhere else.

Getting back to that morning….I quickly ordered a drink, enjoying the variety of flavors which made my tastebuds explode! I did not even notice the alcohol content, and was on my second drink when my husband joined me. “What are you doing?”, he was curious, because I generally don’t drink much. I told him about the drink suggested by the bartender, and had him try it. He smelled it first, then took a sip, whistling as he put it down on the bar. “Wow, that’s strong”. I responded, “Really? I don’t hear any alcohol in there!”.

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