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.