As most travelers to the Caribbean know, the issue of where and what to drink is just as pressing as choosing a place to stay. Fortunately for those visiting the British Virgin Islands, we’re making that decision a bit easier with our picks for the best bars on the archipelago.
Soggy Dollar Bar
Since most patrons at this Jost Van Dyke bar swim there from boats anchored in White Bay, their money tends to get a little, well, soggy — hence the name. The Soggy Dollar Bar is the sometimes-disputed birthplace of the Painkiller, the BVI’s signature cocktail made of dark rum, cream of coconut, and pineapple and orange juices, topped with nutmeg. Know someone heading to this watering hole? Order a Painkiller for them online and it will be waiting for them on the bar’s drink board — no damp bills required.
Named after the man who designed the U.S. Capitol Building, the Willy T. (short for William Thornton) is a floating bar and restaurant parked in the middle of the bight at Norman Island. Accessible by water taxi, the converted 100-foot vessel touts a menu of traditional island drinks like Dark and Stormies, rum punches, and Bushwackers. Just don’t be surprised if you spot fellow guests doing cannonballs off the top deck.
Best known for its monthly full moon parties (the next one is December 13) and its legendary owner, Bomba’s Shack has become a must-visit spot for tourists and locals alike looking to party until dawn. In addition to its popular rum punch, Bomba serves a special mushroom tea during the parties, setting the bar apart from other celebrations on Tortola. Thanks to live music, laid-back vibes, and a non-stop flow of drinks, this joint — decorated with raunchy polaroids and discarded bras — proves to be a good time no matter when you visit.
Cooper Island Rum Bar
Opened in January 2014, the Cooper Island Rum Bar is home to 100-plus rums, making it the BVI’s largest collection. Up for grabs are rare aged editions, house infusions, and cocktails made with rum from places throughout the Caribbean. Want to get a little history alongside your drink? Order a sampler board, and the bartenders will give you a lesson on the origins of each offering.
Anegada Reef Hotel
Located on the shores of Anegada, the BVI’s northernmost island, the Anegada Reef Hotel is credited with making the region’s first rum smoothie — at least according to owner Vivian Wheatley, who’s known as “mom” by regulars. When the hotel opened in 1976, Wheatley wanted to serve a local version of a piña colada but couldn’t use a blender because the island did not yet have electricity. To mimic the frothy cocktail, she invented the rum smoothie: a hybrid of rum punch and a Painkiller. The rest is history. For a second round, order the Milk of Amnesia with vodka, Kahlua, amaretto, and milk.