The Caribbean is the world's rum capital, so travelers to many of its islands are destined for days filled with rum punches, daiquiris, and piña coladas. Because it doesn't take much effort to stumble your way into a rum cocktail there, we've set out to find the best sangrias to write home about from the Virgin Islands. We begin with a word to the wise: don't walk into a bar expecting to find sangria. Wine isn't a hot commodity down here, and no matter where you get it, it's probably going to have a splash of rum thrown in for good measure, making for a distinctly island take on this classically refreshing Spanish favorite.
We loved the simple style of this delicious sangria mixed at the family owned and operated Sugarcane Grille in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. We discussed this great dining spot in Dining and (sometimes) wining in downtown Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, but the sangria bears special mention. Overall it's a pretty run of the mill recipe featuring the distinct notes of orange juice, but there was a special quality we found in bantering with the owner's daughter about her "secret recipe" as we took in the peaceful view of a courtyard with a small pool in one direction, and a charming cityscape where dusk hangs beautifully in the sky as street lambs climb the hill.
As Sugarcane is charming and local on a city street, so too is Havana Blue just the right mix of trendy and upscale parked on the beach and offering world class food alongside the best wine list we found on St. Thomas. Don't let its location on property at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef fool you into thinking this place too corporate; it's locally owned and operated simply leasing space from the international chain. That said, it benefits from some perks of this arrangement, including the ability for hotel guests to charge to their room and catch a shuttle back up the hill to the lobby. The sangria was to die for here, striking just the right balance of what we'd expect in a red wine based cocktail and the great tropical character of the guava juice that jumps straight out of the glass. It's the priciest bet in our lineup, so we recommend saving Havana Blue for that special splurge of a romantic night, or just stopping in for drinks.
Our only selection (thus far) off of St. Thomas, we traveled to the city of Road Town on the island of Tortola, itself the largest island in the British Virgin Islands, to find this delicious sparkling bellini sangria. Bamboushay Lounge is named for a traditional Caribbean dance, and is as easy to get to as it is to miss when stepping out of international customs at the Road Town ferry terminal. Immediately cross the main street, turn right, and walk just a little ways down until you come across a wooden arch leading to a beach hut of a place that turns out to be a tropical enclave just off the busy main drag. Their sangria is based on a sparkling wine, giving it great effervescence that lights up the glass in the heat of the sun and makes you feel miles away from anything resembling the stress of travels. The island rustic motif and friendly staff redeemed everything we found wanting in the rest of the downtown area. There's free WiFi there as a bonus, a most welcome treat for those avoiding international data roaming at all cost.
Bolongo Bay Beach Resort
We need a beach sangria, and the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort delivers! This is a small(ish) resort a trifle bit further from downtown Charlotte Amalie than the Marriott, but comes up big on friendly service and laid back vibe. There are two food and drink establishments here, one on each side of the beach. Don't go to Iggy's Beach Bar looking for sangria, because they'll come up empty. The "pool bar", formally known as the "Lobster Grill" is the spot conveniently next to (you guessed it) the pool. You might have to repeat the word "sangria" a few times, but we tried it for good measure with different bar tenders on different days to make sure it isn't fly-by-night. While not the best sangria on the island, it does the trick most perfectly just before you walk a few steps down to the tree-shaded beach. The plastic cups are small, so grab them by two!