It's worth prying yourself off the beach to do a little bit of rummy tourism. Here are a few top picks:
- Mt. Gay is the oldest rum distiller in the world, and distributes its products worldwide. When you visit, you'll check out a museum, a film presentation, and you'll get a look at the bottling assembly line. This is all leading up to the main event, which is the bar.
I suggest visiting the bar first, since the entire experience feels like sitting through a Mt. Gay commercial, and the Visitor's Center is very often jam-packed with tourists, especially those from cruise ships.
- St. Nicholas Abbey is a much more relaxing experience. This mansion and plantation dates back to 1650; the house tour includes a rather entertaining vintage film presentation, which was produced in 1935. Nicholas Abbey still harvests 225 acres of sugar cane.
Be sure to sample the 10 year old artisan rum that they produce and sell on the premises. You might even relax on the patio a bit.
- You'll definitely want to hit one of Barbados' rum shops -- there are more than a thousand all around the island. Rum shops are the Bajan equivalent of a pub, but it's rum, rather than beer, that typically fills the glasses. Some rum shops are also nightlife hot spots, particularly on the South Coast. And others are more about a quick drink and casual meal, where you'll be able to sample the island’s comfort food staples including “mac pie” which is a baked macaroni and cheese, and a variety of “cutters”, or sandwiches. Keep a sharp eye out for "flying fish and coo coo", fried fish with cornmeal and ochre -- considered the national dish of Barbados. (Essential reading: The Barbadian Rum Shop, The Other Watering Hole, by Peter Laurie.)
- Wherever you go on Barbados, you'll no doubt be knocking back a rum punch or two. Two great places that pour excellent (and strong) rum punch: The bar at the The Craneresort, and Scarlet in St. James, where the punch is made straight: rum, sugar and bitters and nothing else at all.