Just as I’d always dreamed, the truly uncommon dive/snorkel experience at Champagne Reef is its own reward. This special place had been on my must-visit list for so long that I half-suspected the bubbly to have gone flat by the time I finally arrived here on a brilliant Saturday morning this past February.
As advertised, though, I was met with millions of tiny bubbles almost immediately upon entering the reef. Thin streams encircle you in spots, envelop you in others; either way adding a unique (and often ticklish) dimension to the usual ho-hum undersea reef and marine wildlife exploration.
It’s impossible not to smile beneath these waves – it’s just that enchanting, unique and exciting.
If I was happy tooling around Champagne Reef, though, I was absolutely ecstatic when I came across the tipple used to toast successful undersea excursions here. It’s called the Champagne Reef Happy Juice Rum Punch, and really, there’s nothing quite like it.
Oh, you can find other similarly named “Happy Juice” cocktails in various spots across Dominica, but none are quite like the one you can enjoy at Champagne Reef. So says Lucy Johnson, whose husband, Clem, owns the place and makes the Happy Juice following his very own, somewhat secret recipe.
I say “somewhat secret” as Lucy was happy to tell me most of what’s in this stuff –
…brown cane sugar, island spices (cinnamon and nutmeg), bush rum from Petit Savanne…
The way her voice trailed off I could tell she was leaving things out, staying true to her husband’s secrets like a good wife.
One other very special ingredient that she did mention, though, was sour, or Seville oranges. It is the sour side of the Champagne Reef Happy Juice that makes it stand out to me.
Whereas most rum punches suffer from being super-sweet, Clem’s version skews more sour. It’s also robust in a complex, yet very refreshing way, which I’m guessing is a product of its careful aging.
Yes, that’s right, Clem or Lucy don’t just mix up a glass of this stuff while you’re waiting…
We put it to cure for a year and make it in vats. The one you’ll get is always from the oldest batch.
The care and love that goes into mixing up Clem’s Happy Juice is evident in every extremely potent sip, each of them forcing my already broad smile ever wider, their sinfully sour notes sweetly seasoning my bubbly memories of the uncommon depths just offshore.
For more on Champagne Reef, visit them online, and be sure to pay Clem and Lucy a visit next time you’re in Dominica.