Despite their varying included amenities, differing sun-swept locations, and distinguishing brand characteristics, nearly all all-inclusives tend to embody just the type of homogeny that turns us off.
Dismissing the lot of them out of pocket, though, ignores the very essence of what makes uncommon travel, well, so uncommon: PEOPLE.
Throughout the Caribbean, even in the most touristy of destinations, there are real local people working in all-inclusive resorts. And they don’t stop being themselves when they’re on the clock either. If you talk to them long enough, you can get a sense of the local scene off-property, glean special hints on uncommon experiences, and sometimes, in the case of a friendly bartender, maybe even get a taste of something special. Something that’s never been on any menu.
Something like an “It’s All About Claude.”
I just met Claude Connor earlier this afternoon. Born and raised on the French side of St. Martin, he’s the head bartender at the RIU Palace Resort St. Martin.
Okay, I don’t know that as gospel, but he sure acts like a boss. Cocksure, handsome, and quick with a smile, Claude is definitely comfortable in his own skin, great qualities for any mixologist.
I met Claude at Coco’s Bar, a tiny on-property watering hole wedged between the pool and the shores of Anse Marcel. Here, Claude and other RIU bartenders do a brisk trade in light beers and Piña Coladas, as you might expect at any all-inclusive. As you also might expect, I was interested in neither.
Also uninteresting: Claude’s rum selection. Aside from a somewhat ordinary Havana Club that I’d been mostly enjoying all week, he was armed with the usual suspects – Bacardi, Captain Morgan, Myers. “This will end badly,” I thought.
Claude, I soon discovered, though, is the kind of bartender that can work a decent amount of magic with just about anything. I chatted him up a bit, pressed him to mix up something good; a drink you could only get from him.
His response – It’s All About Claude – is a tasty, somewhat revved up rum punch that’s well-balanced (not too sweet), and refreshing in the kind of way that, according to Claude, makes it ideal for lazing away under the sun.
The drink dates back more than 20 years to Claude’s previous employment at St. Martin’s exclusive La Samana Resort, though it’s never been on any cocktail menu. Claude reserves this drink for his special guests and friends. You generally have to ask Claude (and only Claude) for it by name, but since we’re all tight now, here’s the recipe…
Grab your shaker and toss in three ounces of Captain Morgan (or a much better spiced rum like this one), one ounce of Bacardi White (this would be better), one ounce of peach schnapps, one-to-two ounces of pineapple juice, a sprig of fresh mint, and some ice. Shake, shake, shake, then pour over ice. Add a splash or two of Myers and grenadine and enjoy!
Cheers from Coco’s Bar, St. Martin!