As the cabin lights dimmed, I settled in for a long ride. The screen in front of me illuminated with a rolling scene of a crystal blue water. I heard the sound of reverberating waves followed by a gleeful harmony of island voices singing joyfully. A lilted voiceover intoned, “Some are born into wealth and others into power, but in Fiji, we are the lucky ones — we are born into happiness.”
This inflight tourism ad magically kicked off my 10-hour flight and my South Pacific holiday in Fiji.
My accommodation, Smugglers Cove Resort, had a lovely charm with oceanfront dining and entertainment nestled on a gorgeous beach of white sand. The welcoming staff remembered my name and continually greeted me by chiming “Bula” (Fijian for ‘hello.’)
And of course they had delightful cocktails. Their rooftop Club 57 bar/restaurant turned out to have the best sunset views in Fiji. According to Operations Manager, Theresa Sing, Club 57 was the first roof-top restaurant in Nadi. It turned out to be one of Fiji’s best-kept secrets, a hidden gem where both locals and in-the-know tourists gathered. Sing said they see a lot of tourists from the top-end resorts coming here for the spectacular views while locals from the nearby villages also congregate here, especially on Sundays. “It’s not pretentious,” she said, “It has an authenticity and a genuineness to it.”
I was excited to see the local spirit, Bati rum, in the spotlight. The word “bati” means “warrior” in Fijian and the name symbolizes the strong and proud protectors of this nation’s early civilization. The rum is distilled from pure Fiji water and sugarcane grown in local volcanic soil. Then, it’s filtered through coconut shells and aged in oak barrels. The bar carried a variety of Bati rums including spiced, coconut and coffee flavors.
The cocktail list included classic tropical drinks, such as the pina coladas, mojitos and slings. However, I was looking for something more original.
Bartender Jaz Singh had the ideal elixir for me – his special riff on a daiquiri. He embarked on his creation by cutting open a fresh coconut and draining the juice. He continued by adding coconut cream, two types of rum, fresh lime juice and a handful of mint into a blender which whipped it into a thick wintry concoction.
He carefully layered the green-speckled frozen mixture into the coconut until it formed a four-inch tower piled high above its base. For a festive touch, he drizzled some grenadine down the sides which provided a ruby red contrast to the pale green hue.
This sculpture-like cocktail looked like a snow-covered Christmas tree with green specks poking through the frost. At first, I wasn’t even sure how to tackle this mound of goodness, but I decided to just bite off the top like a soft-serve custard cone.
The mint and the coconut mingled together in a dreamy rush of flavor. I wondered why these two staple ingredients didn’t appear together more often.
The triple combo of coconut water, milk and rum made it the dominant flavor but the mint added a cool edge that kept this drink from being one note. The extra shot of white rum and lime added some zing while the grenadine drizzle was just enough to impart some sweetness without being cloying.
Jaz said his inspiration for the drink came from Fiji itself. “All of the ingredients, we have in our backyard,”
Jaz’s cocktail is not only exclusive to Fiji, but Club 57 as well. “When you come to Fiji, you can go around and try some drinks. You can try a daiquiri anywhere. Everyone makes them,” he said. ‘But when you come to Club 57 you must experience my coconut daiquiri. Nobody else does it. It’s my creation.”
As I slowly drained my drink, the sun gradually lowered itself into the now-golden sea creating a blissful glow. I thought to myself, maybe happiness does come naturally here.
Club 57 Coconut Daiquiri
30 ml. Bati coconut rum
30 ml. Bati white rum
60 ml. fresh coconut water
30 ml. coconut cream
Squeeze fresh lime
6 pieces of mint
Add all the ingredient to a blender with ice. Serve in a coconut shell and drizzle with grenadine and sprig of mint for a garnish.