Heavenly Sky Juice

Bahamian Sky Juice is a gin-based tropical nectar worthy of the gods.
Dangling in clusters from trees, piled high on vendor’s tables, and featured at every beach shack, coconuts are everywhere in the Bahamas.

Sipped straight from the shell, green coconut water is ambrosial.

The recipe is simple: to prepare green coconut water, first find a nearby coconut vendor, then politely ask him (or her) to lop of the top of that chilled green coconut you just purchased. If you’re handy with a machete—and don’t have a career that depends upon having a complete set of fingers—try opening one yourself. It’s as hard as it looks.

Before the recent outbreak of lethal yellowing disease (a systemic disease caused by a tiny insect) in coconut palms, enterprising folk could be seen nearly every day on the beach peddling chilled green coconuts from wheeled coolers. Nowadays, fresh coconuts should be purchased from established vendors at roadside coconut stands. They are easy to spot: tables stacked high with ripe coconuts picked straight off of trees, huge white jugs of fresh coconut water, and coolers full of chilled young green coconuts.

Some rums for your coconut.
Green coconuts, or jelly coconuts (so named for the jellylike coconut meat) are credited with nearly-magical health properties. Outside, they are yellow-green, inside, they contain deliciously creamy white meat (the jelly) and coconut water. Said to be a superb hair-of-the-dog, green coconut water is also often a hapless participant in evening-before offenses. As a line from an old calypso says:
The thing that's best if you're feelin' glum
Is coconut water with a little rum
Mix fresh coconut water with an ounce of two of a dark medium-bodied rum, add a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and get ready for some some quality lime time (to “lime” in the Caribbean is “to hang out”).

Sky Juice—a delectable combo of gin, coconut water, sweetened milk, and spices—is a point of national pride for many Bahamians. The original Sky Juice is an early 20th century short drink made by combining 1 part gin and 4 parts coconut water. At that time, these two ingredients were easy to come by for even the poorest folks scattered throughout the islands. Soon this concoction became a popular anytime drink, perfect as a pick-me-up or aperitif.

At some point, a bit of sweetened condensed milk (a pantry staple in Caribbean kitchens) and spices were added to the mix, giving this drink a festive creaminess akin to coquito. Known as Gully Wash in the Out Islands, this is the modern version of Sky Juice enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

There are a few thoughts regarding the name. Some think it references the coconut water—coconuts form at the top of high palms, therefore to drink coconut water is to drink the sky’s juice—while others tell you that it’s named for the cloudy color. At a recent visit to Goldie’s Conch House, our bartender leaned over and confided that it was he who christened the drink “Sky Juice”. He merely winked as a reply to our query, “But why?”

Most locals enjoy Sky Juice as an after-dinner cocktail in lieu of traditional dessert, but we have been known to sip this sinfully boozy drink while indulging in a plate of piping hot conch fritters at the Tiki Bikini Hut on Bay Street.

Bahamian Sky Juice

Serves 2-4

Sky Juice is best made by the pitcher. Although some folks like to substitute rum (no argument here), the botanicals in the gin give this drink its unique flavor. Be sure to chill it to allow the flavors to meld.
  • 16 ounces unsweetened coconut water
  • 8 ounces London Dry gin
  • 8 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves
In a 1-liter pitcher, stir together all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours. Serve over ice.