To experience Bajan life, it’s culture and to learn about the history of the island then you have to visit a Bajan Rum Shop.
There are over 1,500 rum shops dotted around the island so you will not have to go too far to find one! They are easy to recognise, as they are brightly coloured, usually painted by sponsors such as Banks Beer, Mount Gay Rum, or even the local telephone company Cable & Wireless.
Rum shops are usually attached to the owners home, and are extensions of traditional Bajan Chattel houses made from wood.
They have two main purposes; they act as a local store selling basic provisions and as a bar that sells rum and other alcoholic beverages.
Don’t expect any frills from a rum shop; you are going there for the experience of Bajan life, as this is where locals congregate to discuss events of the day in that village, politics of Barbados, world affairs and other fascinating topics such as the history of the island!
A rum shop is a very laid back affair with men playing dominoes or draughts having heated debates and generally having what we call a good lime!
Most rum shops don’t sell shots of a drink; you can buy beer by the bottle or rum by the bottle.
Rum bottles come in various sizes such as a mini, which is a small bottle serving about 4 shots of rum. You will be given a bowl of ice and the mixer of your choice – Coke, Sprite etc… and a plastic cup for each in your group.
If there is more than two of you then you should buy a flask of rum, which will serve about 8 shots, for larger groups you should buy the pint and half bottle, which is a large bottle and you should get about 16 shots out of that.
You will also find that these rum shops sell pastries and savouries, which are ready to eat. In the pastry display you can expect to find local treats such as jam puffs, rock cakes, lead pipes, turnovers and coconut bread.
For the visitor these pastries can be quite heavy but a good idea to line the stomach before drinking the local rum! In the savoury display you will find patties, which are quite spicy or you might find fish cakes, baked chicken, or cutters.
Cutters are a crusty roll known locally as a salt bread filled with meat, fish or cheese.
If you visit a rum shop on a Saturday you can expect them to be selling a local delicacy known as pudding and souse. This is made from all parts of a pig and sometimes a chicken.
Don’t be surprised if you find a pigs trotter or a chicken foot mixed in! This is a spicy dish and an acquired taste!
Click here for Barbados Rum Shop Listings
All contact info for Barbados Rum Shops, courtesy of Peter Laurie, taken from his book, ‘The Barbadian Rum Shop: the Other Watering Hole‘ published by Macmillan Caribbean.