“Sca-a-a!” Sunshine, the imposing Rasta owner of Sunshine’s Beach Bar on Nevis puffed his chest and lunged at the green vervet monkey who did not move. “Get outta here.” The monkey tilted his head to one side and stared quizzically at Sunshine with a look that said, “Mister, we’ve been through this before. Do you really think I’m scared of you?” Sunshine turned away disgusted. “ They came over as pets from Africa when the sugar plantations were runnin’,” he said. “Now they’re everywhere.” He scowled again at the monkey as it twiddled my red snapper head in its hands. “Sorry ‘bout that.” “At least it wasn’t my Killer Bee he swiped.” I shrugged as I looked down at the platter of food I’d already ravaged before the little thief swung down and stole the bones on my plate. Sunshine’s deep laugh filled the open air, his dreadlocks bouncing with amusement. “I’d lose all my customers if the monkeys started thieving the drinks. Killer Bees is what brings ‘em in, but it’s my grill they come back for.”
I’ve been sailing the waters of the Caribbean for the past 16 years. That translates into a lot of rum drinks — drinks with names like Painkiller, Bushwhacker, and Shipwreck — but I’d never heard of a Killer Bee until we arrived on tiny Nevis in the Leeward Islands. As of late, my husband Patrick had become a bit of a rum connoisseur, taking in festivals and seeking out Ron Zacapa Centenario to sip. He was even contemplating taking classes through the acclaimed Rum University. Without a local distillery on the island to tour, he’d set out in search of a rum drink he’d been told about by a crew member — a potion called the Killer Bee. I wasn’t sure what was in a Killer Bee, but I knew I’d been longing for one since eight that morning. We’d set out to hike to the island’s highest point, at 3,232 feet, before hitting the beach for lunch. It wasn’t long after entering the tropical rainforest, on our way past an abandoned and overgrown sugar plantation, that I started talking about our planned post-hike lunch at Sunshine’s.
“Is good place,” our guide William nodded his head. “But …” I thought he was going to suggest another location, a favorite of his, maybe Bananas, a gourmet treehouse-like hideaway we’d had lunch at the day before and had never wanted to leave. Instead, William nodded his head to the muddy path ahead of us. “It’s more of a climb than a hike.” The cool, moist mountain air did little to alleviate the building hunger and thirst as we pulled ourselves up and over the volcanic steps, using tree roots, hanging vines of the lush green forest, and well- worn ropes xed in place when we needed the extra help. My thighs screamed for a respite on the beach, even as my stomach howled for food. The eventual descent was a cruel scramble, sliding down the muddy rocks while my stomach growled. My knees were killing me. I was earning both lunch and a Killer Bee the hard way.
“One and you’re stung. Two and you’re stunned. Three is a knockout,” Sunshine told me after I collapsed at a table on his deck and ordered my second Killer Bee. The first passionfruit and honey-flavored cocktail had disappeared surprisingly quickly and I was starting to buzz. The next one arrived with our food — barbecued ribs and peas and rice for Patrick, a whole grilled snapper for me. I instantly forgot about my aching body. The snapper was fresh, having swum in the sea just hours earlier right past the very beach we were looking out over, and was slathered with a Caribbean-flavored herb paste that balanced sizzling hot, scotch bonnet chilies with cooling herbs. I ran my fork over the bones to flake away as much of the moist fillet as was possible without actually picking them up and sucking the leftover bits. It seemed I wasn’t the only one with that idea.
“There’s one of the monkeys.” Patrick pointed to Sunshine’s green, yellow, and red roof. We’d seen a few of them early on in the hike at the lower elevations where fruit trees were prevalent. I’d read that there were more monkeys on the island than people.
I raised my hand to shield the blinding sun and caught a glimpse of a monkey on the move. He scampered down a wooden post, bounded a few feet to our table and jumped up, using one hand to grab the snapper bones and the other to swing down to the sand. He tucked the fish head under his arm and scurried to the safety of a palm tree.
I laughed and sucked down the last of my Killer Bee as Sunshine came over to scare away the monkey.
I wasn’t too upset. The little thief just added to the atmosphere of the tiny island I was rapidly falling in love with. I knew from my earlier research that I’d like it, but the brochures of brilliant sunshine, untouched white sand beaches, and the sparkling sapphire Caribbean Sea did not warn me that I’d need to use a prison arm to eat lunch on the beach.
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/3 cup light rum
- 1/2 cup passionfruit juice
- 1 dash bitters
- 1/4 cup club soda
- Nutmeg and lime, for garnish
In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the honey and 1 tablespoon water for 30 seconds or until the honey is dissolved. Stir in rum, juices and bitters; divide evenly between two glasses with ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with nutmeg and lime.
Caribbean Green Seasoning
- 1/2 bunch cilantro
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 green onions, chopped
- ½ bunch thyme, picked
- ½ bunch basil
- 1 shallot, chopped
- ½ scotch bonnet, seeded and chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor and chop to a fine paste.
Grilled Whole Red Snapper
- 1 whole 2-3 pound red snapper,
- cleaned and scaled
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- ¾ cup green seasoning
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Make three to four parallel, 3-inch-long slashes on each side of the snapper’s belly, slicing deep into the flesh. Season with salt and fill the slashes and belly with ½ cup green seasoning. Rub canola oil over the skin of the fish. Stir the remaining green seasoning into the olive oil and place in a small dish.
Heat the grill to 500 degrees and coat the bars with cooking spray. Set the fish on the grill and reduce the temperature to moderate heat (350-400), turning once, until the flesh just flakes with a fork, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove the fish from the grill and transfer to a platter. Serve with the remaining green seasoning, peas and rice, steamed vegetables and one — or two — Killer Bees.