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A Bartender’s Guide to the Bahamas by Virtuoso with the Bahamas Tourist Office

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

Try a fresh Bahamian conch salad, taste craft cocktails made from local ingredients, or take a walk through history in downtown Nassau.

Marv “Mr. Mix” Cunningham shares his tips for an island getaway.

Nassau bartender Marv Cunningham, aka Mr. Mix, earned his nickname during a 2014 culinary competition: Miami’s Taste of the Caribbean pitted teams of chefs and bartenders from across the region against one another. After a successful audition, Cunningham had impressed his new teammates.

“In Bahamian culture, if you don’t know someone, you call them ‘Mr.’ as a sign of respect,” he says, laughing. “They were saying, ‘Hey, Mr. Mix, you’re on point!’ and it’s followed me ever since.”

Multiple awards later, including three Bartender of the Year titles, he credits his success to embracing local ingredients and culinary techniques that distinguish his drinks. “Cooking and making cocktails with indigenous ingredients like tamarind, soursop, and fever grass gives you way more flavor and tastes authentic,” he says. “I want people to know where they are when they drink it.”

Cunningham is a foodie who enjoys island-hopping in his nation of 700 islands and 2,400 cays that spans 100,000 square miles of ocean. He recently spent a sunny afternoon curating a greatest-hits list of what to see, do, eat, and drink in Nassau and its nearby islands.

Pair Fresh Seafood with a Coconut Cocktail

Sapodilla on Nassau’s north coast hosts elegant dinners on a lush estate with seven acres of gardens. “The food is amazing, and they source most of their ingredients right from the garden,” says Cunningham, who recommends the seafood – especially the lobster, when it’s in season.

Take your pick of the many restaurants that line the beachfront strip on Nassau’s Arawak Cay, informally known as “Fish Fry,” to try a conch salad. This ceviche-like dish includes fresh conch marinated in lime juice, onion, tomatoes, and peppers. “Bahamians are geniuses when it comes to food pairings,” says Cunningham, who recommends Sky Juice – a smooth blend of coconut water, condensed milk, gin, and nutmeg – with a conch salad. “It balances the spicy Scotch bonnet pepper, which we call the GOAT pepper, for ‘Greatest of All Time.’ ” Try the Fish Fry spot Drifters At Da’ Fry for a deep-fried version named “cracked conch,” after the method of tenderizing the meat.

Rum, Roosters, and Spirits, Oh My!

Pull up a director’s chair at The Cove at Atlantis beachfront Sip Sip on Nassau’s neighbor, Paradise Island. “They set themselves apart by using indigenous ingredients and have really good passionfruit sangria,” Cunningham says.

A Bartender’s Guide to the Bahamas by Virtuoso with the Bahamas Tourist Office, Bergen County Moms
Keep an eye out for feathered friends at John Watling’s Distillery.

Rum lovers can also tour John Watling’s Distillery in downtown Nassau’s Buena Vista Estate. Cunningham credits its head bartender, Wilfred “Uncle Will” Sands, with the best hand-shaken piña colada he’s ever tasted. Watch for roosters, hens, and exotic birds wandering the lawn of the colorful eighteenth-century building with a history of bird-conservation efforts.

Walk Through History in Downtown Nassau

According to Cunningham, “You could give yourself a history tour just walking around downtown.” Visit eighteenth-century Fort Charlotte to see its moat, dungeons, underground passageways, and 42 cannons. The Queen’s Staircase features 66 steps carved by enslaved people from solid limestone, while the pastel-colored parliament building represents modern democracy in Rawson Square. The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas showcases local art in the nineteenth-century Villa Doyle.

A Bartender’s Guide to the Bahamas by Virtuoso with the Bahamas Tourist Office, Bergen County Moms
Pastel colors stretch from the local beaches to the Bahama’s parliament building.

Pick Up Custom-Made Souvenirs

The Straw Market on downtown Nassau’s Bay Street is Cunningham’s go-to souvenir stop for handmade straw hats and bags – as well as local Kamalame wood carvings. Artisans will make custom pieces on request in a matter of hours. “I travel a lot for competitions around the globe, and I always take handmade jewelry or key holders from the market as gifts to remember me by.”

Kick Back and Relax at the Beach

“For relaxation, it doesn’t get any better than just going on the beach,” says Cunningham. He singles out the calm and shallow Jaws Beach – named for a scene in the Jaws film franchise that was shot here – part of Nassau’s 208-acre Clifton Heritage National Park. “It’s not as crowded as Goodman’s Bay or Saunders Beach, but it has beautiful views. It’s the place to go play with the kids and have a beach party.”

Take a Day Trip to the Surrounding Islands

Harbour Island has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, not just in the Bahamas,” says Cunningham. He recommends a day trip with a seafood lunch at Rooster Tail Bar & Grill at the island’s marina. You could also island-hop to the Exumas to see the swimming pigs. No one knows quite how the aquatic pigs got to uninhabited Big Major Cay, but the stories are colorful, the piglets are adorable, and the iguanas are just as friendly. “These guys are walking straight up and saying, ‘Welcome to my island! What did you bring me to eat?’ It’s almost like the movie Madagascar.”

A Bartender’s Guide to the Bahamas by Virtuoso with the Bahamas Tourist Office, Bergen County Moms
Relaxation options surround the Reef at Atlantis.

The Bahamas offers countless sun-kissed adventures and hosts nine Virtuoso resorts – from private-island, 12-room Musha Cay to the grand 497-room Reef at Atlantis. Nonstop flights depart from numerous East Coast hubs daily, or try a day’s sail from South Florida to the Caribbean’s most popular cruise port, Nassau.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bahamas Tourism

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