Alcoholic beverages have been around for centuries, sometimes being used for enjoyment and other times being used for special occasions or rituals. In the Virgin Islands, especially on St. Croix, rum is usually recognized as either the more typical choice of alcoholic drinks or the most notable.
Throughout the years, Cruzan Rum has become a staple in our community and has even found itself gaining national and international acclaim. In small circles, some find joy in the beverages which may be less famous, but still hold a part of our history and culture, with local wines being made from gooseberries, ginger, sorrel, and other local sources.
While these might be the preferred drinks of today, this article seeks to explore drinks that may have been enjoyed in and around the Virgin Islands before the days of Christopher Columbus. These drinks were undoubtedly simpler because of the lack of technological advancements and we still see variations of some of these even today.
Here we have five different wines that might have found their way to the Virgin Islands before 1492. Everything on this list is purely speculative so try and keep an open mind.
1. Maize Wine
The most common kind of vegetable to ferment into wine is corn or maize. There are many different names for maize wine depending on which culture originated from—Tejuino, Chucha, Cauim and Tiswim, just to name a few—and each ancient culture had their own way of creating such a unique drink. While both Chucha and Cauim are made from different tribes inhabiting South America at the time, they are both blended with various different fruit juices to make their own blend. Tejuino, on the other hand, is made from a corn dough in the Mexican state of Jalisco.
2. Cacao Wine:
This is a more common wine that still has its place in the world before and after 1492. There are companies who still make this wine to this day, but where did it come from? In the Olmec traditions (an ancient Pueblo people who inhabited Mesoamerica during their most formative period between 1100 and 900 BC), they ferment the pulp of the cacao then store them in pottery containers until they are ready to be consumed.
3. Aloe Wine
For most people in the Virgin Islands, aloe is a very common plant. Many people use it for its healing properties it is a less well-known fact that it can be fermented into wine. Pulque is another alcoholic beverage that originates from ancient Mesoamerica. In fact, there are stone carvings that depict Pulque as early as 200 AD and show its religious importance. The fermented juice of the maguey (their name for aloe), which some actually consider a beer, is made and fermented like any other wine.
4. Honey Wine
Balché is a wine named and brewed by the Mayans and is said to be associated with Mayan deity Acan, the Mayan God of wine and intoxication. The drink itself shares the name of the balché tree. The bark of the trees is fermented in water along with the honey of indigenous stingless bees.
5. Moringa Wine
Honestly, this is more of an honorable mention. Recently, Moringa has become more recognized in the Virgin Islands and other parts of the new world, and with that being said, there are some who have experimented with Moringa to make wines and tonics. Moringa is already noted to have many healthy attributes, and if it was an important enough food like the others on this list were, using it to create wine in the olden days doesn’t seem too far-fetched.