When you think of sipping an exotic drink in the Bahamas, you’d naturally think of something rum-based.

Nothing wrong with rum of course, but Nassau’s Bon Vivants is working to shake up the local cocktail scene and introduce Bahamians and visitors to a whole new world of libations.

Located in Sandyport Marina Village along West Bay Street, the main coastal road from Nassau, Bon Vivants is already making its mark on the local drinking culture. “Bon Vivants was the first craft cocktail bar in the Bahamas,” says General Manager Devante Knowles.  “We actually opened in 2019, just as COVID hit. So, as you can imagine, it was a bit of a rough ride at first. We were serving curb side and then just on the patio. Not quite what we had in mind. I first joined in 2021 and since things opened up, we’ve really been able to move forward.”

The upscale mixology scene is not new to the islands, with many of the fancier resorts and restaurants around the Caribbean recently devoting time, space and money to up their drinking games.  I’ve visited a few excellent cocktail lounges in the last few years.  But Bon Vivants has a distinct difference that hits you the minute you walk in the door.

First of all, the place is gorgeous – right out of an interior design magazine, but with an unmistakable tropical flair. The devil is in the details as they say, but this place slays that devil easily. The aesthetic carries through the furnishings, art, memorabilia and even their incredible website. The overall effect is warm, classy, welcoming and friendly.

But it’s a cocktail bar, so Bon Vivants lives and dies by its drinks. And their offerings are impressive. There’s a beautifully designed and carefully curated cocktail menu consisting of almost 50 original concoctions.  All stem from the fertile imagination of founding partner Kyle Jones, a legendary New York bartender with an art and design background.

Jones had decried the lack of a good self-standing cocktail bar in Nassau since moving to New Providence with his Bahamian wife in 2012.  A serendipitous partnership with Will Young, a London-based wine importer, provided access to a range of spirits, mixers, specialty bitters and rare bottles that weren’t previously available in the Bahamas, and the dream of a bespoke cocktail bar became reality.

We visited a couple of times during a recent stay, making just a small dent in the in the impressive lineup. My favourite was the El Chapo (Coconut Cartel rum, orgeat, orange bitters and passion fruit caviar, served over a coconut water ice ball), while my wife went for the Shoot the Moon (two different mezcals, passion fruit, hibiscus syrup, egg white and lemon). More importantly, we both noted a few potential drinks for our next visit. Not as easy as it may seem as, according to Devante, the menu is updated every April.

“Kyle comes up with new creations all the time and is personally involved in selecting and training the bartenders,” he notes. And, Devante adds, that process is vital to Bon Vivants’ business model. “Obviously, experience is a good thing to have,” he says. “But that’s not the main thing we look for. Good people skills, enthusiasm and personality are key.”  The friendly and lively bar crew on our visits certainly seemed to back this up.

As Devante pointed out, the Bon Vivants team hasn’t looked back. In 2021 they added Yellowbell at the chic Island House hotel, and their relatively newly opened third location, the Dilly Club on Paradise Island, has already been named ‘Caribbean Bar of the Year 2023’ by Caribbean Journal. “At Dilly, being in a definite tourist hub, there is a bit more of a focus on rum – the Bahamian staple,” Devante explains. “While at Bon Vivants, where there is more of a mix of visitors and locals, we try to highlight a more diverse range of spirits.”

Oh, and just in case a pick-me-up may be in order after a night at Bon Vivants, the place doubles as a coffee shop in the morning – so that espresso is close at hand.

As for what’s next, who knows? But you certainly get the impression that they aren’t finished yet.  One thing for certain though, cocktail culture in the Bahamas will never be the same.

Bon Vivants is located in Sandyport Marina Village, Nassau, Bahamas. For more information, visit their site.

IC 2024

Photo One: General Manager Devante Knowles (centre) and the talented bar team at Bon Vivants.

Photo Two: The décor is classy with a distinctly tropical vibe.

Photo Three: The Silver Lining: Los Sietes Misterios mezcal, Singani 63 (Bolivian brandy), Warres white port, lemon, ginger and egg white.