Quenching your thirst on the island

Infused rums, beers, wines, mineral water and lemonade: Reunion offers a wide variety of local specialities, both alcoholic and soft drinks. (To be tasted, of course, with moderation..)

Pace your holiday, have a good time in the evening, enjoy a cocktail by the ocean: you’ll undoubtedly find the perfect moment to sample all the island’s specialities !


Reunionese rum

Unmissable both in shops and in caz’ (homes), the local rum is known as ‘Rhum Charrette’ due to its label featuring a cart (charrette) pulled by an ox and loaded with sugar canes. It is sold both in glass bottles and plastic flasks known as piles plates (literally, ‘flat batteries’). Rum is made either from sugarcane juice (for ‘rhum agricole’ and aged rum) or from molasses (the residue from refining sugarcane) for traditional rum. It is closed tied to the island’s history, including its darkest moments, as the sugarcane industry developed due to slavery. A visit to a refinery or distillery is essential to understand this past, and there is no shortage of options: the largest European sugarcane refinery is in in Saint-Louis: the Sucrerie du Gol (visit the refinery and taste its sirops la cuite – ‘cooked syrups’). In Saint-Pierre, the Saga du Rhum, the result of a collaboration between the island’s three distilleries, is located in the Isautier distillery, founded in 1845. In Saint-Benoît, the Distillerie la Rivière du Mât introduces visitors to the production of traditional white rums, aged rums and rhums agricoles. Finally, the Sucrerie de Bois Rouge and the Savanna distillery, located in Saint-André, both in the east, present the complete cycle from sugarcane to rum.

The local speciality: infused rum

Of course, rum can be enjoyed neat (in moderation – Rhum Charrette is 49°) or in punch (with the addition of fruit juice and spices) or cocktails. But the island’s local speciality is ‘rhum arrangé’ – infused rum – for which there are as many recipes as there are inhabitants! In fact, you can infuse rum by macerating fruits, spices (e.g. cinnamon sticks or vanilla), herbs, faham (a variety of wild orchid), etc. in it in a multitude of combinations. In markets, you can also find bags containing everything you need to make your own rum. Finally, if a bar offers café-vanille on its menu, note that this is in fact a coffee-liqueur-flavoured punch !

Island beer

Wherever you are on the island, it’s difficult to escape the frescoes painted in the colours of the local beer on the façades of cafés and restaurants. Bourbon beer is brewed locally. Its symbol is a dodo, a large turkey-like bird that once inhabited the islands of the Indian Ocean and is now extinct. To capture a little of the Creole soul, nothing beats enjoying these Péi (local) beers with some chilli sweets or samosas. Since 2011, the dodo beer has even offered a lychee-flavoured version: the ‘Metiss’.

Wine, sparkling water and lemonade

Reunion also makes its own wines. The introduction of new grape varieties (Malbec among others) on the slopes of the Cirque de Cilaos and the installation of modern wineries have led to the birth of reds, rosés and whites that can hold their own against French wines from the mainland. In private homes in Cilaos, you may also come across vin qui rend fou (‘wine that sends you mad’)! This, in fact, is wine made from the Isabelle grape variety, which was banned in mainland France in 1935 (the ban was lifted in 2003) but that has always been grown in Reunion. Cilaos is known not only for its wines: Cilaos, a sparkling water obtained from one of the cirque thermal springs is found on many tables on the island. Many people also enjoy drinking Cot, a not-to-be-missed lemonade!