Kyle Jones has called the Bahamas home for close to 10 years. But it wasn’t until recently that the Pennsylvania native decided the happy island was missing something: A freestanding cocktail bar. Enter Bon Vivants, the first lounge of its kind on the happy island, serving up inviting libations, a history lesson on the art of the cocktail, and a hot spot for locals that exceeds all expectations.
“This was my dream passion project,” says Jones of the venture he took on with best friend William Young of Young’s Fine Wine in 2019. “We felt it was needed and it’s an intimate spot for locals. I wanted to take guests on a journey through time and travel by way of the cocktail experience. I think we’ve done that here.”
Inspired by Ernest Hemingway and the vintage era of the Bahamas, Bon Vivants (the French derivative of someone who lives and eats well and is the life of the party), boasts the largest liquor selection on the island. And with help from Young’s Fine Wine distribution and liquor store — found through a secret passage in the bar’s lounge — the myriad aperitifs will be hard to come by anywhere else.
Vivants’ relaxed, tropical, and cozy atmosphere of times past will make you realize you’ll be spending a few hours here — and its 23-page cocktail menu definitely warrants leisurely sipping. What’s more unique, guests will be served their beverage in a variety of crystal stemware from Jones’ own personal collection.
So how does one imbibe like a local?
“Bahamians are generally a call/mixer type crowd. Outside of that, the general public love their uber-sweet, fruity cocktails,” says Jones. “That is actually one of our goals at Bon Vivants, to educate the public on classic cocktails and introduce them to a well-balanced cocktail rather than heavily-sugared drinks.”
But the roots of Bahamian drinks are cloudier than a White Russian. According to Jones, there is a lack of information and lack of cocktail history because the roots are not well known or documented. However, what is known are the three most popular cocktails on the breezy island: The Rum Dum, Sky Juice (aka Gully Wash) and, of course, The Bahama Mama.
“The Rum Dum is a modern creation that some will contest the origins of, but it is essentially a rum sour with a float of dark rum on top. It’s huge with golfers all over the island but especially at the Lyford Cay Club, where it is said to have been invented,” says Jones of the amber-colored cocktail. “Sky Juice, my favorite of the three, is unique. Looking at the recipe, you are likely to say ‘no thank you’ but it really is delicious! The mix of gin, coconut water, and condensed milk leads to a sweet and silky libation.”
Last but certainly not least, the eponymous, Bahama Mama, which Jones says “seems to have about 100 different recipes and is essentially a delicious blend of rums and sweet fruity juices.”
Bon Vivants offers the perfect cocktail experience, blending traditions of the Bahamian past with the high-end, big city vibes of present day to give guests an unforgettable experience. Jones speaks to the bar’s ability to use fresh squeezed juices, premium liquor, or local coconut water to elevate those Bahamian staples.
And no cocktail is complete without something to snack on. For Jones, it’s about finding the balance to pair with your choice of cocktail. He notes that salty bites always seem to be a winner, no matter the drink choice, but there are certainly some factors to think about.
“For instance, drinks that are high in acidity are perfect with fatty foods; aperitifs are always great with cheeses or cured meat and smoky spirits like mezcal are great with chocolate,” he says. “We offer some delicious nibbles on our menu that include our Caribbean Spiced Nut Mix, Bourbon Apple Bacon Jam or some Curried Lamb Bundles, to name a few.” Sign us up.
While the combination of fruity and sweet is what Jones calls “an equation for headaches or hangovers,” he does admit that it’s nice to play tourist sometimes.
“Our goal at Bon Vivants is really to try and shift the cocktail culture here in The Bahamas. But I don’t mind sipping a fruity concoction out of a twisty straw while digging my feet in the sand every once in a while.”