The World On A Plate


Drinking coconut beer at the Boy’s Club in Aitutaki


The Cook Islands have a big drinking culture, but with most of the populace living out in the sticks they also have a unique take on the local pub.

The deal is that one skilled person devotes themselves to brewing up a liquor based on fermented coconut milk. This is them distributed in weekly or monthly sessions from a big wooden barrel to a close-knit group of local men – including, of course, the brewer himself. Depending on which part of the island you live on and your level of personal gourmanderie you can pick and choose your ‘pub’ on the basis of the skill of the coconut fermenter and/or the conviviality of the regulars. The one which I visited was a jolly mix of singers and musicians, one of which had ingeniously made a bass from a tea crate and string.

Me getting merry on palm wine - I'd just come back from cave swimming

You sit, chat and play music as a wooden cup is passed around. It keeps coming and you down it in one, so it’s a sharp learning curve for those without a stomach for alcohol. The brew itself isn’t bad – sweetish and a bit like mild tasting sherry. But after several cups my memories are a bit blurred. I do remember, however that we all had to stand up and introduce ourselves as newcomers – like an AA meeting in reverse. Brilliantly, however, despite the drinky drinky nature, the clubs also operate in the grey areas of law enforcement, as social transgressions such as wife-beating are met with a lifetime ban. Although with most clubs out in the jungle wilderness and every member participating, I would hazard a guess that drink driving doesn’t feature on the exclusion policy.

You have to ask the locals where the clubs are gathered, as they don’t exactly advertise for guests, but most can be found on the island of Aiktutaki.

posted under Cook Islands

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