Words and Photos by Andrea K. Castillo
Most anybody with Caribbean roots takes a certain pride in one’s culture, one’s music, one’s style of cooking, and, if they do imbibe, pride for their nation’s top rum, or their own homemade concoctions. I count myself as one of these individuals. Having honed in on recreating and preserving my own family’s Belizean-style rum beverages myself, I am always intrigued to learn more about other craft rum beverages from across the Caribbean.
Rum creams have been a staple for me over the years, both to drink on my own and to create for others at home. But the majority of these niche beverages, which include Puerto Rican coquito, rum popo from Belize, Haitian crémas, and Trinidadian-style ponche de crème, are near impossible to find at local liquor stores in the United States. This, despite what many Caribbean people might consider their superiority to more widely available rum creams, like Bailey’s. Hyppolite Calixte of Arcachon Cremas is well aware of this lack of market visibility, and is on the road to making his branded crémas one of the only Caribbean-style rum creams to be commercially sold and distributed in the States.
Born in Haiti and raised in the town of Arcachon, in the southern region of the country near Port-Au-Prince, Calixte’s interest in the creamy, coconut-flavored drink was sparked as a young child. “I had my first taste of crémas when I was around seven or eight years old and traditionally that’s around the age most get the chance to try it,” he says. “I was only allowed to have about a teaspoon of it during the holidays. My mom had been making it for years and, ironically, she stopped making it when she came to the States when I was 10.”
Years later, his love for the drink having grown fonder, Calixte began to notice that, in the United States, crémas was essentially only available as a homemade concoction, available only to those closely connected to local Haitian communities, or with the know-how to make it themselves. He made it his duty to find the perfect crémas recipe, tasting offerings from other families, and eventually experimenting on his own. To create the product that will soon be on shelves, he consulted with three families in Haiti that have been making crémas for over sixty years. When asked if he felt any pressure to create the “best” crémas, he responds:
“Definitely not from my family, [or] those from whom we acquired their recipes, as the product was created through their guidance and expertise. They are very happy with the finished product.”
While Calixte admits that there is going to be some pressure to satisfy the taste buds of people that have consumed crémas over the years, he is not overly concerned. “There are dozens of variations of the homemade crémas recipes out there,” he says. “People may not think of ours as ‘the best’ right of the bat.”
Calixte is also on a mission to debunk the myth that crémas consumption only occurs during the holidays. Through targeted marketing and grassroots promotions, Arcachon’s goal is to introduce their product to crémas drinkers new and old, and in so-doing, foster year-round consumption of the drink.
Arcachon Crémas is set to launch later this year, in New York and Florida. You can keep up to date by visiting their website here. Sante!