Mike Tomasic’s Guide to Trinidad Carnival

By Mike Tomasic

One of the best parts of competing in the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge this year was that it was held at the same time as Trinidad Carnival. When island2island (Australian distributor of Angostura Bitters and Rum) asked me to recap on my experience of Carnival…well let’s just say my memory might be a bit hazy on the detail!
What I can tell you is that it was a blast! It was a feast of colour, music, booze-fuelled bumping and grinding. Everyone just left their troubles behind and had one helluva party.

In fact I found this on Google and I thought it summed up Carnival perfectly:

“Trinidad likes its Carnival wild and wotless (carefree), its revelers unabashed and it’s partying nonstop. Carnival, or more accurately pronounced, cahneeval, translated loosely means a farewell to flesh or meat. It marks the last chance to celebrate with abandon before a period of restraint for the 40 days of Lent.

Wearing scanty costumes of feathers and sequins, masqueraders marching,
wining (a sexy Caribbean dance performed by women – much better than twerking) and chippin (a march/shuffle/dance combo step) across Port of Spain while music blares from speaker boxes and alcohol abounds.


Carnival is not for the faint of endurance. Here are some things to know before you go:

Learn to wine:?if a Trini asks you to dance, there are exactly two options: wine or gyrate your hips in a suggestive manner (both of which mean the same thing). You’ll see it happen in the streets, in the fetes, on a wall, upside down, on top of a cooler — people are wining everywhere and anyhow. The rhythm and energy of soca music should induce the urge to move your body, so just rotate your hips in a circular motion and you’ll be set for all the Carnival dancing you need to do. A quick Internet search for “how to wine” returns detailed video tutorials on ways to master the movement.

The costume isn’t enough ?Playing mas means you’ve chosen a masquerade band to participate with and you’ll be chippin alongside mas goers with similar costumes. There are more than one hundred different Carnival bands that vary in themes, popularity and cost. While your costume may come with a box full of adornments, the main bikini or shorts, the feathered headpieces, arm bands, leg bands and wrist bands, ladies still need more. Rip-resistant flesh tone stockings will help you feel less naked and look more put together. Also, stop by Wonderful World in West Mall for face jewels and body glitter because it’s not Carnival without the extra glitz.

I also found this video – you’ll want to brace yourself before watching it!

So if you’re lucky enough to get to go to Trinidad for the next Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge in 2016, then my main advice would be by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Consider each and every single element of your cocktails, take each and every single element of your cocktail with you to Trinidad, including all your equipment, so you’re not relying on anyone else for anything (I took 60kg worth of luggage to Trinidad, I took everything with me, even Angostura bitters!).

And once you’re there, enjoy the moment, you’ve done all the hard yards, nothing can be changed now. Have fun, be yourself, and revel in the atmosphere over the proceeding days that are Carnivale!

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