Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More Research Completed

The Labratory
      Yesterday we accomplished quite a few of our goals during our lab session.     We finished a new "KeyZ Cocktail" a very tropical and refreshing blend that isn't terribly sweet, bus has that good tropical taste.     As you can see, out lab allow us to make use of many ingredients to provide the flavors that make a new cocktail really good.     The part that always interests me is how things work together.     For that reason, we have to keep a wide variety of liquors and liqueurs in stock so we have all the tools to create these new and classic cocktails.

Yes, Good Plantation Rums
      One of the other experiments we worked on yesterday was Rob Burr's "Rum Wreck" cocktails.     We took a group of 8 Plantation Rums and chilled them and added various bitters and other things to refine this really interesting cocktail.     The concept initially reminded me of the old "Bar Rail" cocktail, but with a little bit of effort, the  taste is excellent especially when the rums work together to complement each other.    The Plantation rums all work well together I feel because they have a common finishing by the Plantation people in Cognac, France.     It is my opinion that you need to make this drink with the younger rums because the older and higher end rums are blended by the master blenders as the flagship of their brands and tend not to play well with others like the younger ones.     The younger rums lack the advantage of premium blending and as you blend them, given that you can blend the correct ones together, you become the "Master Blender" in your lab.

     We will not be continuing our work til next Wednesday, because Monday and Tuesday we'll be in the Sarasota area visiting the Drum Circle and Caribbean Distilleries.     It is our goal next Wednesday to put the lid on the Rum Wreck research and move back to the cocktails ans see if some of them can be finished as well.     This weekend you should try some lab time, it is very rewarding as well as a lot of fun.     ;o)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday and Rum Research Day

Happy Memorial Day, this is the day that we say thanks to all of the men and women that have made so many sacrafices that we can live in safety here in America.     I take my hat off to you and give you all my heart felt thanks for your service.

     I love my Mondays,  2pm and it is onto the back of the boat and working on the new cocktails for the book and eventually for the bar menu.     Today is a very basic type of day in that we are going to take different ingredients and see how they work together, then when we find a good group of ingredients, we will start working with the liquors to create a fun new drink.   

     It is really interesting to see how things that you wouldn't think would taste good together do and others that you expect to taste good together don't.     Orange juice is one of those juices that really make a cocktail or it can totally overpower the mix and ruin it.     We have been working with Fee's flavored bitters and syrups as well as different juices and liqueurs to develop new flavors that we can add rum to for a new cocktail.     This was the legacy of great cocktailers like Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic, their ability to blend things to create a taste made them legendary.   ;o)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Still

What a thing of beauty and it produces such a beautiful nectar as well.    ;o)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ghosts in Key West?

Key West is a rather old city with many many stories of historical relevance, but the ghost stories told nightly by the various "Ghost Tour" operators have  brought to light many interesting tales of haunted buildings, cites and dolls.     People are unusually interested in haunted houses and ghosts I'm finding out as I give people directions to  the many ghost tour operators here in Key West.      Not having the curiosity to take one of these tours myself, but listening to many of my patrons talk of going and having been on the tours made me wonder why.     Looking into Key West's history as I have there are many opportunities for the presents of ghosts of  famous people that died here under mysterious circumstances, there is the potential for the haunting of many of our structures.   Places like the Red Rooster Inn and the Doctors Inn, or even the a Doll.

     "Robert the Doll" as it has become known as is the imaginary friend of Robert Eugene Otto, a Key West painter and author.    The doll was given to Eugene as a present from a family servant, who was by the way skilled in the arts of black magic and voodoo, in 1904.      Soon after it became clear that the doll was in deed very eerie.    The parents claimed that the heard Eugene talking to the doll and it seemed to be talking back to him.     Neighbors claimed to see the doll moving from window to window when there was no one at home.      When Eugene died in 1974, the doll was placed in the attic where it stayed until the house was resold and the new owners of the house found the doll and gave it to their 10 year old daughter.     Soon after getting the doll the little girl would wake up screaming in the middle of the night saying that Robert was moving about the room.     The stories of what mischief that Robert has caused are endless, but you can visit Robert at the East Martello Museum and make your own decision, by the way if you want to take his picture it is said that you must as nicely before you take it.

     The Grave yards and the haunted houses of Key West make great stories and if you are interested in these tales, you need to sign up for one of the many enlightening Ghost Tours here in Key West.     ;o)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Let's Look at Another Classic Cocktail: The Fog Cutter

     The Fog Cutter is another of those classic cocktails from the "Tiki Era" of the 50's through the 80's that has withstood the test of time.     The drink was originally created at a  Hollywood bar called Don the Beachcomber's by the then head barman Tony Ramos.    
     The battle in those days between Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic for supremacy naturally had an effect on many of the "Tiki Cocktails" of the era.     In the case of the Fog Cutter, it seems that the marketing skills of Trader Vic won out as far as history goes.    Between the Special mugs (Now worth a small fortune) and the way it was presented at the bars, the cocktail that Tony Ramos created is solidly in the stable of Trader Vic.

     Trader Vic (Victor Bergeron) was quoted  as saying "Fog Cutter Hell, After two of these you won't even see the stuff".     Being he was from San Francisco, that was a pretty bold statement, as foggy as the Bay Area can get in the evenings.        Trader Vic's Fog Cutter is called a "Samoan Fog Cutter" and is slightly different that the Original Tony Ramos version.

Tony Ramos Original Version
  • 1 oz White Rum
  • 1/2 oz Gin
  • 1/2 oz Brandy
  • 1/2 oz Sweet & Sour
  • 2 dashes Simple Sugar
Add all ingredients with ice to a cocktail shaker, shake until chilled.      Pour into a cocktail glass and float some cherry brandy on top.

Trader Vic's Samoan Fog Cutter
  • 1/2 oz Orgeat
  • 2 oz gold rum
  • 1 oz Pisco (a strong colorless grape brandy)
  • 1/2 oz gin
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz sherry float ( Cherry Liqueur is also used in many recipes)
Place all ingredients with  ice in a cocktail shaker, shake until chilled.   Strain into a cocktail glass filled with crushed ice and float sherry on top.

     Like so many other classic cocktails the story of their origin is as interesting as the the drink itself.     "The Fog Cutter" is no exception.     Try one of these at your favorite bar, you won't be disappointed.    By the way Trader Vic was right, they will knock you for a loop if you drink too many.   ;o)  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Cocktail of the Day: The Planter's Punch

     The Planter's Punch like many other cocktails has a history that is sketchy as to it's true origin.     Fred L. Myers founder of Myer's Rum distillery in Jamaica was said to have created what he called "Planter's Punch " to celebrate the creation of his his new distillery in 1879.      The recipe on the back of each of the bottles known as the "Old Plantation Formula".     This recipe uses the same references that were used in the first known reference to this cocktail on August 8, 1908 in the New York Times.    
  •      Planter's Punch"
  • This Recipe I give to Thee
  • Dear Brother in the heat.
  • Take two of sour(lime let it be)
  • To one and a half of sweet, (sugar)
  • Of Old Jamaica pour three strong, (rum)
  • And add four parts of weak. (water)
  • Then mix and drink. I do no wrong--
  • I know where of I speak.
This is the exact recipe that New York Times published in 1908.     This is one of those cocktails that is not really a specific cocktail, but rather a generic one that have many many versions that have arisen from all around the world.

     The drink hit it's peak in popularity in the 1950's through the 1980's during the Tiki era.     Trader Vic is credited with popularizing the drink during that era.     Still around today you will find as many versions of this drink as you will bartenders.  
  • Trader Vic"s Planter's Punch
  • 3 oz dark rum
  • 1/2 oz grenadine (remembering that grenadine in those days was pomegranate juice and sugar)
  • bar spoon of sugar
  • juice of 1 small lime
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Stir with crushed ice and strain into a Collins glass 2/3 full of crushed ice.
If you look at the 1908 version of the Planter's Punch and  Trader Vic's 1947 version they are very similar.     This classic cocktail is one of the great and popular cocktails that keep happening year after year.     If you haven't tried one, you owe it to yourself to find a good bartender that mixes classic cocktails to the old recipes and treat yourself.     ;o)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

There is a New Zombie in Key West

     The "KeyZombie" is officially ready for consumption by the drinking world.     After several days of  rum research and development with the help of my friends Mike, Bruce, Marta, and Lauren, we have a new Zombie.     We developed this new Zombie with a Key West flavor, while trying to keep the integrity of Don the Beachcomber's original cocktail.    Like Donn Beach's original this one packs a wallop, but the wallop is not very unnoticeable as you drink it.    This is the trademark of most of my cocktails, having an appropriate amount of liquor without having the strong liquor taste.

     I felt that after listening to Jeff "Beachbum" Berry's lecture at "Mai-Kai's" last month it was time to create a "Southernmost Zombie" that we could have some fun with down here is the Keys.     It was time to get back into my laboratory on the back of the boat and start some serious research.     Mike Streeter and I spent several hours last week working on the project.     We felt like we were very close, but it was lacking something.     Sunday afternoon at the Rum Bar, I was talking about our new Zombie to several of the bar patrons and they asked for me to make them one of the new "KeyZombie's", so I did.     I made a little adjustment to the recipe to see if it would take care of what was missing.     I felt that I was on the right track judging from the response from the patrons.     Monday afternoon Mike and Bruce and I went into the laboratory and tried the new version and were pretty happy with it, but something was still missing.     Four adjustments later, we stumbled on the "secret ingredient" that brought the "KeyZombie" to life.     After taking the final mixture to our bartender friend Lauren  to taste, she felt that we were right on track also.     Lauren and some of the other bar people's opinion said "it is Right-On!" 

     The KeyZombie is available at the Rum Bar in Key West, but only between 11AM and 6PM Wednesday through Sunday, if you would like to have one.     Seeing how I am the only one with the recipe, I'm the only one that can mix one up for you.

"Zombie" Rob V. Burr
      There are three other new KeyZ cocktails that are currently under development that hopefully will be available in the next month or so.     There will be a book coming out, hopefully by the end of the year that will contain all of my favorite and many of my original recipes along with stories of where and how the drinks came about.    This is proving to be a very enjoyable adventure putting these stories,drinks, and recipes together for the book.     The travel and the lab time are the  most fun, but lab time is very limited when developing high potency drinks like the "KeyZombie" because you can only do about three or five rounds especially if you are using the scientific method of A B A to verify your results.    I barely survived Monday's session, but the results were worth the "BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ" .      Look at Rob V. Burr and see what Zombie Research can do to you.         ;o)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Yup, it's That Kind of Day

Yup, you know where I am today!!!!!!!      I think that the stress of the world on the precipice of destruction and "Jesus" coming to visit me this week was enough to send me back to some serious "Rum Research" on the back of the boat again.     There is a booklet in the working from all of this research and I think that it will be fun.     The book will not only contain many of my recipes and those  of others that have colorful histories, but there is always a story that goes with any drink and where the idea for it's creation came from.

     Wish me a productive day in the lab and I;ll report back tomorrow on my "progress",  this is very serious business you know.     ;o)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Another Week Fades into the Sunset

This is a week that was suppose to bring the end of the world at 6PM yesterday and like so many of the "End of the World" predictions it to faded away into the sunset.     In Key West we had "Jesus" leading a "Rapture Pub Crawl" and it was a great success, We were saved again from  the hype with our "Tongue in Cheek" attitude toward these events.   

     In Key West, when there is something going wrong we have a pub crawl and all our troubles seem to fade away.    It is too bad the rest of the world doesn't know how to apply a little humor to life and "just move on" and stop making mountains out of mole hills.   ;o)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Where in the World did the Pina Colada Come From?

El Pirata Cofresi
     The Pina Colada has been a part of beach and tropical cocktail fare for as long as I can remember, but it really isn't that old of a cocktail.     There seems to be several theories as to who really created the Pina Colada.     The oldest story goes back to the 1800's and the pirate Roberto Cofresi also known as El Pirata Coefresi, he was said to have served his men cocktails that were a mix of white rum, coconut milk, and pineapple.    The unfortunate part of the story is that when he died in 1825 the recipe died with him and is unverified.

Plaque at the Barrachina in San Juan
     There is the theory that the Spaniard Ramon Portas Mingot, who worked is some of the finest bars in Buenos Aires, and a writer of cocktail books, had met Chef Pepe Barrachina on a trip to South America.     Pepe hired Ramon to be the head bartender in his San Juan Restaurant Barrachina.     It is said that his experimentation yielded the "Pina Colada" in 1963.

The Caribe Hilton Beachcomber Bar
     The most believable of the theories was that on August 15, 1954, a man named Ramon "Monchito" Marrero introduced the Pina Colada at the Beachcomber Bar at the Caribe Hilton Hotel in San Juan.    The Caribe Hilton was the moist famous hotel of the day and often hosted many of the high rollers and the star studded Hollywood clientele of the day.     The hotel encouraged Ramon to experiment with many different ingredients to create the new Caribe Hilton signature drink.    It too Ramon three months of blending, shaking and mixing ingredients to create the first Pina Colada.    The story in verified by the fact that it uses cream of coconut, which was pioneered by "Coco Lopez" in 1954 by Ramon Lopez Irizarry at the University of Puerto Rico.

     I know that I pretty much follow the original recipe, but instead of white rum, I substitute a "spiced rum" and top the drink with fresh ground nutmeg.     These are some ideas that were introduced to me as I visited different islands in the Caribbean.     Bahama Bob's pina colada does owe it roots to Ramon  "Monchito" Marrero and his experimentation in 1954.     ;o)

Friday, May 20, 2011

One of the Surprises of the Tasting Competition

Siesta Key Rum, created by the Drum Circle Distilling in Sarasota, Florida has proven to be one of the better rum arriving on the scene today.     Troy Roberts has taken resources from Florida and turned them into some fine rums.   After talking to Troy at the 2011 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, I found how serious he is about making high quality rum here in the United States.

     Right now Siesta Key has two rums on the market, a gold and a silver.    I got a bottle of the silver last year and currently serve it at the Rum Bar in Key West with very warm reviews from the customers.    Recently we have added the gold to out line of 221 rums and the reviews by the customers have been just as positive.     I am proud to have been on to the rum judges in this years Rum Renaissance that rewarded Troy, his partners, and his employees  with the best in class award for 2011.

     In June, Troy and his partners tom and Ryan have invited several of the XP's to come to the Drum Circle Distillery for a tour and visit with the people that make the rum right here in Florida.     Unlike many other rum producers here in America, they use the sugar cane grown here in Florida to make and distill their rum themselves.     These are hand-crafted spirits from start to finish and done in small batches in pot stills to ensure the flavor and quality of the rums.     The passion of Troy and his people is evident when talking to him and in the tasting of his rums.     I'm really looking forward to visiting the Distillery and will have a full report afterward.     ;o)


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Today Reminded Me Why I Live in Key West

    Looking out over the Gulf of Mexico this morning as I was opening up the office reminded me how lucky I was being able to live in such a paradise and never had to leave the United States to do it.     Key West is a great quirky key that allows people to relax and really enjoy life at a pace that suits them.     This morning as I walked a little white dog that we are watching this week for a friend I kept thinking of how really fun this place is.     I can jump in the dinghy and cruise out to mangrove keys that are totally uninhabited except by birds and fish or I can walk around the island and visit friends and very colorful places.

     I think the part that I enjoy as much as anything is my work at the Rum Bar.    I get to meet and talk with people that are from all over the world and learn of the different cultures that make up this world and even more interest are the local that frequent the bar.     Everyone has a story of how they got here and why.     This is a never ending string of stories and adventures that brought them to Key West.    Throw in the tourists and all the reasons they have to tear up their return flight ticket and stay and you are beginning to see the draw of this magical little key.      I guess it is because it seems to keep me smiling most of the time and having a seriously fun way of living day to day.     If you are wondering why you aren't here today, you are not alone, you just have to make up your mind to start living and do something about it in a full out rumstylin' way.     ;o)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Does it Take to Create a New Cocktail?

     Yesterday Mike Streeter from Rum Connection.com and I worked for about 4 hours doing what we affectionately call "Rum Research" at the bar on the back of my boat.     We started out by making some existing cocktails that were new to us and then progressed into some new ones of our own creation.      The thing that both of us noticed was that these really good cocktails don't just happen by accident.     We spent several hours mixing old and new ingredients in different combinations learning what thing complement each other and which things don't do well together.     This was an "intoxicating" process and after 4 hours of "strenuous research" we had to take a dinner break before we got ourselves to the point of invalid research.       It's funny that people tell us all the time "where do I sign up for this kind of work, but we invited 4 or 5 people to come by and help, but only 1 showed up and she was late.     You know how wives can be, especially when it interferes with her bingo time. 

     On the serious side, we did come up with a few new punches that will lend themselves to larger batches for parties and weddings etc., and still can be made as an individual cocktail.      The biggest problem and the easiest mistake when trying to create something different is making the cocktail too complicated to be able to make in a bar environment.     Some of the ideas we had involved 10 to 12 ingredients and that is just too many to be able to mix in a commercial bar situation.     The next step is to try and keep the flavor profile that you have created and still cut out some of the ingredients.      This is the part that is really tough and takes a toll on the body as you taste these concoctions.     After 5 tries we reduced the ingredients down  to 8 and got a taste that we were happy with.     The working name is nutty punch #5, this is an interesting combination of ingredients that you don't often see together and turned out very tasty.     You will be hearing more about the research as we move ahead.    The end result of all the research will be  "Bahama Bob Rumstyler's Bar Guide"  that we are hoping to have published by November some time, if our livers survive the research.

     The book will have original and traditional cocktails according to Bahama Bob and stories of where the recipes came from and how they came to be.     This is proving to be a tougher project than I first envisioned, but with Mike's help we will be able to produce a fun and different approach to cocktail making that can be used in the bar or at your home tiki bar.     Keep your eyes open for different ideas and please send me any of your ideas to bob@the-leonard-company.com .      Please put "Rum Book Ideas" on the subject line so I know what they are about.   
The most important thing that I am learning from our research so far is what things that you wouldn't expect to blend well sometimes complement  each other is a surprising and tasty way.    Get out and enjoy a new cocktail when you can.     ;o)      

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When You Talk History in Key West, The Cemetary is always comes to Mind

     This unusual cemetery sits in the center of Old Town Key West, and is a colorful and quirky as the rest of Key West.     You will find above ground burials, and very unusual headstones as well as burial site of two dozen sailors from the USS Maine blown up in Havana Harbor in 1898.      The main entrance is at the corner of Margret and Angela streets and the rest of the cemetery is bordered by Passover Lane, Frances and Olivia Streets.     

     The reason for the above ground burials has nothing to do with the low elevation of the island, but rather the coral that has formed the island.     Digging through coral is about like digging through concrete thus the tombs laid on the surface like New Orleans, but for a different reason.      The stacked tombs and the unusual decorations that surround the tombs make this one of the more unique cemeteries anywhere.      

     This is not the original site of the Key West Cemetery however, it was originally located near the southernmost point where the light house was also located before the 1846 Hurricane.     Not only did the lighthouse and the lighthouse keepers quarters get blown away, but the cemetery as well.     There were dead scattered all through the forest and some even lodged in trees according to attorney and port inspector Stephen Mallory.  

     You will find the grave sites of many of Key Wests most interesting people  like, Duncan Cameron, Captain Francis Watlington,The Porter Clan, Thomas Romer, Sloppy Joe Russell and many many more.     I think the most talked about headstone is the one belonging to  Pearl Roberts where she really got her last words in with the epitaph " I TOLD YOU I WAS SICK".     This colorful town has  the most fitting and colorful historic cemetery and worth the time to stroll through and see the history and honor the colorful people that made Key West what it is today.     ;o)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It is a Funny World if You Just Read the Signs

The five man Electric Band in the 60's kind of said it all with their song signs.   Just look around you and you'll get a laugh out of the funny signs that the world has to offer.


It really is a very strange world that we live in and thanks to all the stranger people who notice and post the "Signs of the Times"   ;o)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Bushwacker: A Virgin Island Cocktail Delight

This is a great frozen cocktail with it's origins in St. Thomas, but no one seems to know what bar was the originator.     This is a very decadent cocktail with some resemblance to a Pina Colada or a Mudslide.       There is a bar called "Sandshakers" in Pensacola, Florida that claims to be the home of the original Bushwacker, but they admit that the recipe came to them in 1975 when the then owner visited Sapphire Beach on the eastern side of St. Thomas and there he tasted the Bushwacker and brought it back to try out on his customers at "Sandshakers".

  My first introduction to the Bushwacker was at "Flip Flops" the pool bar at Sapphire Beach Resort.      The drink immediately got my attention, but it is one of those cocktails that you don't want to drink too many of because they are so rich and filling.    

     The recipe is a clean and simple one, but there are several variations of it that I have seen in my travels including some of my own.   

 Bushwacker Recipe
 Cream of Coconut
 Dark Rum
 Kahlua Coffee Liqueur
 Dark Creme de Cocoa
 Milk  or Half and Half                                                                               
All of the ingredient are put in the blender with ice and blended until smooth.     I like to put a swirl of chocolate syrup on the sides of the glass before pouring the ingredients into the glass.     I also top it with fresh ground nutmeg, an orange slice and a cherry.    These are optional, but add a nice little appearance  thing that the customers like.     You can float the Bushwacker with a dark rum like Myer's or even the Kraken, another viable option.   No matter how you  make it it's a great cocktail that you and your friends can enjoy.     ;o)    

The Rum Runner a Cocktail from the Keys

     The Rum Runner was created in the late 1950's at the Holiday Isle Tiki Bar in Islamorada, Florida.     The story is that the bar had an excess of blackberry and Banana Liqueurs that needed to be sold before a new shipment of liquor could be brought in, so the Rum Runner was a blend of excess liquor the bar needed to get rid of, and the result is a very popular tropical drink that was named for the real rum runners that inhabited the Keys during the prohibition era.

     The recipe calls for one ounce of light rum, dark rum, blackberry brandy, banana liqueur, orange juice, pineapple Juice, and a splash of grenadine.     All the ingredients placed is a shaker with ice, shaken and poured into a highball glass and garnished with an orange slice.     This sweet and fruity cocktail has been a best seller of the tropics and is usually found in some version or another all over the Caribbean and wherever you find a good tropical bar.    

     The next time you are traveling through Islamorada, stop by the Holiday Isle Tiki Bar and experience the original Rum Runner for yourself.     ;o)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sharing the Day with Nature and Rum

     I spent most of the day yesterday out at Snipes and Mud Keys just drifting and enjoying mother nature at her best.     As I walked the beach and sand bars of low tide I found little worlds in the tidal pool and birds that came by to see what we were up to as we explored the tidal zone searching for new worlds.    This area is usually full  of revelers and sun worshipers, but on this Tuesday afternoon, the tide was unusually low making it harder to the boats to make their way out to this marvelous area.   

     Because ewe travel in a little 12 foot inflatable boat out some 15 mile from Key West to get to this area the shallow waters don't pose much of a problem for us as we drift along the edge of the mangroves observing the beauty of these keys.      Today we were lucky enough to come a cross a pod of dolphin about 20 strong that we were able to hang with for a while before moving on and later the tiny world of the tidal pool and all it's curious life forms.

     As we drifted though the mangroves of Mud Key we saw many different fish and even a couple of rays as we floated along sipping on a nice rum and watching intently into the clear waters to see what would appear next.     As I looked up a curious gull was circling us and watching us watch the fish and what was in the water.       I do have to say it really becomes clear to me why I live where I do on a day like today  when the sky's are blue and the water is clear and only being colored by the bottom.      I hope you enjoyed my day as much as I did.     ;o)