Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Walled City of Old San Juan

     One of the most beautiful historic cities that we visited on our recent Caribbean excursion was the Walled City of San Juan.    It's historic buildings and two forts that protected it makes this a city that has your head spinning with every step.      Walking the narrow streets and seeing the unique shops, restaurants, and bars took the better part of two days.      You cannot begin to see all of the sites even in a short visit.    It was fun sharing what we had found with our friends that went out independently in a different direction.  

San Cristobal
     The two forts that protected the city from all sides are amazing works that are perched on the cliffs always watchful to the sea.     El Morro and San Cristobal combined with the walls around the city made this an unpenatratable fortress from the late 1500's.   

El Morro

     The real beauty of the city is what is within the walls, great shops and great restaurants are all a part of this old historic district.      I spent two days riding around the town on the free trolley, just amazed by all the beautiful and interesting places that were there.     Lunch on a little patio cafe or sitting on the veranda of a bar sipping a great rum, just walk around and you will find something of interest every where you turn.     Don't just spend an hour or so here, plan to have at least 2 days and nights to really get the feel for this great historic place.     ;o)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Barbados: Sugar, Rum, Beaches, and Beauty

     The Bajan country side is a thing of beauty, every where you look all you see is historic and beautiful countryside.     Let me take you on a visual tour of the Bajan country side that we got to enjoy a couple of weeks ago.

The beaches, the countrysides, and the people of Barbados make this one of the really fun stops of the Rum Cruise.     Don't miss this marvelous island in any of your trips to the Caribbean.     The history and the way it has been preserved and is being restored makes you fell like you are living in the era of slaves, sugar, and rum.     ;o) 

Monday, November 28, 2011

"The Spirit of Miami": The Revival of a Family Rum

    Distileria Caneca, a family business located in the Wynwood neighborhood of Doral, will be offering the first bottles of rum for sale to the public on New Years Day.     Matt Malone found himself looking for a new way of making a living after an auto accident.    He was inspired by his wife's family history of rum making in Puerto Rico for five generations, he decided to try his hand at it.     Matt trained in Puerto Rico, then at Bavarian Brewing Technologies in order to learn the necessary skills to produce a good rum.

     It is said that he pipes samba music into his oak lined vats which rest the rum.     This causes a vibe that speeds the aging process a bit and giving the rum unique aging experience.    The rum is made from molasses that comes from South Florida's sugar industry.     The new rum will be named in December, and released in January for sale to the public.   

     I am looking forward to being able to try this new rum and potentially making it available at the Rum Bar here in Key West.     ;o)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Freedom of Flight

The ability to just sit on the veranda of your condo overlooking Water Bay and watch the fabulous show of the birds as they fly and dive into the water.    I can do this for hours and never get tired of watching them.     A nice glass of one of my favorite rums makes this even better.   ;o)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Rum Shops of Barbados

     One of the highlights of our two week rum excursion was a visit to several of the famous Bajan Rum Shops along the western and southern sides of the island.       Our taxi driver was gracious enough to put up with the four of us Caribbean crazy people as we imbibed ourselves in the local culture.     First of all let’s talk about what a rum shop is.     These are similar to our bars, in that they sell spirits by the drink, but what is different is that you can come in with a group of like minded friends, buy a bottle of rum, get glasses with ice and a mix, take them to your table and enjoy them.      The “Party of Five”, June, Marta, Mike, Carl, and myself, bounced from rum shop to rum shop all afternoon learning about this Bajan wonder.

     It seems these rum shops are everywhere on the island, from neighborhoods, to beach side along the coast.     These places seem to be where friends gather to play cards, dominoes, share a bottle of fine rum and just plain talk.    For us it was a chance to have another rum crawl, only this time it wasn’t me at the helm and I could participate in the fun.     I believe that we visited 9 or so of these rum shops during our afternoon crawl and a couple of very beautiful beaches as well.  

     This impromptu crawl was one of the highlights of this visit to Barbados.    It never ceases to amaze me what new things you can find when you hire a taxi for the day and just have them guide you around their island.     Hugh was the perfect cabbie; he listened to what we were looking for and made it happen.     I just want to say a heartfelt thank you to Hugh for his effort and putting up with the “Party of Five” all afternoon.     By the way, we did make it back to the ship on time.    ;o)
Thank You to Hugh!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Antigua: Scooters to Devil's Bridge

     The Island of Antigua has some of the most beautiful scenery in the Caribbean.     Our scooter trip to the Northeastern part of the island found us at Devil's Bridge, a part of Indian Town National Park.   This place removed any doubt about the splendor that nature has bestowed upon this island.     Created by the sea after several centuries of pounding on the soft limestone below the bridge.     This natural arch consists of a much harder limestone that is resistant to the sea's erosion that still stands while the softer material below it has been washed away. 

     Devil's Bridge got it name because of the large number of slaves that worked the nearby estates had thrown themselves into the sea from the bridge.     The angry seas along this coast will swallow up and slam them into the cliffs amost anything she that gets caught in her fury.    Those who fall have little or no hope of survival.     It was said that the Devil would call them to cast themselves into the sea.     Thus the name, Devil's Bridge.      The draw to the bridge is believed to be strong in order for so many suicides to have occurred. 
     The area around the bridge is very unique also.     This is a wild area of the Indian Town National Park, and has been an environmentally protected since the 1950's.     Covered with Acacia Trees, a dry shrub known locally as "Cassie" and Century Plants, this area is also home to numerous bird species and herds of wild donkeys.       There is a beautiful meadow right above the Devil's Bridge that is a perfect place for a picnic and watching as the surf pounds the cliffs and the bridge.              

    If you are on the Island of Antigua, take the time to visit this remote National Park and enjoy the beautiful scenery and the wild life.     This was a great trip, a rest from the busy docks.     We did get back to the rum at the end of the day by visiting Antigua Distillery where we enjoyed sampling some fine English Harbour Rums.     ;o)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Brugal 1888: Celebrating 120 Years of Rum Making

     The Dominican Republic's Brugal celebrated 120 years by five generations of the family masterfully making rum with the introduction of Brugal 1888 Rum.     This is a dark amber rum that is for real for the rum lover to enjoy.     This is a definite top shelf rum that boasts smooth sweetness on the palate that quickly turns dry and smokey at the finish.    The flavor of the sherry barrel aging is most prominent in the finish, plus it has notes of scotch and sherry on the nose.     The new rum is artfully aged in first American Oak, then finished European Oak casks that were used to rest sherry.

     For the newbie to sugar cane spirits, who is looking widen their experiences beyond scotch or whiskey, this is a great transition rum that can hold it's weight with many of the single malts.     You can sample this one neat, but a cube of ice in Brugal 1888 like in a good scotch it will open the spirit up and make it even better.

     The Brugal is being distributed by Republic National and is available in most of the better liquor stores.     This is definitely one that you need to try.   ;o)



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Frozen Day in the Rum Lab

The Rum Lab suffered from Thanksgiving preparation yesterday, in that many of the usual mice were unable to attend.     We proceeded with the experimentation with an abbreviated staff, but the results were very encouraging.

     The big gain of the day was the new Bahama Bob's #4 Syrup.     This new syrup was concocted from the ideas developed in #3 Syrup, but with a different group of spices to flavor it.     This time the syrup was simmered for about a half hour before allowing it to cool and be bottled.    It has a better texture and a very exciting flavor profile attained from simmering the mix.     Again the recipe will be in the book for all of the Bahama Bob's Cocktail Syrups.

     Frozen drinks was the subject matter for the Rum Lab yesterday.   We tried some different frozen cocktails ideas that proved to be very exciting.     We tried to work some of the Tiki Style ingredients into some frozen drinks that would yield  the usual watered down frozen drinks when a regular cocktail is put into the blender.    We found that it took very bold flavors to make a good frozen cocktails that were rather was flavorful from start to finish.     This approach eliminated that end of the frozen drink watery slush.

Frozen Tiki
  • 1 oz. Brinley Gold Lime Rum
  • 1 oz. Centenario 7 Year Old Rum
  • 1/2 oz. Plantation Overproof Rum
  • 1/2 oz. Triple Sec
  • 1 oz. Grapefruit Juice
  • 1 oz. Pineapple Juice
  • 1/4 oz. Bahama Bob's #4 Syrup
Place all ingredients in the blender with ice and blend until smooth.     Serve in a pint glass and garnish with a sprig of mint and an orange wheel.

     This different approach was taken with many different ingredients, and the bold ones were the ones that really worked well.    We even took a can of "Libby's Skinny Fruit", a tropical salad, and pureed it into a frozen cocktail using rum, and lime juice.    This looked and felt like a smoothie with a little bit of a rum kick to the finish.     We found a lot of different ideas that we will pursue next week as the research goes ahead to the next level.     ;o)    

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    After Missing Two Weeks: Rum Lab Today!!!

         Traveling for the past few weeks, I've really missed working in the Rum Lab.     Today we will be back experimenting  again.     I'm not real sure what we will be working with at this time, but It will be figured out before 2pm, when the lab mice arrive and we start mixing the new concoctions.     I know that we will be working with another new syrup that I'm cooking up today.   Following the success of  Bahama Bob's #3 Syrup's, I have a couple of new ideas for another new syrup.    I'll just have to see how it works out.

         We are having a couple of guest mice from North Carolina in the lab today as well as many of the regulars.      This will make an interesting experiment having outside Key West mice offering up feed back as well as our regulars.  

          Thinking of working with the frozen drinks today, this will be a good place to experiment with the syrups as well.     I will have to see what comes out of my head today as 2 pm approachs.        I've been wanting to do this for some time and today is a warm day perfect for frozen drinks.      ;o)


    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Boating in the Virgin Islands: Day 1

        The Virgin Islands offer a unique opportunity for boating unlike any other area.     Recently a group of four of us rented a 29' Fountain center console boat from Nauti Nympths in Red Hook and went out for an adventure around the islands.      This means of transport gives you the freedom to rove the waterways in any manner that you choose.     We had the boat for 3 fabulous days, and got to experience adventures that we will be talking about for years.
         The first day we checked in with British Customs at Soper's Hole, Tortola and took off for Road Harbour.      There we visited Pusser's Outpost for a round of cocktails and a bit of exploration.     After wandering around the city for a while it was back to the Sir Francis Drake Channel and more exploration of the South side if Tortola.     The channel can get a little bit rough with all of the ferry's and boat that use it, but the Fountain slices through the waves and chop like butter.

         We kept heading East up the channel to Virgin Gorda where we entered the Gorda Sound and the Saba Rock Resort.     This is a great little spot that is a cross between a museum and an resort.    They have antique outboard motors, racing boats, salvaged gold and silver from old sunken ships, and even some Toucans.      Thought that was all very fun and interesting, we had stopped there for lunch and another round of cocktails.     This place offers some of the best food anywhere in the islands.    

    I had the conch steak, others had fish taco's, and all of us were stuffed and smiling as we moved away from the docks.       As we exited Gorda Sound we met up with a 12 to 14 foot wave that gave us a real lift, especially on a full stomach, but all ended dwell as the boat settled on the backside of the wave.

          Next we decided to venture around the North side of  Beef Island and Tortola to visit Cane Garden Bay and the Callwood Distillery.      As we got on the North side of Tortola we were greeted by some 16 to 18 foot rollers.     These were long frequency waves that were not breaking, so we kept right  on our course for Cane Garden Bay.     As we approached the Bay, we noticed that these very large waves we had been running up and down for the past hour or so were breaking at the entrance to the Bay.     We chose not to deal with the surf there and decided to go to Great Harbour in Jost Van Dyke instead.

         Great Harbour is home for Foxy's, a great watering hole and restaurant.     We found Foxy there and had a great opportunity to spend some time there with him in a very relaxed atmosphere.    The project that Foxy heads up, making a traditional native sailing vessel is nearing completion.   This vessel is being built by the High School students as a way to understand and appreciate the way their ancestor's built boats to travel around the Virgin Island waterways.

         Our conversation with Foxy and a chance for Carl to pose with him by the picture that he had sent him from a previous visit was really nice.     We were able to share some experiences with Foxy and his daughter as we sipped still another cocktail.      The day was getting short, and it was time for us to head back to Red Hook, after a stop at Cruz Bay and the US Customs office to check back into the US Virgin Islands.

         This was only the first of three days that we would spend on the waterways and islands that make up the Virgin Islands.     We came back to the dock, filled the boat with "Petrol", and put it away for the evening.   Next up was a visit the the "Island Time Bar" and a chance for the captain to enjoy a cocktail or 6  before going back up the hill to the resort and supper.   ;o)


    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Sunday and it is Back to the Rum Bar and Doing What I Really Love Doing

    ARRRRRRR it is always a fun day in the Islands and Key West is still my home and it is so good to be home and back with all my favorite people at the Rum Bar.     Stop by and lets talk Islands and have a cocktail that can take you there.   ;o)

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    St. Thomas:The Final Day

         Thursday found us in St. Thomas with a beautiful day to go back and revisit some of our favorite places on the island.    First it was down to Red Hook and a couple of cocktails at Molly Malone’s on the water front.     We wandered the docks and watched as the fleet of “Naughty Nymph s, that we enjoy so much the previous week, headed out for the day.

         Next we stopped by Industrial Boat yard to see our friend Bob Z, an old racing days buddy.     After a couple of cocktails and a trip down memory lane it was back in the Safari for a trip over to Megan’s Bay for some time in the sun.     The Safaris are a great public transportation system that you pay $2 each to ride from the time you get on until you reach your destination.

         Megan’s Bay is National Geographic’s “Top Ten beaches in the World”.     This is a great retreat from the hustle and bustle of Charlotte Amalie.    The white soft and fine sands make it great beach to walk or sun bath on.     Swimming or snorkeling in the warm and beautifully colored waters is really why you travel across the island for.  

         With the sun setting over the mountain it is time to hustle back to the ship before we are left behind here in St. Thomas.     This is our last night on the ship; we must get packed before morning.     The farewell party is tonight for the Rum Group that has had such a great time on the cruise togI’d like to Send out a special thanks to Robert and Robin Burr for doing a fabulous job of putting this adventure together for all of us.    These two weeks have given me a mountain of pictures and stories that will provide stories for the next few months, and I can’t wait to get back and start putting them together.   ;o)

    St. Maarten: Day 13

         Today is Thursday and we have docked along with four other cruise ships in Phillipsburg, on the Dutch side of St. Maarten.     This is the smallest island in the Caribbean to be ruled by two countries, the French and the Dutch.     As we disembark the Celebrity Summit, we pick-up a water taxi to take us around the harbour to the beaches and the town.    

         Wandering through these narrow streets, there are a multitude of shops, restaurants and bars to take care of your needs.    The taxis are everywhere if you need to go across island and see the rest of this 37 square mile island.

         We stopped for a rum tasting at the Guavaberry Emporium, where we sampled their Republic Rum and their many flavored liqueurs.    Their rums and liqueurs were all of a sweet nature and were very flavorful, boasting the true tastes of the infused botanicals.    

         We decided to make our visit to St. Maarten a short one, feeling the effects of our long scooter ride on Wednesday in Antigua.     Back to the ship we wandered visiting several shops on the way.   We had lunch on the ship, an afternoon enjoying the amenities of the ship’s aqua spa, plus sunning on the pool deck.     Tomorrow it is St. Thomas and a chance to revisit some friends before heading back to Puerto Rico.    :o)