Sunday, September 30, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Bacardi Building Havana

Bacardi Building on Avenida de Belgica
   The most predominant building in Old Havana is the Bacardi Building or Edifico Bacardi as it is called in Havana.  This is probably on of the best examples of Art Deco architecture anywhere.   The exterior and the interior of this magnificent building is really hard to describe.   The detail of the finish work is nothing short of spectacular.   it is truly a monument to the Bacardi empire of the 30's.

Architect's Office in the Building
     Designed by architects Esteban Rodriguez Castells, Rafael Fernandez Ruenes, and Jose Menendez, it is the largest and arguably the most impressive structure in Old Havana.   Architect Esteban Rodriguez Castells originally won the competition for the construction of the building with a neo-renaissance design, but later revised the design to an Art Deco style after visiting the 1925 industrial modern art exposition in Paris.   The 12 story building  was completed in 1930.

Entry on the ground floor
     The lavish decorations of the facade are constructed of Bavarian Granite with inlaid brass embellishments including  an art deco stylized version of the Havana coat of arms.   The upper building is faced with glazed terracotta reliefs with patterns of flowers, and female nudes created by Maxwell Parrish.  The blue mirrors, stucco reliefs; brushed and polished brass; mural paintings; mahogany and cedar paneling; stained and etched glass; gold leaf and rose colored, pale green and black inlaid marble from Germany, Sweden, Norway, Italy, France, Belgium, and Hungary all make up the sumptuous interior details of the Edificio Bacardi.  The lamps and the other fittings throughout the building are classic examples of the Art Deco style

     The upper tower is crowned with a three dimensional statue of the famous Bacardi Bat.   This is a real appropriate crown for the building that stood for everything rum when it was constructed. 

     After the Cuban Revolution  and the departure of Bacardi from Cuba, the building became an office building.  The Office of the City Historian of Havana began the restoration of the Edificio Bacardi at the end of the 1990's and it was completed in 2003.   Today there is still some signs of more restoration going on throughout the structure.

     On the mezzanine floor there is an operational bar that clearly has some of the most beautiful wood work that I've seen anywhere.    It was a pleasure to be able to go and stand behind the bar and picture life of the fabulous sumptuous living style within the Bacardi Building.    The ironic part of the whole the bar was that the rum served in the Bacardi Building mezzanine bar was Havana Club.  

    This is a king sized don't miss when you do get the chance to visit Havana and the rest of Cuba, hopefully in the very near future.   ;o)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Saturday Night Full Moon Party at the Hurricane Hole

     This Saturday Night at the Hurricane Hole Bar there is going to be a Full Moon Party from 10:00pm til Midnight.   Loaded with special prices at the bar and great food on a special late night menu.     This is only one of the really fun events that happen regularly at the Hurricane Hole.    Tuesday and Sunday night there is Karaoke with Gary and Debbie, and Friday and Saturday nights you have local musicians to entertain you.   Monday and Friday evenings upstairs there is Texas Hold'em card games with Jeremy as your dealer, really great group of players to make the game fun.

     This is the place that you can find me nearly every evening when I'm in town.   This dockside bar has the vibe of "Old Key West", the waterfront town with all of the local pirates and fishermen hanging around telling their fishing tales and other assorted stories.  I mean where else will you see a beer bottle holder on a cast?   They welcome all visitors and usually keep them coming back  year after year as we party into the evening.   No late night here, the bar and restaurant does close at midnight.   I'd never be able to make it back to work the next morning to write this blog if I stayed even close to midnight.   Temptation is a very bad thing, but once in a while I have been seen there a bit after 9:00 pm.  

     This is the place to book your fishing charter, these guys at the marina will bring you home the catch of the day.   There are virtually every type of charter boat available from flats to deep sea fishing and all of the captains are very knowledgeable of the waters around Key West yielding the big catches.

    Many of the fish plates served by the restaurant are caught the same day and offer a fine dining experience out on the dock enjoying the great food and the nice breezes of the evening.

    The bar offers a good selection of beer, wine, and spirits with bartenders that know how to mix a fine cocktail.  A pretty or friendly smile, depending on who is behind the bar at the time is the finishing touch to make you feel at home and welcome at the "Hole".     For me, this is my equivalent to Hemingway's "El Floridita" in Havana.   I arrive and the bartenders know what I drink and it is served up to me by the time I get the dinghy tied up and snag a seat at or near the bar.  

    If your are local or just visiting, don't forget to stop by Saturday Night for the Full Moon Party at 10:00pm til Midnight.   I might see you there, if Saturday at the Rum Bar doesn't wear me out first.   ;o)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Life Returning to "Normal"

    This is the week when it all sets in that I am back to the everyday routine of work and a trip to the Hurricane Hole afterward.    This is a routine that I pretty much follow most days down here in the Keys, but yesterday was a bit of a different one for me.   The days started off pretty "normal" with a visit to the office, writing the blog, answering all of my emails etc.    Then it was back to work at the Rum Bar, still pretty "normal".    The day began to get strange as I sat myself on the scooter.   About three quarters of the way home and a "weird" little cloud dumped a ton of rain on my head.   OK, that really isn't that strange here in the tropics, but it had been sunny all day and most of the way home, the customers had been complaining all day about the heat as they walked into the bar to cool off.   This wasn't the end for the day that I had anticipated.

     Anyway after running down the dock dodging the raindrops, by now I had dawned my foul weather gear, a bit late, but better late than never.   Changed my clothes, a bit more coverage than usual, long sleeve shirt instead of a tank top, cool evening, after the rain and all, jumped into the dinghy to head over to the Hurricane Hole, the sky was blue and the water was calm again.     This was such a day of contrasts as I moved from one part of the day to another.   When the sun started setting I was sitting on my bar stool glancing out over the water I really wasn't all that surprised when the sky and the water started lighting up with reds, oranges, purples and yellows.    This was one of the most beautiful sunsets that I've see here in the keys in some time.    This day has made so many twists and turns as the grains of sand flowed through the hour glass, I really found it very interesting how the completion of the day had kept changing so quickly.    I guess all in all a pretty "normal" day in paradise.  ;o)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Where Did Hemingway's Drink in Havana Part 3

     Papa's favorite watering hole seemed to be the El Floridita with his old friend Constante Ribalaigua, owner and head barman.     Located at the corner of Obispo and Monserrate Streets, the only location since it was opened in 1817 as the "La Pina de Plata" (the Silver Pineapple).     Nearly 100 years later, a number of North American tourists persuaded the owner to change the name to El Florida, but with time it became known as "El Floridita".

     In 1914, Constante began working at El Floridita as a barman, and in 1917, he became the owner.    Constante is credited with creating the frozen daiquiri, and many other fruit and rum cocktails.   The motto on the refrigerators tells the story "La Cuna del Daiquiri" (The Cradle of the Daiquiri).   The highly prized traditions of the early bartenders are still present today when Alex and his staff prepare the cocktails for you.

     There are a number of very fine daiquiris that are made to the exacting standards of Constante, but few can match the flavor and quality of the "Papa Dobles" or Papa's Double.    This simply means that there is twice the rum and the sugar is left out.  Papa felt that if he drank 14 to 16 of these a night, which he was known to do, he would get sick from all of the sugar.   Papa would sit in the corner virtually every time, and enjoy his daiquiri until it was time to go home.   

     To this day, you can have a cocktail with the statue of Ernest where his favorite seat was located.   His wooden bar stool that he occupied can be seen in his house, Finca de Vigia in the city of San Francisco de Paula.   It was a pleasure for me to be able to sit and share some time with his image over in the corner.   It gives you a feeling that he still might be around somewhere in the building.    His spirit of fun is definitely around.

     I feel like that El Floridita was my personal favorite bar that we attended in Havana, and I can really feel the vibe that drew Papa to the place so regularly as well.    The place has some kind of magic about it, the fun just doesn't ever end while you are there.   

     The group of us went to the grave site of Constante Ribalaigua and mixed up a batch of Hemingway Daiquiris and toasted the genius of Cuba most famous barman.    This was a very moving moment for all of us that were involved.

      This is the last of the series of three article about Hemingway's watering holes in Havana, but the ones that he did frequent were some of the best Havana had to offer.    He hung out in all of the fun places and did a great job of having so many of his famous friends to hang out with him there in Havana.   People like Spencer Tracy, Ava Gardner, Clark Gable, just to mention a few, could be found  in his company almost any time.   These are places that you need to visit if you find yourself in Havana at some future time.    All of them will leave an indelible impression with you.   ;o)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Where Did Hemingway Drink in Havana? Part 2

     La Bodeguita del Medio was Papa's favorite place for Mojitos, and another of the well known restaurant / bars in Old Havana in the 40's and 50's.   La Bodeguita del Medio or Bodega in the Middle, was first opened in 1942 by Angel Martinez.   He sold Cuban products and from time to time would serve dinner at the "Casa Martinez".    By 1949, the food and drinks made it the center of Havana's cultural aficionados.     The bodega had a bohemian charm that attracted writers, poets, choreographers, musicians, and journalists.    Felito Ayon, one of the patrons, often referred to the location as "La Bodeguita del Medio, and on April 26, 1950 the name was adopted and as they say the rest is history.

     Many of the famous regulars at La Bodeguita del Medio were, Nat King Cole, Marlene Dietrich, and of course Ernest Hemingway.    The famous handwritten  acclamation of the La Bodeguita del Medio Mojitos is still on the wall behind the bar today.   

     In September of 1997, a bomb exploded in the Bodeguita del Medio, Hotel Copacabana, Triton Hotel, and the Chateau Miramar Hotel as part of a bombing campaign against tourists.   The tourist were what was fueling the economical recovery for the Castro led government and the opposition was determined to stop it.    Just moments before the blast the bartender was asked to pose with Ernesto Cruz Leon, the Salvadorian mercenary convicted of the bombing.  

     Today La Bodeguita del Medio is in full operation and the place is teeming with tourists and locals as well.   I thoroughly enjoy the port apps and mojito there and was able to writ my name on the wall along with the thousands of others already there.   This is a must see if you ever make Havana.  ;o)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Where did Hemingway Drink in Havana? Part 1

   From the interest in the little tidbit I had for my Sunday Snap-shot, I guess it is time to look a bit more in depth about the Haunts of Hemingway in Havana. 

     In some of the early visits with Josie Russell,  Hemingway and Russell were known to frequent "Sloppy Joe's" in Havana, a well known bar in the center of Old Havana.    In 1959, following the Cuban Revolution, Sloppy Joe's Bar was closed and the legndary furnishings abandoned.   I was told that the ceiling collapsed in the bar and the building had fallen into disrepair, but there has been a restoration project that has been going on for several years, and the progress has been slow getting things completed.  
Sloppy Joe's Today
The Original "Long Bar" is now at the Havana Club Museum in Old Havana, and the new bar is currently being constructed as seen to the right.

     Sloppy Joe's was one of the most popular bars in Havana during the 30's, Americans coming to Havana to enjoy liquor, that was not available in the US.   Located at the Corner of Zulueta and Animas Streets, Sloppy Joe's thrived for many years.

Original Long Bar at the Havana Club Museum
     One of his usual clients was Ernest Hemingway. He visited Jose Garcia in several occasions with his pal, Joe Russell who was the owner of another Sloppy Joe's Bar in Cayo Hueso, a name Hemingway had suggested in honour to Mr. Garcia. The tourists that visited Havana during that epoch, mostly North Americans, preferred two places: Sloppy Joe's Bar, and the beautiful race horse track of Havana controlled by Meyer Lansky's mafia. 

    People who visited Havana during those decades of great splendour had to go to three different places when it was about food and enjoyment: "El Floridita" , "Sloppy Joe's Bar", and "La Bodeguita del Medio", otherwise, they wouldn't have visited Havana city. 

     Sloppy Joe's Bar was in its time a very popular place, not only appreciated for its fine drinks and liquors but also for its connotation of preferential atmosphere, attractive appointments, as well as for having the longest mahogany bar in Cuba, and perhaps of the whole world. This bar had a great splendour in the 30's and 40's, and it was visited frequently by many Hollywood celebrities and international bohemian characters.
You can read more about Sloppy Joe's Havana at .

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Papa Hemingway's Haunts in Old Havana

Found in La Bodeguita del Medio in Old Havana, Cuba

   Ernest Hemingway left a huge legacy in Old Havana and San Francisco de Paula in the twenty or so years that he lived there.    He became the adopted son of Cuba during his stay there.    The warmth and love felt by the Cubans for his is visible as I wandered through town.   There seem to be as many images of Hemingway as there are of Che Guevara at least in and around Old Havana.   He was truly larger than life  when he was in Havana.

Che Guevara

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Diplomatico Rums at Rum Bar for Conched in Key West Bar Crawl

     The 2nd Annual Conched in Key West Bar Crawl is the event of the day here in Key West.   The Rum Bar is the third stop of the event and will feature Diplomatico Rums in the Hemingway Daiquiri to be distributed to the crawlers.    This is a very special event for rum enthusiasts, and one that will enable you to see the Key West rum world in action.     Make it a point to stop by the Rum Bar today even if you are not a part of the crawl and chat about rum and my recent travels to Havana and seeing the Hemingway life style in Cuba.

     The Hemingway Daiquiri is an authentic one like those served to Papa Hemingway at the El Floridita in Old Havana.   It contains fresh squeezed lime juice, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, grapefruit juice, sweetener, and Diplomatico Blanco Rum.    For the strong at heart I will also serve the "Papa Dobles", Hemingway's personal favorite which has twice the rum, and forgets the sweetener.  The cocktails have been verified as to their recipe by my recent trip the El Floridita last week. 

Robert Burr will also be at the Rum Bar to introduce you to his new Rob's Rum Guide.   This is a comprehensive look at the great rums that are available to the American public and your palate.   These are great booklets that are filled with the information that you need to put the right rums on your table.    Rob will be there to help you answer your rum questions and enjoy your afternoon at the Rum Bar.

     I'm looking forward seeing the 100 or so rum enthusiasts that are stopping by today to enjoy the fun atmosphere of the Rum Bar at the Speakeasy Inn.   This is a great event that supports Reef Relief, a absolutely vital organization that is working to restore our reefs around the keys.    I'll see all of you today and this afternoon, it is going to be a really fun event in which you can participate and have a fine cocktail or two.   See you there.  ;o)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Day One in Havana, Cuba

     The first thing that hits you as you arrive at Jose Marti Aero Puerto is that you have stepped back into the 50’s.   The ramp you walk down to deplane, the buildings of the terminal.    The first sign of modern technology is when you check in to Cuba at customs.  The have high tech computers and cameras.   After the check in process is completed, the next thing as you walk out of the terminal and greet the parking lot filled with 50’s era automobiles.    On closer inspection, the fact that these relics are still around in this salty corrosive environment is unbelievable.   Many of these are a hybrid of different models and makes fitted together to keep them moving.   Chevys with Pontiacs and Buicks; Plymouths and Dodges;  They make for a very interesting group of autos.  Most of them are in pretty good shape for their ages and the fact that they have been operated in the salty tropical area.   

     Next we arrive at the Telegrafo Hotel which we will call home for the 5 days we are in town.   The hotels has a really great bar and restaurant.  The cocktails are all made with real Cuban Rums like Havana Club and Santiago de Cuba (made in the original Bacardi Distillery), and hall in the traditional Cuban style.   

El Floridita & Bacardi Building
     Off we go into the streets; first stop is in front of the Old Bacardi Building, one of the most beautiful buildings in Old Havana.     From there we look to the right and right in front of us is El Floridita.    Inside and straight for the bar and have a Papa Dobles and a seat next to Hemingway enjoying the cocktail and take a picture to look back on the whole experience later. The daiquiris were to die for, but the atmosphere of the d├ęcor and the music makes me feel like Ernest would walk in at any time.    By the way, he is standing in the corner, ready to pose for your pictures.

Hotel Ambros Mundo
     Next it was off to the Ambros Mundo Hotel, where Hemingway lived until he bought his house, “Finca La Vigia” built in 1886 by Miguel Pascual y Baguar, a Spanish Architect, and Hemingway bought in 1940 for $40,000.    The hotel was the perfect location, just a few blocks from El Floridita, Bacardi Building, La Bodeguita del Medio, and so many other places.   

    Now it is off to La Bodeguita del Medio for a Mojito.    This is another place that is in a narrow alley of cobble stones and old architecture.   Great vibe in the place and it is standing room only as you get push into a square foot or so to order your mojito.    This is a bodega by US standards, but the narrow alley and the small entrance make this a must see, you must push your way to the bar to have one of their Mojitos.  The food is really good too, by the way. 
     The other exciting bar in Havana that I would have liked to had a drink at was Sloppy Joe's, but it is being reconditioned, but we were able to get inside and see the reconstruction of the famous long bar.     The original bar is at the Havana Club Museum where you can get a cocktail served on  it when you go through the museum.

     This was just the first day of the five days that Julio is so ably guiding us through the streets and the back alleys of Old Havana.    The part that amazes me is how you can turn any corner and there is something there that catches your eye.     The other thing that was a real surprise is hearing the rest of the story if you will from the people who live here and the pride in their country.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Social Host" Laws: You Could Be in Trouble

Backyard parties for the under 21 set can lead you to jail if you are not on top of what is going on.    28 of the 50 states have “social host” laws on the books and they are being enforced.   A few other states like California have related laws that are circumscribed laws that only impose penalties if someone is hurt.
    In an article by Jennifer Levitz on September 11, 2012, in the Wall Street Journal she talks of several cases where these laws have gotten several people in serious trouble hosting parties for their under age children.
WARWICK, R.I.—Backyard bonfires and pool parties are popular pastimes for teenagers. But if alcohol enters the scene, the young revelers aren't the only ones who can land in trouble.
     Public officials who have waged campaigns against underage drinkers are increasingly targeting the adults who host them. In May, a Massachusetts mother went to jail for permitting teenage drinking at home. The 18-year-old son of Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee was recently in hot water over a party he held in May.
Terri Serra listens during her trial for allegedly violating Rhode Island's 'social host' law.

     And in Rhode Island, a former school-board member and cheerleading coach is currently on trial for allegedly allowing her daughter to host a post-homecoming gathering at which teens drank beer. She has pleaded not guilty.

     All are in the spotlight under "social host" laws, which impose criminal or civil penalties on hosts who permit underage drinking on their property, regardless of who supplies the alcohol or whether anyone gets hurt. Some 28 states had adopted such laws as of January, up from 18 in 2005, according to the National Institutes of Health.

     A handful of other states, including California, have passed more circumscribed laws imposing penalties on hosts if someone is harmed by underage drinking. And many cities and counties—from Cobb County, Ga., to El Paso, Texas—are passing or debating their own ordinances.

      It is a reason for parents even here in Florida to take notice and be aware of what your children are doing even in your own backyard.     You could be spending several months in jail even if no one is hurt as a result of the party.    The article is a real “eye-opener” for those with kids that have pool parties that you are responsible for the supervision of.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Conched In Key West Bar Crawl

     The 2012 end of summer party is the major event this week.  The second annual Conched in Key West Bar Crawl gets underway on Friday night September 21 at the La Concha with a Pre- Party Party.    Saturday at 2 pm is the Main event, the Second Annual Conched in Key West Bar Crawl.

This years event is for the benefit of the Reef Relief in Key West.   Mike Streeter of "Rum Connection" is quoted in Chilled Magazine as saying,

 “We have the utmost respect for the work that Reef Relief does here in the Florida Keys to protect our unique environment.   It’s gratifying to see so many friends join in the fun while giving back to those that do the most to preserve coral reefs and our marine sanctuaries.”

     This is going to be a fun event filled with good fun and some very special drinks.  Participants will enjoy tropical libations while leisurely strolling along Key West’s famed Duval Street, stopping at The Cork & Stogie, the Rum Bar at Speakeasy Inn, Pearl’s, Kelley’s, the Bottle Cap, Bogarts, Cowboy Bills, Willie T’s and Smokin’ Tuna.     The cost is $30 and includes a t-shirt, drink specials, a Cruzan Rum cup and a donation to the non-profit organization.

Remember that I will be behind the bar at the Rum Bar at the Speakeasy Inn serving a very special "Hemingway Daiquiri" made the traditional "La Floridita" way with Diplomatico Blanco ultra premium white rum.    Rob Burr will also be on hand to introduce you to "Rob's Rum Guide", the definitive guide to the sugar cane spirits.


 This is going to be a really great event with a lot of fun people crawling through Key West for an important cause, Reef Relief of Key West.  ;o)


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dominican Club Rum


     Dominican Club Rum, is now available here in Florida.   This is a wonderful rum that for its young age is very sophisticated, flavorful and smooth.     Many of the new rums today lack the total package that this fine rum is offering.   I have ordered it for the rum Bar and it will be on the shelf very soon.    It is my opinion that this will soon become one of the classic rums.     One that will be requested on a regular basis at the Rum Bar in the near future.

     An amber colored rum, Dominican Club Rum has a delicate balance of aromas from mocha, banana, and buttermilk.   This rum doesn't have a lot of sweetness on the palate, it even borders on the dry side.  Dominican Club is medium bodied, well rounded, with silky fruited flavors on the palate. The rum is somewhat spicy with hints of praline in the finish.

     I think this is going to be one of the new rums that you will add to your collection, both as a sipper, and as a mixer for your premium cocktails.   Dominican Club Rum will really surprise you.     ;o)      

Monday, September 17, 2012

Summer is Almost Officially Over

    September 22nd is the official end of summer for 2012, and I can hardly believe that it disappeared so quickly this year.    I'm lucky I guess being able to make a living here in the tropics where it is a little harder to tell summer from fall, but I'm seeing some changes in Temperature and the first signs of leaves changing colors in the northern tier of states.   This is a great time to take advantage of the warm evenings and get to know a new rum on the patio before the colder seasons return.

    There ares so many new rums on the market now, and I'm really not going to give you a list, this is not the purpose for the article.    The idea is for you to take a few minutes walking the aisles of your favorite liquor store and discover a new rum, it could be a great new discovery that will become your new favorite.    This is the fun of becoming a rum aficionado.   It is the exploration and locating and trying a new rum for the first time.   A really great tool to use for research about different rums that are out on the market today is Rob's Rum Guide, a great pamphlet that Robert Burr produces and reviews over 300 different rums.   You can look at the book and order it on line at   This will help you in narrowing down you rums that you will probably be interested in.

   With a little bit of investigation you too will be on the back porch enjoying a snifter of fine rum, relaxing and easing away the stress of your day in the evening hours.   Enjoy your special rum in your own special way to celebrate another summer coming to an end here in the northern hemisphere.   ;o)


Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Sun, The Wind, and The Sea

    The forces of nature can carve beauty with the tools she possesses, Wind, Sun, and Sea.