Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunset on November

The Sun is Setting on November, bringing to an end another month.  As we look ahead to December and a fun holiday season, I like to think of all of the colors of November and all that has happened this rapidly fleeing year.  Today officially marks the end of another very quiet hurricane season down here in the keys.  ;o)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

History of The Zacapa Bottle Band

This is an interesting history that I came across the other day and I felt you might find it interesting as well.  Enjoy.

     Early Zacapa bottles came in a bottle covered in a petate - a hand woven matting made from palm leaves which dates from the Mayan period. More recently they feature a band around the middle of the bottle.
     The packaging of Ron Zacapa Centenario has changed a few times since its introduction in 1976. Lorena explains that only the outside has changed, not the inside. The process they use now is the same they used before.
     Though it is a process with a lot of hand labor and it is always possible that (slowly) some minor changes appear, but people have to understand that this is not a mathematical process but a very personal one.
     Some people say they have noticed a change in the flavor, but there is nothing changed in the process in the past 15 years that might explain that.
     Perhaps it is perception or something psychological. Many people think that since Zacapa is with Diageo the quality has to be different.
     At Zacapa they say this is not true. The bottle changed in 2004 and Zacapa wasn’t with Diageo at that moment. The bottle is now transparent instead of the old dark. Perhaps sunlight has its influence on the rum on a molecular level.
     Recently Lorena had a tasting in London with old and new bottles of their rums. She could not find any differences.
     The outside of the bottles has had a big metamorphose in 2004, especially the looks. The bottle used to be entirely wrapped in royal palm leaf which was hand woven by the women of the Chorti community in Jocotan.
     Now there is only a palm leaf band around the waist of the bottle and the label is decorated with illustrations of the flower:   The use of the dried palm leaves (known as petate is a reference to the pre-classical Mayan era in 1400 B.C.
     This petate was first made as floor-mats for Mayan kings, who were the only ones entitled to use it. It was believed that sitting on a petate changes your whole view of the world and forces you to look at life with humility and to see things for what they are.  
Until 2003 there were only a few artisans who produced about 2000 bands per month. In that year (2003) a productive chain was created that allowed Jocotan to sell its artisan products.   Now 350 artisans work here and produce 20.000 petate bands each month. This economic growth has raised the strength of women in the local community. The sustainability of this project is supported by the producers of Zacapa and has allowed these woman artisans to improve their quality of life. Other industries have followed suit and employed these workers to create other types of creations from petate.

    Finally, the bottling is done in the city of Mixco and so is the distribution. By doing all sort of processes in different cities, Zacapa Rum is integrated with the communities throughout the country. This is one of the reasons why there is a Petate around the bottle. It also symbolizes the unity of everything.
     Since Zacapa is so closely connected to the land and culture it is appropriate that the woven band is placed on the bottles.   Alas it is not known how many bottles Zacapa produces now per month or year. All they say, is they are a small company who won’t be growing suddenly just because they work with Diageo.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday: What Were they Thinking?

     I've really got to wonder what has happened to our holiday season.  It is nothing about time with friends and family and all about spending lots of money on meaningless stuff.   What has happened to a great Thanksgiving dinner and an evening at home with the family watching a football game or playing cards.  
     Nope, it is gobble down the dinner so we can rush to the Black Friday sales.   I really feel that the country is loosing something very important about the holidays.  It is not about how much money that you spend, it is about being with people and sharing, 

     Give the seasons a second thought this year and see if you can find more to it than just hustling out to the store and grabbing up all of the specials ahead of your neighbor and miss the real meaning of the holidays.   ;o)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to One and All

     I'm glad to be wishing all of you a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you are getting to be with the ones you love.   For me, I'm going to be at the "Rum Bar in Key West" all day Thursday making sure that everyone that is down here in Key West for your Thanksgiving holiday have a fun place to drop by and enjoy your day with me.

     For those of you that are staying home for the holiday, make the time to enjoy the family and or friends and don't get over stuffed where you have to miss "Black Friday".  Just Kidding.  ;o)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cracking the American Spirits Market

     People often ask me why I don't carry the great rum that had while they were in the Caribbean, but it is really expensive and time consuming to bring a new spirit into the US.   Two years ago Don Pancho Fernandez introduced his "Life's Work" rum Origenes, but I was finally to say that I have it for my customers in the "Rum Bar in Key West" last week.   What had to take place in order for this to happen?

      There was an article in the "Spirits Business" last week that gives you a pretty good idea of what has to transpire in order for brand to be on the shelf for sale
in America.

     Spirits brands continue to covet the US market, but it is one of the world’s most difficult markets to crack
     To make it in America is not just the dream of every British rock band since the Beatles’ invasion of 1964. Every non-US brand of vodka, gin, whisky, or whatever, also wants to crack the most lucrative and dynamic international spirits market on the planet. Thousands try, but few succeed.
     “The structure of the US market makes it theoretically almost impossible to break into,” says Jacob Ehrenkrona, CEO of Reformed Spirits, owner of Martin Miller’s gin. “Basically there hasn’t been a single European brand owned by an independent company that has really conquered America.” When pressed, he makes a possible exception for the Dutch vodka Ketel One, before Diageo bought a 50% stake and took over distribution in 2008.
     “Martin Miller’s has just about managed to get a foothold in America that no one can take away from us,” Ehrenkrona says. “We’ve made every mistake, but we’re still there and we’re growing.” The biggest mistake he sees time and again is “to be mesmerised by the opportunity the US represents. Most brands start in New York, California or Florida, and then other states start demanding the product. It becomes exciting and, all of a sudden, you get swept away by your own success and start spending money. You spend a fortune and spread yourself too thin. That’s the main reason people fail.”
     I hope this will help you understand why so many really fine rums are not being sold here in America.   I really wish it was easier, but the post prohibition laws for the distribution and sale of spirits here in the United States.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Coming Soon: Siesta Key Toasted Coconut Rum

     It is official, December 6th at 10:00 a.m. is the release date for Siesta Key  Toasted Coconut Rum! “Finally a coconut rum that doesn't taste like suntan lotion!”   Siesta Key Toasted Coconut Rum is made purely by an infusion of shredded toasted coconut with the rum.   Others may claim "natural ingredients" but for most distillers that means using liquid flavors.
    Drum Circle Distillery is making coconut rum without the use of any liquid flavors is a lot of work, but the results are incredible. The "proof" is in the bottle! Siesta Key Toasted Coconut Rum is bottled at a full 70 proof so you know you are actually drinking rum!
     Troy Roberts and Siesta Key Rums have a strong history of producing fine rums right here in Sarasota, Florida and the addition of this toasted coconut flavored rum is an exciting addition to the brand.   I am looking forward to tasting this rum and will give you a full report when I get the opportunity to taste it. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The "Freed Up" Daiquiri

     It has been a while since I've been able to spend some time in my "Rum Lab", but with the cool weather this past week I was able to do a bit of experimenting with my favorite cocktail category, the daiquiri.   Below is an interesting combination that I found to be very flavorful and fits well with a cool evening stuck inside.

Bahama Bob’s Freed Up Daiquiri

·         2 1/2 oz. Flor de Caya 12 Year Old Rum
·         1/2 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
·         2 dashes of Fee Bros. Orange Bitters
·         1 dash Fee Bros. Old Fashion Bitters
·         Juice of ½ Lime
·         ¼ oz. Agave Nectar

Place all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled.  Strain into a chilled Martini Glass and garnish with a long orange zest.
Give this one a try, I believe you will be freed up from the doldrums of winter long enough to picture a warm Caribbean sunset.   ;o)


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tropicana Theater: Havana, Cuba

     The Tropicana in Havana is one of my favorite memories of Cuba.  The show that so many Americans and others from all over the world came to see is still going on today.   This is a must see for anyone that is headed to Cuba.  It is still so much like the 1930's that I was waiting for Carmen Miranda to appear on the stage. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Rum's Top 10 Historical Moments.

     The Spirits Business published a very interesting article recently, dealing with historical events that have shaped the rum business and the way the rum is perceived today.

"Exile, revolution, war and Prohibition all played a part in shaping the fascinating story of rum. Here are the spirit’s top 10 historical moments."

     From Navy rations to the Cuban Revolution, these are the biggest moments in rum history.  
     It may be one of the biggest spirits categories in the world, but rum has encountered its fair share of set backs and challenges since molasses were first distilled in the 17th Century.
     With roots in the colonial slave trade, the spirit later became forever associated with drunken sailors as the Royal Navy were rationed a “tot” of rum a day.
     The world’s largest rum brand Bacardi was created in 1862 and laid claimed to being the first rum to feature in the Cuba Libre cocktail.
     While Prohibition proved fruitful for the industry, when other sectors were contrastingly dealt a fatal blow, it soon encountered its biggest upheaval in the Cuban Revolution and the ensuing US/Cuba trade sanctions.
      The origins of rum lie in the Caribbean plantations, where slaves are believed to have discovered that molasses could be used to distil alcohol.
     Many historians believe that this process was first discovered in Barbados – where an ancient document calls the spirit a “hot, hellish and terrible liquor” – while others believe there was proof of rum production in Brazil as early as the 1620s. Meanwhile, evidence of alcohol made from fermented sugarcane dates back to the 14th Century in Europe, India and China.

     Rum production then moved to colonial North America, where the first rum distillery is thought to have been opened in Staten Island in 1664.

     In 1655, the Royal Navy famously switched the daily liquor ration it gave to its sailors from
French brandy to rum.   However almost a century later, in 1740, sailors’ tots of rum began to be watered down to prevent drunkenness, creating a mixture known as grog. This added lemon or lime juice to help prevent the onset of scurvy.   Until 1970, the Royal Navy continued to give its sailors a daily ration of rum, and do so on special occasions to this day. The day the daily ration of rum ended is known as Black Tot Day.

The story has much more to tell and you can read the rest of the story at

     This is an interesting linking of historical events with rum.  It is a good read and one that I think that you can enjoy.  ;o)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Casa Bacardi Tours in Puerto Rico No Longer Free

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The drinks are no longer on the house at Casa Bacardi in Puerto Rico.

     Foreigners will now have to pay $12 and residents $6 to visit one of the most popular tourist attractions in the metropolitan San Juan region, officials said Tuesday.   The seaside rum distillery was well-known for its free drinks and tours.   The new cover charge includes a welcome drink, a commemorative 12-ounce acrylic glass and a tour of the Bacardi Visitor Center, according to a statement by Casa Bacardi. Those who want a tour of the distillery, a sampling of four premium rums or a drink-confectioning course must pay an additional $23.    Casa Bacardi officials said they also plan to renovate their facility and revamp their drink menus.
     Mari Jo Laborde, a spokeswoman for Puerto Rico's tourism company, said Bacardi officials have already met with tour operators and cruise line officials to notify them of the changes.    "It's one of the most important tours for us," she said. "They didn't consult us, but they did inform us about their plans. It's a private company and they take their own financial and strategic decisions."   More than 250,000 people a year visit the Bacardi distillery, where more than 83 percent of Bacardi rum is produced.

     This is a rend that has happened to the wine industry as well.  In my days of living in the Sonoma Valley of California I use to jump into my 1959 Austin Healy Sprite and drive over the mountain to the Napa Valley and sample all of the free wines at the wineries in St, Helena and Calistoga.   Today this is no longer a "free" event either.  Times change, insurance costs go up and it becomes necessary to charge for such visits.  In the case of Bacardi, it is no different.  You can not run a business at a loss and costs need to be covered.  The price of entry is about the same as having a couple of cocktails at a bar and you get so much more


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is Cuba Going to Open Up Soon?

     From the STR headquarters outside of Nashville, Tennessee, they currently gather performance data from over 50,000 hotels located in more than 160 countries.  These properties use STR products, such as the STAR Report or Hotel Survey, to benchmark their hotel’s performance versus a competitive set or market segment and hotel reviews.
"Among the countries in the region, Mexico reported the largest number of rooms In Construction with 7,957 rooms. Three other countries reported more than 500 rooms In Construction: Bahamas (2,681 rooms); Cuba (1,176 rooms); and the Dominican Republic (715 rooms). "
     In Cuba, there is a huge new hotel being developed by the Spanish Developer Melia Hotels International.  This new property accounts for the entire 1176 rooms being developed in Cuba.
Cayo Coco
     "About the new resort in Cayo Coco, it is expected to be finished by sometime next year, it was revealed that the first phase should be completed in November 2014 and once the whole hotel complex is finished it will become the key’s largest hotel. With a total of 1,176 rooms found along 25, three-story bungalows, they will offer garden views, pool views and ocean views as well as luxury amenities and facilities."
     This property along with the very recently  opened 
Marina Melia Veradero
gem on the island, the lavishly luxurious, five-star Marina Melia Varadero, which opened in summer last year give the beautiful northern beaches of Cuba some spectacular hotels to draw more and more tourists from all over the world.
     It makes me wonder with this much money being spent to develop five-star resorts is someone knows that the opening of Cuba and the lifting of the embargo might be closer that some have thought. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Robots Replaceing the"Love Boat" Crew ?

Love Boat Crew
      The days of your "Love Boat" type services and going by the wayside to be replaced by robot bartenders in the Royal Caribbean's new "smart ships".   

     Royal Caribbean International has partnered with Makr Shakr to create the world's first "bionic bar" tended by robots aboard its new "smart ship". 

Robot Bartenders
     Claimed to be the world's first robotic bar, the bionic bar will allow guests aboard the Quantum of the Seas to place drinks orders via tablets and then watch as they are mixed by robotic bartenders programmed to add the right amount of mixers, ice and even garnish. 

     Each robot can produce one drink per minute and up to 1,000 drinks per day, according to Royal Caribbean, with robotic arms able to draw alcohol from dozens of bottles hanging from above. 

     Alessandro Insica of Makr Shakr, the company that developed the machine for Royal Caribbean, said: "You have a choice of a Bionic Bar signature recipe or a classic recipe, or you also can create your own. There are endless combinations." 

Issac Washington

I'm going to miss the ability to walk up to the bar and chat with the bartender as I get my cocktail, a robot just doesn't have the same personality.  I might as well be drinking alone in my cabin for the amount of social interaction that will occur with a robot.  I feel that this is a great idea for making cocktails for the service staff serving cocktails with dinner or at the tables, but when I sit at the bar, I want to communicate with a fellow human being.  ;o)


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Richard L. Seale on Single vs Redistilled Rums

     Richard L. Seale, Master Distiller at the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados, offers the answers to the difference between these two types of run.  He gave us an offering of explanation on Facebook a few days ago that I feel is very interesting and helps understand the differences between the two,

     Traditionally in Barbados, 'light rums' from the column stills are called "single" and 'heavy rums' from the pot still are called "redistilled"   The words "single" and "redistilled" are actually stamped on the barrels.

Column Still
     Single is derived from 'single distilled' as in one pass through the column still. How ironic the moronic "times distilled" marketing mantra refers to the number of columns in a distillation plant !!!  'Redistilled' comes from the practice of physically passing the rum through the pot still twice, classic double distillation, which is even more ironic since the classic rum pot still with pot and twin retort needs only one pass !

Pot Still
     In the classic style of Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana, at Foursquare we make 'Blended Rums' in the true meaning of the term (blended) in that aged "single" (i.e. column still) and aged "redistilled" (i.e. pot still) rums are blended for the final result. Blended really means blended, none of that solera stuff.

     No doubt the art of blending pot and column is derived from our Scottish brethren but at Foursquare we take advantage of the fact that our stills are side by side and so our "single" rum has a touch of "redistilled" and our "redistilled" has a touch of "single", all done before aging.

"Single" Rum aging at Foursquare Distillery
     We still call and mark them "single" and "redistilled," I just think they are better for their little "impurity".

     Now we completely agree with our good friend Luca Gargano that "Pure Single Rum" (i.e. simply a beautiful name for pot stilled rum) is the very highest expression of rum there can be. higher than blended rums, higher than column rums. “rum for big boys and girls”.   Not telling you what to prefer but "highest" meaning the fullest flavor of the molasses wine and the highest intrinsic value.

     So we are thinking to release a "Pure Single Rum" even if just a limited edition, we need our "redistilled" to make our blends!.

     Of course our "Pure Single Rum" will have a little "impurity" but I do not think that will spoil the intent or the expression.

     We need in rum the "single malt" revolution of the 60’s which invented the category as the highest expression of whisky. The weapons, though scarce, are around, thanks to the likes of Velier and others, but we seem to be making little use of them, rum opinion leaders take note. Little wonder our super premium category practically does not exist, only 1% of sales, because we can’t even define it properly. We are yet even to get our heads around "blended". If it ever comes it will be a revolution because sacred cows will be decimated and for many their rum world will be upside down. Time we at Foursquare played our part, pure single rum here we come.
     Thanks to Richard Seale for taking some time to give us a real informative definition of these two types of classic and "pure rums".

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cockspur has Reintroduced "Old Gold Rum"

    According to the Rum Journal, Cockspur is reintroducing its "Old Gold Rum".   This was an expression that was not distributed in Florida, but one that I had the opportunity to enjoy while in Barbados.

     "Old Gold Special Reserve Rum comes from Cockspur, which calls the venerable Barbados’ West Indies Rum Distillery home."   Cockspur is one of the most popular brands on an island that rather legitimately claims to have invented the stuff.  

     On to the tasting of this five-years-aged pot-still rum.   The color is, unsurprisingly, a golden-hue of amber, with a pleasant aroma of caramel, molasses and a hint of honey.
The flavor profile is marked by caramel, honey, dried fruit, oak and a hint of spice.   It’s remarkably smooth, and exceedingly drinkable even when taken neat.   All in all, a quite drinkable rum, perfect neat, on the rocks or in your favorite cocktail.


    This is good new to see this expression being brought back to life.  It was a good rum for Cockspur and one I hope this time makes it into the Florida distribution system so I can offer it to my customers at the Rum Bar in Key West.  ;o)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Day Dreaming for the Road Again

     It has been too long since I have had the opportunity to take off and head South for a week or so and I'm getting a bit of "cabin Fever" to hit the road again and explore a neat place.  Time on the water and the land to enjoy a cool beach bar and some new local concoctions.   ;o)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Underwater Aging of Spirits Proves Sucessful

     Underwater aging that has been tried and successfully used by my friend Walker Romantica with his "Seven Fathom" rum is now being touted by the wine industry as successful.  This is the process that is used to age the rum in Caribbean Sea seven fathoms below the surface off the coast of Grand Cayman.  The concept of constant temperature and pressure along with the gentle movement of the ocean help the rum to be finished quicker and in a very nice manner.
     The winery’s 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was aged for two years under water, California winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez, of Napa Valley winery Mira, is overseeing the project in which barrel-fermented Cabernet Sauvignon was bottled and then dropped in secure crates into the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of South Carolina, US.
     At an event hosted by the winemaker two weeks ago, around 24 guests at The Palm in Orlando, Florida, sampled the wine. Gonzalez said the results of the experiment were both pleasing and fascinating.
     “The first wine we brought up was analysed against the same vintage aged on land,” he told The Miami Herald. “Chemically they were identical but there was a distinct difference in the wines’ taste and aroma. The submerged wine had aged nicely with well structured tannins.”
    The real difference is that the wine was put into the bottle after barrel aging on the land then submerged.  Walker Romantica put the barrel into a protective package and then submerged it.   The true aging and the reactions of the alcohol and the barrel are what is truly happening with the "Seven Fathom" process.  I think that the wine makes would find better results if the barrel itself is submerged instead of bottled wines.  ;o)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Effects of Mixing Caffeine with Alcohol

     Today there are so many people that are mixing alcohol with the caffeine without having any clue what the real effects of their use are that it is bothering me to even mix these cocktails behind the bar.   In an article in a November 7, 2014, in "The Atlantic" by Amy Nordrum there is a great deal of information about the effects of combining these ingredients.

     One in four people in their early 20s have done it-mixed the stimulating effects of an energy drink with the buzz-inducing properties of alcohol. While partiers swig and stay out late, health experts worry that alcoholic energy drinks cloud their judgment in two important ways: by making people think they are not as drunk as if they'd only had alcohol, and causing them to crave another round more strongly. These effects could explain why people who add caffeine to their cocktail are at greater risk of being in an accident or making a decision they will later regret (like getting in the car with a drunk driver) than those who stick to straight booze. 

     When the world's first energy drink debuted in 1987, it didn't take long for Red Bull to find its way behind the bar. Bartenders soon started mixing Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar with vodka, gin, Jagermeister, and hard cider. These caffeine-laced cocktails became so popular, major beverage companies created canned and bottled versions like Four Loko to sell in convenience stores.

     "Since caffeine lasts for six hours, that extends that time when you feel alert, and that makes you want to drink more."


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Preventitive Action before DUI can Happen.

     Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte, North Carolina have introduced a new program aimed at the reduction of people driving while impaired.   I think that this program has some real merit, the real idea of keeping impaired drivers off of the road is the real intention, even more than putting drunk drivers in jail.  Like so many other things , prevention is a better cure than jail after someone has been injured or killed.

     The Mecklenburg County ABC Board Law Enforcement Division stopped 371 adults who have consumed alcohol from getting behind the wheel in an innovative program to prevent driving while impaired offenses in the County. The goal of Operation Safe Streets is to remind adults who have consumed alcohol at permitted establishments the choice they have of by getting behind the wheel and possibly committing a crime or finding an alternative safe ride home. 

     Officers approach would-be drivers before they reach their car to discuss safe alternatives such as calling a friend or family member, having someone else in their party who has not been drinking drive, or taking professional transportation (cab). Partnering with 3 local cab companies, drivers are positioned close by if needed. As a last resort, if no safe transportation alternatives are available, the Mecklenburg County ABC Board will pay for the cab ride. In 7 operations, only 25 vouchers for rides were reimbursed by the Board, totaling less than $375.00. 

     This pro-active community policing effort saves law enforcement time and burdens on the criminal justice system, prevents crashes and other injuries, and challenges adults to plan safe transportation the next time they are out. Funds for this program come from the sales of distilled spirits in Mecklenburg County.
Source: The Mecklenburg County ABC Board
November 11, 2014