Friday, July 31, 2015

Sloppy Joe's Havana 2015

Sloppy Joe's Today, not the water system work being don here in Havana
     It was great to be able to return to Sloppy Joe's again after being there just after the Grand Re-opening in 2013.   Many of the original crew were still there and we were able to share some t shirts and other souvenirs from Sloppy Joe's in Key West. 

     Josie Russell owner of Sloppy Joe's in Key West renamed his own bar Sloppy Joe's in the 1930s at the suggestion of his friend Ernest Hemingway.

    Sloppy Joe's was Havana's most famous pre-revolutionary bars and a prime destination of American tourists, celebrities, and movie stars like John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway, Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Frank Sinatra, and Greta Garbo and Clark Gable just to name a few.  Among Sloppy Joe's most famous attractions was the bar itself, stretching 60 feet in length.   It was immortalized in the 1959 movie "Our Man in Havana", starring Alec Guinness and based on the novel by British author Graham Greene - one of Sloppy Joe's former patrons.   Sloppy Joe's most famous attractions was the bar  which stretched some 60 feet in length.    It was immortalized in the 1959 movie "Our Man in Havana", starring Alec Guinness and based on the novel by British author Graham Greene - one of Sloppy Joe's former patrons.   Waiters dressed in black and orange uniforms served drinks and tapas to a mix of tourists and Cubans present for the grand re-opening, some of whom had waited years for the reopening of the historic watering hole.
Remaking of the Long Bar in 2012
     Sloppy Joe's Bar was founded by Spanish immigrant Jose Garcia, who made hay while the sun shown on the U.S. Prohibition era from 1920-1933.    American tourists flocked to Havana to drink and gamble to their heart's content throughout the era.   The bar was nationalized like so many other businesses in the early 1960s when Fidel Castro's revolutionary forces took power.

     The place still has the style and fine cocktails, food and service as it did in the days prior to the fire and the roof collapse some in the early 1960's.  While the clientele have changed in their dress, the atmosphere is still there from the days prior to the revolution.  It was so much fun to revisit the watering hole again.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gosling Becomes Sponsor Partners in America’s Cup Yacht Series

     With the 35th America’s Cup taking place in Bermuda in 2017, what better sponsor  partner for the event than the rum of the sailors and the “Dark and Stormy”, Gosling’s Black Seal Rum.   Castle Brands has secured 'official partner' status with the America's Cup yachting series for the Gosling's rum and RTD brands.  Gosling’s Rum and Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer will be the official rum and official ginger beer of the 35th America’s Cup in 2017, Castle Brands confirmed late last week. The series of races kicks off later this month in Portsmouth in the UK, before concluding in June 2017 in Bermuda.

      The company will produce packaging for Goslings Black Seal Rum and Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer that highlights the tie-up

More on the America’s Cup in Bermuda at

     The history of Black Seal Rum® and the Gosling family began long ago.   Over the years Black Seal® Rum has become synonymous with Bermuda. It is an essential ingredient in Bermuda fish chowder, adds the island flavor to the Bermuda Rum Swizzle, and is the tempest in Bermuda's favorite cocktail the Dark 'n Stormy®.  In the spring of 1806 James Gosling, the oldest son of William Gosling, wines and spirits merchant, set out from Gravesend, Kent, England on the ship Mercury, with £10,000 sterling worth of merchandise, bound for America.
After ninety-one desperate days on becalmed seas their charter ran out, and they put in at the nearest port, St. George’s, Bermuda. And the rest, as they say, is history.  A delicious, deep, and dark history.

     James and his brother Ambrose rented a shop on Front Street in the new capital of Hamilton for £25 a year. The Goslings maintained a store at this location for 127 years.   The firm, known as Gosling and Son, was renamed Gosling Brothers. Three years later the first oak barrels of rum distillate arrived in Bermuda. After much experimentation in the blending process, the distinctive black rum destined to be Black Seal was formulated and offered for sale. 

     They didn’t call it Black Seal at first, in fact up until the First World War it was sold from the barrel, and folks brought in bottles for a fill up of “Old Rum”, so called because of its distinctive smoothness.  Eventually the black rum was sold in champagne bottles, reclaimed from the British Officer’s Mess, and the corks sealed with black sealing wax. Pretty soon people began to ask for the “Black Seal”. Many years later a play on words and images gave birth to the little, barrel juggling “Black Seal”.

     Nancy Gosling, President and CEO of Gosling Brothers Limited explains: “We are very proud of reaching 200 years as a family business in Bermuda, and it is imperative that we recognize all those who have helped to make that possible.”   It sums up by saying, “For 200 years now, this most special island has been our home. We want to thank all of you–young and old–for making it possible. Yes, we’ve seen a lot of changes here, but we’ve seen a lot of preservation, too.  Because when you have something unique, something remarkable, why mess with it?  That’s been our philosophy for seven stubborn generations.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

San Juan Hill Outside of Santiago de Cuba

View toward Daiquiri from the Top of the Tower on San Juan Hill
     Most Americans have studied the Battle of San Juan Hill in school, but come to the site of the event and see the wall the battle played out is absolutely amazing.  Standing in the tower at the peak of the hill, one can see the rough ground the American and Cuban forces came across to get to San Juan Hill is really amazing.   This is one of the places in Cuba that one needs to see if you get a chance.  Much of the early history of Cuba happened in this part of the island.  Anyone that is a history buff will be awed by all that has happened in and around this city.
American Soldiers at Daiquiri
    In May 1898, one month after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, a Spanish fleet docked in the Santiago de Cuba harbor after racing across the Atlantic from Spain. A superior U.S. naval force arrived soon after and blockaded the harbor entrance.   In June, the U.S. Army Fifth Corps landed at Daiquiri Beach, Cuba with the aim of marching to Santiago and launching a coordinated land and sea assault on the Spanish stronghold. U.S. ground troops included Theodore Roosevelt-led
San Juan Hill Tower
“Rough Riders,” a collection of Western cowboys and Eastern blue bloods officially known as the First U.S. Voluntary Cavalry.   The U.S. Army Fifth Corps fought its way to Santiago’s outer defenses, and on July 1 U.S. General William Shafter ordered an attack on the village of El Caney and San Juan Hill. Shafter hoped to capture El Caney before besieging the fortified heights of San Juan Hill, but the 500 Spanish defenders of the village put up a fierce resistance and held off 10 times their number for most of the day. Although El Caney was not secure, some 8,000 Americans pressed forward toward San Juan Hill.

Entry to the Memorial at San Juan Hill
    Hundreds fell under Spanish gunfire before reaching the base of the heights, where the force split up into two flanks to take San Juan Hill and Kettle Hill. The Rough Riders were among the troops in the right flank attacking Kettle Hill. When the order was given by Lieutenant John Miley that “the heights must be taken at all hazards,” the Rough Riders, who had been forced to leave their horses behind because of transportation difficulties, led the charge up the hills. The Rough Riders and the black soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments were the first up Kettle Hill, and San Juan Hill was taken soon after. From the crest, the Americans found themselves overlooking Santiago, and the next day they began a siege of the city.

La Rocca Morro Castle protecting the entry to Santiago de Cuba Harbor
     On July 3, the Spanish fleet was destroyed off Santiago by U.S. warships under Admiral William Sampson, and on July 17 the Spanish surrendered Santiago de Cuba to the Cuban and American forces.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Honoring Constantino Ribalaigua and La Floridita's Bicentennial

Toast at Constante's Mausoleum 2012
     At the grave of the Constantino Ribalaigua, the barman who served drinks for writer Ernest Hemingway was the setting Friday for an unprecedented toast with daiquiri prepared by United States and Cuban bartenders at Havana’s Colón Cemetery.   A dozen bartenders from both countries — which this week re-established diplomatic ties after half a century of enmity — gathered under a scorching tropical sun at the cemetery to honor Catalán barman Constantino Ribalaigua, known as Constante, who died in 1953.
     Four years ago Julio Cabreras with a group of American and Cuban bartenders along with a few rum enthusiasts also made the journey to Constantino Ribalaigua’s mausoleum to make an El Floridita Daiquiri and toast "Constante".   This too was a very moving experience that I’ll never forget.
     This years tribute began with a minute of silence in front of the mausoleum of Constante, who for 35 years owned the Floridita Bar in Old Havana, where this cocktail, created in Cuba, made of rum, lime juice, sugar and ice in the late 19th century, became famous.   “This is an incredible event, it’s very important for any barman from anywhere in the world to be able to be here with the person who immortalized the daiquiri and turned it into one of the most famous cocktails around the world,” U.S. bartender Christian Delpech told AFP.        Several bartenders prepared daiquiri rounds and toasted, in a tribute during which participants highlighted the fact that reconciliation between Washington and Havana will allow Americans to enjoy Cuban rum-based drinks, just as they did during the 1920-1933 Prohibition Era in the United States. 
     The homage to Constante's mausoleum marked the start of activities to celebrate the bicentennial of La Floridita, one of the bars preferred by Hemingway (1898-1961), who lived in Cuba for 21 years.   “I’m very happy, moved and honored to be here celebrating not only La Floridita’s 200th anniversary but to be at the grave of the most famous barman in Cuba’s history,” said U.S. bartender Ricky Gómez, of New Orleans, the son of Cuban parents.

     My visit to La Floridita just over a week ago was a very joyous one, allowing me to spend some time with a friend that I made on my first visit in 2012.   Alex mad me several fine Floridita Daiquiris and we enjoyed the time that went by far to fast.  If you get the opportunity, do stop by La Floridita during the 200th and enjoy one of the finest daiquiris that you will ever taste.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Cuban Rum Made in Panama: The Story of Don Pancho

Carlos Esquival and Don Pancho Fernandez
     When Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez, master blender for Havana Club for 35 years, decided to leave Cuba after the sale of his brand to an international spirits conglomerate, it was to Panama that he retired.   Already having a long history of travel to that country, and having worked in Panama for theVarela Hermanos, there he was able to continue to make his “Cuban style” rum for many years.   This was a natural choice for Don Pancho that worked for him and the makers of Abuelo Rums for many years. However, it was not with the idea that he would continue to make rum or launch his own brand.

Don Pancho Origenes 30 Anos
     After he met and became friends with Carlos Esquivel, a Panamanian who had deep ties to the local spirits industry.   Together, they would  create one of Panama’s, and the rum industry’s, most important sources: Proveedora Internacional de LIcores, S.A. (PILSA) Rums  a custom distiller whose efforts are behind some of the most important names in the category.  The majority of their work is done under contract for rum clientele who are looking for top quality rums to put their own label on. 

     20 years after arriving in Panama, Don Pancho and Carlos are releasing his first effort bearing his name, Don Pancho Originales rums.   Part of the rums are from reserves dating back to when Don Pancho first started making and blending rums in Panama while still living in Cuba.

     Cuban Style rum made in Panama will be discussed along with
Don Pancho Origenes 8 Anos
the story of Don Pancho and Carlos on the July 29th broadcast of The Connected Table LIVE! Tune in at 2pm ET at The show will be rebroadcast on Link to cut and past and share: Young and David Ransom.

    Don Pancho and Carlos are two of my favorite people in the world of rum.  This should be a very interesting and educational show that I hope that  you will take the time to watch.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Port Au Prince: 1 Million Plus People

     Port au Prince is a city of 13.92 square miles about twice the size of Key West, but it supports 1 plus Million people compare to a population of 25,500 in Key West.  Key West as a population density of 3446 people per square mile vs Port au Prince with 79023 people per square mile.  That is a density 23 time greater.  I can't imagine living in that kind of population density.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Playa Siboney

Arriving at Playa Siboney
     I hear so many people talking about the beautiful beaches of Cuba, but I've had really no experience with them.   Playa Siboney is a south coast  beach, that is used by locals.  They tell me that the north side of Cuba have the beautiful beaches with the power white sand, but this one wasn't bad at all.

     The thing I like about this beach is the lack of commercial stuff like you find at many of the big and "beautiful" beaches.  No resorts, just a few palapas and a lot of local people enjoying the sun and surf of the southeastern coast of Cuba,

     I really feel that the area around Santiago de Cuba is very refreshing.  It has a rural quality about it even though it is a pretty good sized city.   The area is beautiful and so full of history and fun places.  Life is a "beach" and I really liked this one.  ;o)

Playa Siboney this is a "real" beach, quiet and not real crowded

Friday, July 24, 2015

2015 Spirited Awards Announced at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans

     The winners of the ninth annual Spirited Awards were announced Saturday night (July 18), concluding the Tales of the Cocktail conference in the French Quarter. The world's best bars, bartenders, brands and drinks writers were honored in 24 separate categories. See the complete list of Spirited Awards winners below.
     These are the annual winners that are chosen by the members of the panel of industry professionals.   Congratulations to all of the winners and those who were nominated as well.


  • American Bartender of the Year: Ivy Mix (Brooklyn)
  • Best American Bar Team: Employees Only (New York)
  • Best American Brand Ambassador: Brooke Arthur (House Spirits)
  • Best American Cocktail Bar: Williams & Graham (Denver)
  • Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar: Employees Only (New York)
  • Best American Hotel Bar: The Broken Shaker (Miami Beach)
  • Best American Restaurant Bar: Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks    (Boston)
  • Best New American Cocktail Bar: ABV (San Francisco)


  • International Bartender of the Year: Ryan Chetiyawardana    (London)
  • Best International Bar Team: 28 Hong Kong Street (Singapore)
  • Best International Brand Ambassador: Claire Smith-Warner (Belvedere Vodka)
  • Best International Cocktail Bar: The Artesian (London)
  • Best International High Volume Cocktail Bar: The Black Pearl & The Attic (Melbourne)
  • Best International Hotel Bar: The Beaufort Bar, The Savoy (London)
  • Best International Restaurant Bar: The Blind Pig at Social Eating House (London)
  • Best New International Cocktail Bar: Dandelyan (London)


  • Best Cocktail & Spirits Publication: PUNCH (United States)
  • Best Cocktail & Spirits Writer: Dave Broom (United States)
  • Best New Cocktail Book: "Liquid Intelligence: The Art & Science of the Perfect Cocktail," by Dave Arnold
  • Best New Spirits Book: "Whisky, the Manual," by Dave Broom


  • Best Bar Mentor: Jim Meehan
  • Best New Spirit or Cocktail Ingredient: Amaro di Angostura
  • World's Best Cocktail Menu: The Dead Rabbit (New York)
  • World's Best Spirits Selection: Canon (Seattle)
  • Helen David Lifetime Achievement Award: Jonathan Downey

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bacardi Snaps Up Leblon Cachaca and Banks Rum

     The Bermuda-based company has held a minority stake in Leblon Cachaca since 2008,
announcing today that a deal to acquire the remaining shares in the brand had been completed.   It follows a rash of acquisitions by the producer, which only this week announced its acquisition of premium rum brand Banks Rum. 
     Cachaça is a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice, also known as aguardente. Leblon, described as a “premium artisanal cachaça”, is produced at Maison Leblon in Minas Gerais, Brazil’s agricultural heartland.   Spiros Malandrakis, senior alcoholic drinks analyst at Euromonitor International, predicted that cachaça, “fighting old prejudices”, would become a key spirits trend of 2015, shifting from “commodity status to aspirational exoticism”.
        Bacardi also has expanded its portfolio of super-premium rums with the acquisition of Banks Rum.  Banks was founded in 2008 by Arnaud de Trabuc, former CEO of Angostura Group and president of Cognac producer Thomas Hine & Company, of Geneva,  Switzerland.
     The brand is inspired by the travels of 18th-century British explorer and botanist Sir Joseph Banks and is made by blending rums from up to seven different origins including Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, Panama, Guatemala and Java.   de Trabuc’s previous position as former managing director of the Caribbean region for Premier Wines & Spirits gave him the “unique ability to source rums from otherwise competing islands”. 
    Bank’s composition is a closely guarded secret with final blends aged in previously used Bourbon barrels.   It is currently available in the US, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Japan, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, Denmark and Singapore.   Banks currently sells 6,000 cases annually and has a portfolio which includes Banks 5-Island Rum, Banks 7 Golden Age Blend and various limited editions.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

People Turn Into One of Four Characters When Drunk

      Searching for Mr. Hyde: A five-factor approach to characterizing ‘types of drunks’” the study asked 364 men and women to consider their behavior when sober and then again when drunk.   A team of psychologists has categorized drunks into four groups – Mr. Hyde, Ernest Hemingway, Mary Poppins and The Nutty Professor.   Until today, alcoholic lifestyle was determined based on the categorization of the people into two groups – drinkers or non-drinkers.   Now a new study has divided drinkers into four cultural character types, based on their behavior after they have downed two shots.   The four categories suggested by the researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia include Ernest Hemingway, Mr. Hyde, Mary Poppins and The Nutty Professor.   Each category has been associated with a specific set of behavioral characteristics that helped researchers differentiate the alcoholics.

    During the study, the researchers found that a majority of people four out of ten belonged to the Hemingway group, meaning that they behaved much the same before and after the two shots.   People belonging to the group Mary Poppins became extraverted after getting drunk.  “The Mary Poppins group of drinkers essentially captures the sweet, responsible drinkers who experience fewer alcohol-related problems.”   Mr. Hyde type of people transformed into hostile characters after  having two shots.   They noticed that people belonging to this group were “less responsible and less intellectual." On the other hand, people who were categorized into the group of The Nutty Professor felt gregarious after two shots and had a tendency to be  shy when sober.

     During the study – which has been published in the Addiction Research and Theory – the  group of  men and women to fill out a single personality test twice. The first set of test was supposed to be filled thinking that they are sober, and the other thinking that they are drunk.   “These results, as well as the concept of ‘drunk personality’ more broadly, hold promise for developing novel assessment-based and motivational interventions for problem drinkers.”  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Jose Marti: The Key West Visits

     I had an opportunity to visit "Plaza de la Revolucion"in Havana for the first time.  To that it is breath taking is an understatement.  I'll talk about the plaza and all of the things that surround the plaza in a later article.  In the Memorial Tower to Jose Marti, is the Museum Jose Marti.  Wandering through the different pictures and information I ran across several picture of Jose Marti's visits to Key West in 1891 through 1894.

     In 1893 he was pictured at the house of Teodore Perez (Today La-Ti-Da) along with a group of Cuban patriots.   Jose Marti visited a gain in 1894 where he was pictured at the Martello along with Fermin Valdez Domnguez and Francisco (Paunchito) Gomez Toro.  There was also another  picture of Jose Marti with Fermin Valdez Dominguez.

    I didn't realize how important the support of the Cubans in Key West until my visit to the Memorial Jose Marti.

     When the tobacco workers of Key West learned of Jose Martí's ideals and his thunderous visit to Tampa, they requested that the Cuban community leaders of Key West extend him an invitation to visit the city and present his views.   Martí received the news with much joy since he understood the timing could not be more propitious.   He had recently obtained the support of important segments of the Cuban communities in New York and Tampa for his plans to wage war against Spanish colonial rule in Cuba. However, he understood that the support of the Cuban community in Key West was critical to his efforts.

The Cuban exile community of Key West was the

largest and wealthiest, but also the most politically divided.  To obtain their support would be essential, but it would not be an easy task. On Christmas day 1891 Martí departed from Tampa aboard the steamship Olivetti on his first visit to Key West.   He is accompanied by various leaders of the Tampa and New York Cuban communities.

     I guess it was all summed up in the portion of the letter to Jose D. Poyo in December of 1893.  Jose Marti spent a lot of time at the San Carlos on Duval Street.  It houses a lot of information about Jose Marti's visits to Key West and the importance it played to his revolution.  Jose Marti was killed in action just over a year after the revolution began,  He never got to see the "Free Cuba" he dreamed of and worked so hard to make happen. 

     Jose Marti is the most revered and admired person in Cuban history and you can find monuments and tributes to him throughout the country of Cuba.