Saturday, September 30, 2017

Three Weeks Later, Look What’s Happening in Key West

     The biggest event of the week was the arrival of the Empress of the Sea Cruise Ship.  This is the first indicator that things are returning to “normal” Key West style. Today we had a Carnival Cruise Ship.  More and more of the hotels, restaurants, bars, tourist attractions and souvenir shops are re-opening every day.

     The streets are slowly losing the debris, downed trees ground to sawdust and hauled away.  Most everyone in Key West and Stock Island have electricity, Internet and cable TV.    All of the grocery stores are open along with Sears, Kmart, Home Depot and the drugstores.  The lines at the gas stations have disappeared, the only line seems to be at McDonald’s on the boulevard.   FEMA has closed the food and water distribution centers that were so essential for our survival in the first weeks after Irma struck.

     It is fair to say that we are operating very well and the comfort level for those of us living in Key West is good overall.  There are still those in the middle and upper keys that suffered the total loss, who are not progressing quiet so well.  Those of us that live at the end of the road are feeling very blessed to be returning to a kind of normalcy.  It will take a year of more to get everything back just like it did after Wilma struck in 2005.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Savannah Spirits Distillery to Open in Savannah’s Historic District

     Savannah Spirits Group is to open a 12,000 square foot distillery in Savannah, Georgia next year, with plans to release two rums.  The distillery will open in Savannah’s National Historic District in March 2018. Savannah Spirits Amber is now available in Savannah at retailers, restaurants and bars.  The distillery will also include an “upscale” chophouse next door with a private event space. Both the distillery and restaurant will be located along Whitaker Street in several renovated buildings that date to the late 1800's, there will be multiple dining rooms, a full bar and a terrace on the upper floors.    The rums are said to reflect the “distinctive character and provenance of the city”, which is notorious for its history of bootlegging rum. 
     “This has been a long time in the making and to introduce Savannah Spirits to the Low Country starting with our rum, we feel, is the most apropos way to honor the bustling spirit of the region and its people, and to celebrate Savannah’s fanciful history,” said co-founder Dean Bell.  Tunnels were dug beneath the city for smuggling liquor into the once dry town. Following statewide prohibition in 1907, the city petitioned to secede from Georgia in order to allow its citizens to drink. Savannah was soon referred to as the “Bootleg Spigot of the South” for the amount of illegal booze being smuggled into its port.  “It’s all about the history. Our concept is, taste the history. A lot of people don’t really know how associated Savannah is with rum running and the craziness that went on, so we’re taking advantage of that.”

     Savannah Spirits rums are currently being distilled off-site in partnership with Charleston’s Striped Pig Distillery while renovations continue on the buildings.  “We worked out a collaboration that allows us to work in their distillery. Our distiller goes up to Charleston several days a week,” Dean Bell, co-founder of Savannah Spirits said of the temporary partnership.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Have You Been Saying These Cocktail Names All Wrong? The Most Commonly Mispronounced Drinks Revealed and How to Get Them Right.

Bahama Bob at Rum Bar
     I found this to be an interesting article that I thought you would enjoy.  As a former barman, the many ways that people would ask for a cocktail would blow your mind.  I sometimes thought that I needed an interpreter to figure out what they were asking for.

    We all know how to order a gin and tonic or a martini without sounding foolish, but these days bars have dozens of exotic cocktails - with equally exotic names - on their menus.
Now a new guide reveals exactly how to say the most commonly mispronounced drinks on offer at late night drinking spots.   And the colorful graphics show that many of us may not be as au fait with modern cocktail menus as we thought.   While some of the drinks you will know how to say from years of ordering, others, such as a caipirinha, are much harder to pronounce.  The guide, by Hospitality Training Solutions, reveals exactly how to say the names of popular drinks so that next time you want to try a new cocktail, you won't stumble over how to say it.

Glögg (left) - pronounced 'Glug' -  is the Swedish version of mulled wine - but it usually contains a lot more booze than the English version. Sgroppino (right) - pronounced sro-pee-no - is an Italian dessert of a glass of Prosecco mixed with vodka and topped with a scoop of lemon sorbet

Caipirinha (left) is Brazil's national cocktail, made with lime, sugar, and Brazil's most common spirit, cachaça. Caipivodka (right) is the same cocktail but prepared with vodka instead of cachaça

A Wahine (left) is a Tiki-style cocktail that contains rum, vodka, pineapple juice, lemon juice and sugar syrup. A Vieux Carré (right) is a New Orleans drink named after the city's French Quarter made with whiskey, cognac, vermouth, Benedictine liqueur, and bitters

A Baja Gold (left) is made with tequila, triple sec, pineapple juice, lime juice, and sugar syrup. An Añejo Highball meanwhile contains rum, curacao liqueur, ginger beer, lime juice and bitters

The Boulevardier cocktail is composed of whisky, sweet vermouth, and campari. The Spritz Veneziano is a wine-based cocktail commonly served as an aperitif in Northeast Italy that contains Prosecco, Aperol and soda water.

The Ti' Punch is a rum-based mixed drink that is especially popular in Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti,
Ti Punch
French Guiana and other French-speaking Caribbean islands that contains rum, lime and cane syrup. The Marguerite is a precursor to the dry martini and contains vermouth, orange bitters, and gin

Read more:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Home Brewing Beer or Wine for Personal Use is Legal, but Home Distilling is Not, Why is This?

Home Still Available on Amazon
      “Just because someone buys a still doesn’t mean they’re out to break the law.  A lot of people are making fuel.”  And there’s the crux of the problem: Although home brewing has been legal in the United States since 1979, home distillation of spirits for consumption has remained illegal since the days of prohibition.  This is not to say that distilling is illegal.  Distilling by definition is no more than separating a liquid by first vaporizing it then condensing and collecting the vapor. It’s a great process for purifying water, convert seawater to fresh water and the method by which one creates fuel alcohol, or ethanol.   Because distilling has practical, non drinking applications, both owning and selling stills remain legal provided a few guidelines are followed.

     But the pressure is on to decriminalize non-commercial micro-distilling.  A Hobby Distillers Organization popped up this year with the express intent of modifying federal law.  Remember, federal law trumps state law, several states have moved toward legalization.   Alaska, for instance, excludes “private” manufacture of spirits from its alcohol control laws…except in quantities that exceed federal limits.   In other words, Alaska allows zero liters for home distillers.   Missouri is more explicit, asserting that “No person at least twenty-one years of age shall be required to obtain a license to manufacture intoxicating liquor…for personal or family use.”   Arizona expressly permits personal distilling of spirits such as brandy or whiskey if owners register their rigs with the state’s Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, of which no one has done so.   

     Legality aside, home distilling does carries some much-debated risks of explosion during the process and methanol poisoning from the finished product.   While the occasional home distillery tragedy generates headlines, hobby advocates assert that these risks are overstated.   “It is no less safe than frying a turkey. I think it is actually safer”.   Advocates who use the safety of the craft often focus on a competing theory for why their favorite hobby remains illegal, taxes.
    Resistance to excise taxes on spirits dates to our founding fathers. During his second term, President George Washington imposed an excise tax on all spirits, a decision that didn’t go down smoothly with the farmers who just a few years earlier were fighting against centralized taxation. This led to the Whiskey Rebellion, the details of which you probably slept through during US History.
     Things haven’t changed much in this regard since 1791. The prohibitive cost of permits and excise taxes drive artisanal distillers underground.   Some find imaginative ways to skirt the law; others simply hide their stills in basements or attics.
The Basic Process of Distilling
    " Why would a hobby with risks like blindness, death, and prison time be on the uptick?"   Time Magazine’s Josh Ozersky sums it up:, “Because it’s delicious. Because it’s illegal. And because it’s cool.”  That coolness comes from the craft’s outsider, non-mainstream nature. Ozersky compares the “white whiskey” revolution to the rise of food trucks, bloggers, and “yahoos” suffering from the delusion that they know better how to run a municipality than do seasoned politicians.   “The moonshine revolution, in other words, is utterly a part of the libertarian mood of the times”.   “And if its illegality adds an excitement of rebellion to the pleasure of making something good all by yourself, then so much the better.”

     This is an interesting dilemma, just like different people like different types of alcoholic beverages, some people like to make their own from scratch.  This includes choosing the basic materials to ferment, yeast to get a specific flavor, watch the fermentation process bubbling away, to the final step of distillation and tasting the product.  Following well documented instructions and using the proper equipment to distill with, it can be a s safe as any other type of cooking.  As a distiller at a rum company, I understand the safety issues, but I don't understand the discrimination between the two types of making alcoholic beverages at home.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bacardi Releases One Liter Santa Teresa 1796 in its Global Travel Retail Store

Santa Teresa 1796
     Bacardi Global Travel Retail has rolled out a one-liter format of its Santa Teresa 1796 Single Estate Rum, exclusively in travel retail.  The one-liter format is available initially in Lagardère stores at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport.  The company took on the global distribution of the family-owned Ron Santa Teresa portfolio in January 2017.
Santa Teresa Cane Fields
     Santa Teresa 1796 is grown, harvested, aged and each bottle is hand-sealed, as a single estate rum using the Solera method – where no barrel is fully emptied, the most recent blends mixing and ageing with the oldest. The blend is a combination of rums, aged from four to 35 years.  The Solera method takes sugar cane grown on the Santa Teresa estate and juices it to extract the molasses, which are then taken to the estate distillery. Water used in the rum production comes from natural wells deep in the estate land.  Continuous fermentation and distillation in pots stills is followed by long ageing in French oak barrels with refinement in oak vats, before hand-blending by maestro Ronero, with every bottle wax sealed by hand.  To support the launch, a team of in-store ambassadors will introduce and explain the story behind the Venezuelan rum brand. Shoppers can sample the rum in a series of sampling events across key airports globally.
Santaa Teresa Solera System
     Mike Birch, managing director of Bacardi GTR, said: “There is strong potential in travel retail for a super-premium rum like this, especially in terms of its age and craft, appealing to shoppers at the second stage of luxury whose key purchase motivations are for aged spirits and the discovery of something rare and out of the main-stream. For the same reasons, we also see an opportunity to recruit new rum shoppers from the whisky category.”  Bottled at 40% abv, Santa Teresa 1796 is available in global travel retail in one-liter bottles at $60.

Monday, September 25, 2017

High End Rum Up Double Digits in United States Bars

     While total rum volume sales declined in the United States, in the bar industry during 2016/17, the ultra-premium segment increased by 15.8% .  This is a good indication that “a new wave of premiumization” for the category.   Total rum volumes declined by 0.4% in the year ending 15 July 2017, while flavored rum, which accounts for 22% of the category and does not include spiced rum, grew volumes by just 1% year-on-year.
     Scott Elliott, senior vice president of Nielsen CGA, says rum “has plenty of options to meet the desire for premiumization and experience that on-premise visitors come to expect”.  “As consumers continue to visit on-premise channels for the experience, bars and restaurants should continue to broaden their rum range in the same way it does other categories”.  “There is a portfolio distribution opportunity where, compared to the well-represented light rum category – stocked in 90% of traditional on-premise – 43% of bars and restaurants don’t stock a dark rum, and 24% don’t stock a gold rum.”

    According to Nielsen, if current velocity per outlet is maintained and 25% of distribution gaps were closed, additional sales for the category would generate $74 million for light rum and $180 million for gold and dark rum combined.   The analyst suggests that retailers will need to move rum “beyond the confines of generic serve styles” to focus on premium mixers, sipping rums and offering rum-based takes on classic cocktails, such as the Old Fashioned.   Looking across the spirits sector, premium spirits grew by 2.6% year-on-year, while ‘mainstream’ brands grew volumes by just 0.5%.

     For those of us who enjoy a Ultra-premium rum when we go out, this is great news.   I can mean that there will be more of the bars carrying these brands and expressions to enjoy.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Back Where We were Two Weeks Before

     Today two weeks ago we were at the Conch Republic Seafood Company in defiance of Irma, and here we are again enjoying our coming out from under her messes.  We for the most part have power, water, internet, cable TV, and the streets are being cleared of the debris.  All in all, a pretty amazing accomplishment bay everyone here in Key West.  Today we begin to have a little bit of fun seeing our friends and neighbors again.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Wicked Dolphin Wins Best Craft Rum Distillery! Tailwinds Distilling Takes Second Place

Sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean began distilling rum during the 17th century from molasses, an inexpensive byproduct of the sugar refining process. The spirit came to the U.S. in 1664 with the opening of the first rum distillery on Staten Island and continued to grow in popularity through the Revolutionary War. Rum has come a long way since those early days when it was known as “Kill Devil”, and distilleries across the nation are experimenting with how to craft the finest variations.
Cape Coral, Fla.
Founded in 2012, Wicked Dolphin Distillery uses 100-percent Florida-grown sugarcane to create small-batch rums in a traditional copper pot still. The spirit then gets aged in used American white oak Kentucky bourbon barrels for a minimum of one year (and up to 14 years). Wicked Dolphin also produces a silver rum, coconut rum (made from real coconut water) and Rumshine, a 100-proof spirit made from fresh local strawberries.

Plainfield, Ill.
Taildragger rums from Tailwinds Distilling are never charcoal or chill filtered in order to preserve the natural flavors of the raw cane sugar molasses. The line includes a white rum, rye whiskey barrel-aged amber rum, coffee infused rum and a French oak-aged After Dark rum with mocha and caramel notes.

The top 10 winners Best Craft Rum Distillery are as follows:
  1. Wicked Dolphin - Cape Coral, Fla.
  2. Tailwinds Distilling - Plainfield, Ill.
  3. Roulaison Distilling Co - New Orleans
  4. Lyon Distilling Company - St. Michaels, Md.
  5. New Holland Artisan Spirits - Holland, Mich.
  6. Cutwater Spirits - San Diego
  7. Calwise Spirits Co - San Diego
  8. Malahat Spirits - San Diego
  9. Richland Distilling Company - Richland, Ga.
  10. Allegheny Distilling - Pittsburgh
Congratulations to all these winning distilleries.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Nation of Shrinking Drinkers

     Generation Z is growing up with an aversion to alcohol, in part because its members don't want to look wasted when they take selfies with their fancy smartphones.   Millennials? They're starting families, furthering careers and acting more responsibly, which makes their trademark binge drinking less desirable.   Then there's Generation X, the supposedly nihilistic blank generation. They'll take on the drinking habits of their parents, the Baby Boomers, as they age.   And those Boomers? They're declining in numbers because, well, they're old.

     All this is bad news for the alcoholic beverage industry, according to an exhaustive new report by Berenberg analysts that breaks down the demographic drivers that will continue to flatten the booze business in general and wallop Big Beer in particular.   "The Baby Boomer generation gave way to the Generation X ravers, who then gave way to the binge-drinking millennials," says the 68-page beverage analysis by Javier Gonzalez Lastra and Matt Reid.   "Each generation brought a fresh market of thirsty consumers from which alcoholic beverage companies could recruit. With the arrival of Generation Z unlikely to bring similar opportunities, companies may be forced to look for growth in the existing consumer market. Unfortunately, the data suggests that the older generations are unlikely to provide the required growth."

Generation Z: You're So Vain

     Generation Z, who are entering the workforce as we speak, are considered by the authors to be people born on or after 1996, which would make the first batch of them 21 years old. Some takeaways from the report:
Generation Z does not think alcohol is "cool." The smartphone generation does not want to appear drunk on camera, and being hungover carries a stigma.  Members of Generation Z are drinking at least 20 percent less than their counterparts in the millennial generation.  Members of Generation Z will drink at least 10 percent less per capita than millennials did between the ages of 18 and 49.  Of those who do take a drink, Generation Z is the first generation to prefer spirits over wine or beer.

Millennials Are Slowing Down

     Millennials drank more than Generation X. Yet millennials are now becoming more health-conscious as they age and are actively limiting alcohol consumption, the authors say, citing a raft of studies.  Between the ages of 35 and 49, millennials will begin to drink slightly less than their counterparts in Generation X.
Millennials between the ages of 50 and 64 will drink more than Generation X did at the same age.
Millennial beer drinkers are more likely to drink craft beer than any other generation.

Generation X: The New Boomers?

     Generation X tend to drink more per capita than the members of the Silent and Baby Boomer generations they replace in the 65-plus age category.  Beer was the favored drink of 72 percent of Generation X when it was 18-29 years old. They drank far less wine than millennials do now.

     This is an interesting article and it goes on to show how the alcohol industry is responding to these changes from generation to generation.  You can Read More at  .

It's the Little Things That Make Such a Difference

   Several of the hair salons and the Mani and Pedi shops have opened, for many of the women of the island just having their hair or nails pampered can make all the difference in the world as far as the mental state goes.   Just some indication of regularity of life makes the struggle to go ahead so much easier.  Another thing that has excited many of the residents is the restoration of cable TV.  This has given a new connection to the rest of the world and a means of relaxation.

     Every day there are more and more people arriving back here to put their lives back together.  With their arrival and the people that work in the closed businesses being able to get their homes functional again means that more and more of the stores, restaurant and other services will be restored.

     I think that I have beaten this horse long enough and it is time for me to get back to my normal too.  Tomorrow I will be going back to the news of the world of rum and the fun of the tropics.  I hope that we all can get back to having a really fun life again here in the Keys very soon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

It Keeps Getting Better Everyday

Uncle Bob Playing at the Bull
     Today the activity seems to be centered in getting all of the debris out of yards and on to the street
where it can be scooped up and hauled away.  I saw people hauling branches and palm frowns out to the gutter and I saw more front yards and driveways for the first time since last Saturday.

  We also saw the first live entertainment on Duval Street.  Uncle Bob played at the Bull for about four hours yesterday afternoon.

FEMA Lines getting Shorter
     The lines to get into the grocery stores and at the FEMA locations have all but gone away and the Home Depot is where all of the lines are.  They are only open from 10 until 2 and there is a real urgency for the people to get in there and get the materials necessary to make their houses livable again.

     More of the restaurants and bars are opening as the restaurant supply companies and able to get through and the freezers have been cleaned out so fresh food can be put back in.  The dumpsters filled with spoiled food that finally got hauled away was the foulest smelling part of the whole post Irma experience.

     Key West Strong is more than a saying it is a way of life for everyone down here.  The arrive back
down here roll up their sleeves and start digging out of the mess and bring life back to the keys.  It is still going to be a while before it will be back like it was, but a lot has already been done and more is being completed every day.  You can really see the difference each day.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Another Day and More Thing Getting Back to "Normal"

     Here we are just over a week after being slammed by Irma and things are starting to get back to some what normal.  The lines to get into the grocery stores are gone, people have been allowed to return to their homes and the debris is being cleared from the streets.

     Many of the businesses have reopened, making it possible for many of us to start repairing the damage to our residents.  I know that for me the opening of West Marine was a blessing for all of us that live on boats to be able to get the pieces and parts we need.  It has been  a week, but if has felt like a lifetime getting some of the basics back into operation.  What is really interesting is how much of the things we rely on on a regular basis that we take for granted mean so much when you get them back.

   I feel like a lot of the stress of getting things back into operation is behind many of us who stayed and getting underway for those that had to wait a week before being allowed to return.   To paraphrase W. C. Fields, "all in all I'd still rather be in Key West"  This is my home and it is paradise bruised even though it has been messed up a bit.  I know the people that live here and I know that they will bring it back to its former beauty very soon just like they did 12 years ago after Wilma.

     For Me, I was able to stop by the Rum Bar and enjoy a nice special rum with some old friends that had just returned and got to share the experiences of their travels to get away and back home.   It is always good to get together and talk about just plain stuff to get you on the road to recovery.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Today Residents Were Allowed Back Into Key West

     Today began the return of the residents.  For the first time, those that evacuated were allowed to return to their homes.  There were a number of businesses that call for their employees to come to work and begin the clean-up and get them ready for opening soon.

     Winn Dixie and one of the Publix grocery stores were open and had fairly well stocked shelves today.   For the first time there wasn't a two hour line in front of the stores to get inside.  Entry and exit was more like the normal.

     Power and water is getting  back on in more and more of the areas.  This is critical as the residents return.  However there have bee periodic power failures from time to time.  All things considered these haven't be much more that a nuisance.

     It was good to see so many of my friends returning and know that they had gotten out and back safely.   These post Irma get together's in the afternoon have really made the experience more enjoyable.  Keeping up the morale is so important in the face of the overwhelming tasks that have to be completed.  A mental break make it so much easier.

     Day to day things seem to improve and improvement is the most important ting to see in order to keep going under these conditions.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Time for Friends and Decompression , It has Been a Long Week

     A week later and here we are again with the friends that we started the experience with ant eh Schooner Wharf drinling some good rum and this time sharing stories of what has happened to us in the past seven days.  It is not something I want to go through on a regular basis, but it was good for the sole to see how tought mother nature can be.  Happy to be in such good shape at this time and still working on getting things back to normal, what ever that really is.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Day by Day Something Else has Come Back to Life here in Key West.

The Flag is Still Flying over Key West
     With the restoration of cell phone and internet service, several of my friends have called and asked if I’d go by their houses and take pictures so they could at least have an idea of what they were facing.  The restoration of communication is probably from a mental point of view the biggest thing that has come back to us.  It was nice to not have the Facebook, twitter etc. distraction while trying to get everything back up and operational, but knowing that my family and friends were worried about all of us and no way of knowing what had occurred.
Utility Workers putting the Infrastructure Back Together
    Several of people I know evacuated to Orlando during the hurricane and then drove back south to try to get back to their homes, only to be stopped at Homestead or at Mile Marker 70 and told to turn around.  The frustration caused because they are not allowed back in can be heard in their voices.  Many say their house s are OK and the road leading to it is passable, but the real problem is that there are a minimal number of grocery stores open and the ones that are open have lines for blocks to get into the store.   There is barely enough gas for the police who are on a constant patrol throughout the cities and the minimal medical capabilities would make it nearly impossible to take care of the “normal” problems without adding to the heat related injuries of everyone here without power and no AC to cool down in.  Dehydration and heat issues seem to be the biggest source of physical issues for the people as they try to do the “heavy lifting to clean up in these 90 to 95 degree humid temperatures we are experiencing.  "I'll never leave again", I’ve heard over and over again from frustrated friends.  I knew from Wilma that this was how it would be , so that was a big reason I stayed.
Thanks to All the Police that are Patrolling throughout the Keys
Despite a lack of services and a sundown-to-sunup curfew in Key West, there were several locals have been seen driving, bicycling and walking around the island.  It does you a lot of good to just get out and be able to do some of your normal things like riding the bicycle to town and communicate with many of the friends that chose to stay and share some of the experiences.
FEMA People, Our Wonderful Military Personnel 
Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, whose district includes the Florida Keys, said aboard the plane Monday, "It's clear that there's a lot of work to be done and this community's going to need a lot of support." He added that there are some "logistical challenges" in getting goods and services to the Keys, he called for a "robust" funding plan for FEMA and said Congress can't fund FEMA "month to month."   "To see the Florida Keys dark so to speak, as such a vibrant exciting part of our country that I'm blessed to represent," Curbelo said, "to just see everything at a standstill, and Key West as a ghost town, that was very striking for me."
Of Course, The Hurricane Hole is Still Standing

Friday, September 15, 2017

Key West is Coming Back Faster than Thought

     It has been a very quiet few days without telephone, or internet.  It came back on line last night so I figured that my forced vacation is over and it was time to start writing again.   Marta and I fared well all things considered, but we do have damage to our boat.  It is still livable and most of the systems are still functioning.

     I have to put a shout out to all of the rapid response, emergency workers, and those that have been on working endless hours to get the infrastructure back operating here.  We currently have water for six hours a day, electricity, and now cell phone and internet services functioning.  Plus I have to thank those and to US 1 Radio station, who were on the air getting out all the necessary information to us down here.  They were great, without them, we would not known who was open, where to get food and water, or any of the other information allowing us to get through for four days.

Out the Window Early Morning
Home Sweet Home, Still Floating
     I want to thank every one that sent us messages on Facebook and texts for caring so much.  We are working hard to get everything functioning again.  It has been a tough experience for all of the residents of the Florida Keys. Those who evacuated and can't get back to their houses and life, and those of us that stayed.  The worst of this experience was the aftermath of the storm.  We rode out the storm with some very good friends and were able to provide a mutual support system, but with it over it is what seems like endless hours fixing what we can and hoping that the store that carry the parts necessary to make repairs will be open soon.

The Sun is Rising Over the Keys and We are All Key West Tough Enough to Make it Through

   The best news was that I did not lose a single bottle of rum on the boat, however we have shared a few bottles with our friends here on the docks in the evenings.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Calm Before the Storm

     This is the calm before the storm here in Key West.  I'm hoping that this will still be the scene when Irma has left us.  Best wishes to all that are and have been affected by this "Mean Bitch".  We will see you on the other side.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Final Preparation for Hurricane Irma in Key West

     Now that most of the preparation is complete and all of the windows and doors have been boarded up, it is time for those of us staying in Key West to put the final touch on before the "bitch" arrives.  It is a tradition on the island to gather at one of the open establishments and party in a big way to get mentally ready.

     Thursday was at the Conch Republic Seafood Company, better know as the "Conch Farm".   Open today from 4 til 7 for one of the locals that are staying on the island to have a couple of more "Happy Hours" before its arrival.  Literally hundreds of the locals gathered to let off a little steam and hang out with each other and relieve some of the stress being brought on by the impending storm.

     It is a lot of work to get storm ready, but when it is complete getting mentally ready before hunkering down is also very important.  This is a bunch of rightfully nervous people, sitting and waiting to see what Irma has in store for us.  Rather than just sitting around and letting the stress of anticipation make you nuts, the hurricane party is a really important part of the preparation before it is time to go inside and watch the storm rattle the island.

     Now we are really ready and it is time to go inside and "Try to Reason With Hurricane Season".  As much as we make light of it to get us through, all of us are taking this storm very serious and have already got the preparation complete.  It is time to go inside and wait.  Looking forward to this being behind us and get back to "Key West Normal".

     It was conscientious among the crowd attending the yesterdays final hurricane party at the Conch Farm as to how we felt about this bitch Irma.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Preparation for Irma is Mostly Complete Around the Island

     Today the town is beginning to look like a ghost town, most of the people that are leaving have already left.  Marta and I are staying and making all of the final preparations for the storm.  Still not sure if we are staying on the land or the boat as of yet, but do have several options to stay on land.   Yesterday afternoon we gathered with a few others that were left on the island for a little bit of relaxing before things start to get more serious.

     That being said, we are riding around the island seeing how people have secured their places for the storm.  One of first businesses to board up was the Hemingway Rum Distillery.  They were boarded up on Tuesday and had everything secured by then.

     Yesterday I visited with several friends that are leaving the island as they put the final touches on their houses and yards.  One friend had a landscape person in to pull all of the coconuts off of the trees and to prune them back, giving them a better chance of survival in the winds.  The preparation varies from one place to another, the variety of the residential environment.   The marina, condo’s, houses, trailers and so many other structures all have to be prepared in different ways.


     In the marina, sailboats are all pulling down their sails and everyone is taking the Bimini tops
down and securing all of the loose items around the docks.  Houses are boarding up, condoes are closing the shutters and business are mostly closed, but like so many times before there are people here in Key West that will stay and hunker down and make the best of it.  These are the people that will get the island up and running again once the danger has passed.

Duval Street Boarded up and Ready

Thursday, September 7, 2017

New Rum Distillery on Uninhabited Lamb Holm Island

Lamb Holm Island, Northern Scotland
     A tiny uninhabited Orkney Island, located in Northern Scotland, has started producing rum.  The island of Lamb Holm is best known as the location for the Italian Chapel but it is now also home to one of Scotland’s few rum distilleries.   J Gow Rum aims to produce between 12,000 and 15,000 bottles a year.  Named after notorious Orkney pirate John Gow, the distillery laid down its first barrels, thought to be the first ever laid on Orkney – in mid-August.  Orkney island of Lamb Holm, now one of the smallest rum-producing islands in the world.

     As it prepares to launch its inaugural product, a spiced rum, to date J. Gow has produced 38,000 litres of wash from six tons of molasses and distilled 20 runs on the still.  The resulting liquid has been decanted into Italian chestnut barrels, chosen for their compatibility with the cold Orkney climate.   Former former whisky casks are currently being reconditioned and will be filled in the coming weeks and months.  J. Gow Spiced Rum is “made with a blend of spices from around the world including two secret ingredients grown in Orkney”, and will offer citrus and cinnamon notes with a hint of vanilla and a “warming spice finish”.

Colin van Schayk, whose family own a wine business – Orkney Wine – also based on Lamb Holm, is behind the scheme.  He said: “It’s a light golden rum with hints of orange, cinnamon and vanilla. Ultimately we want it to be super smooth so you can drink it without mixer, because you should be able to drink it straight or with your favorite mixer.”

     A release date has not yet been announced. The distillery also plans to release a second variety of barrel-aged rum will be released in the near future, with “an entire range of products” to follow.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

El Floridita is Celebrating its 200th Year

The Cuban home of the Daiquiri turns 200 in 2017, a milestone that I wish I could be there to celebrate.

    Daiquiri Season is upon us and it is natural that our thoughts to go the cradle of the daiquiri, El Floridita in Havana.  This month marks the 200th anniversary of the El Floridita's.  The iconic bar and restaurant first opened it  doors in 1817 as La Piña de Plata (the silver pineapple) in the same location where the bar is still located today on the corner of Obispo and Monserrate Streets just a few blocks from the Square in Old Havana.
Constante Ribalaigue Vert, Owner
     The bar drew international fame thanks to the hard work of Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, a Catalan immigrant that got his start as a cantinero (bartender). It was Vert who turned the bar into a daiquiri destination and invented the Frozen Daiquiri in the 1930s.  
Ernest Hemingway and Constante
     El Floridita has become a magnet for noted authors and famous dignitaries from around the world.  Ernest Hemingway, virtually made El Floridita his home in the Forties, he famously requested his daiquiri with no sugar and double the rum, that would become known as "Papa Doble" or Hemingway Special.

Group at Constante's Grave for a Daiquiri Toast
     My friend Julio Cabrera, first brought me to the El Floridita in 2013. Julio Cabrera is a Cuban “cantinero” who resides in Miami and considers himself the unofficial ambassador to El Floridita.  He brings international bartenders to Havana for cultural exchanges.  Cabrera says, "Every time I take American bartenders there, the El Floridita's cantineros put them behind the bar and teach them how to make the daiquiri in a blender. Having done this myself, it was very exciting and fun, but learning to make the “Papa Doble and the El Floridita Daiquiri was priceless. "The bar is 100 percent hospitality. It's not just about the daiquiris. It's about the profession and the cantineros. It's one of the best bars in the world."
     Hopefully the El Floridita whose fame came to light when Ernest Hemingway and his love of daiquiris,  remains one of the strongholds of Havana cocktail scene.  I have to say that I never miss a chance to visit El Floridita when I'm in Havana.  You will never be treated any better or get any finer daiquiri.