Tales of the Cocktail Live Blog: Potions of the Caribbean

10:27am – Finally got my wireless working so I won’t be using my blazing fast cellphone for this.  I don’t think there were this many island shirts and straw hats at Jeff Berry’s tiki-themed Spirited Dinner.  Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Wayne Curtis, Martin Cate, and Stephen Remsberg.  Behind the bar toils the entirety of what we’ve been calling the “Tiki Track” – Rick Stutz (Kaiser Penguin), Craig Herman (Tiki Drinks & Indigo Firmaments), Blair Reynolds (Trader Tiki), and Mrs. Beachbum – while Heather (Tiki Mama) breaks up  materials for Martin.

10:35am – I tried to help Heather break up the stuff, and now I’m bleeding and need to see the nurse and call my mommy.

10:36am – Jeff stands up and introduces the rest of the panel and the bartenders, which I’ve already done, so no need to recap that.  On to the slideshow!  Jeff breaks out his “laser pointer”, which is a fishing spear!  I need one of those!

10:38am – Jeff begins to detail the pirate’s life in the Caribbean as it related to drinking.  Circa 1673, punches had become all the rage, originally from the SubContinent, and invaded the Gulf, where ingredients were eventually replaced with rum and any citrus (instead of only lemon).

10:42am – Jeff reviews the recipe for Meeting House Punch.

  • 4 Barrels of beer (approx. 120 gallons)
  • 24 gallons West Indies Rum
  • 35 New England rum
  • 35 pounds loaf sugar
  • 25 pounds muscavado sugar
  • 465 lemons

10:44am – Apparently, drinking rum from the barrel used to be called “sucking the monkey”.  Jeff’s illustrations are…um…suggestive.  This phrase came about because naturalists traveling with sailors would occasionally store samples of taxidermied monkeys in the barrels of spirit on the way home, and you would drink the spirits out with a straw.  Similar story for “tapping the admiral.”

10:47am – Flash-forward to the 1920’s and Don The Beachcomber as we move in to his numerous punches – which had a slight kick to them (he was a fan of 151 rum).  His famous Zombie cocktail (actually most of his cocktails) were essentially souped up Planters Punches.

10:50am – Catch up to Prohibition.  Time to discuss the famous Sloppy Joe’s bar in Havana.  The inside of this bar was perhaps the only part of Cuba that any Americans ever saw when they visited.  The bar was ridiculously long, and well-stocked.  While locals never visited the bar, tourists practically lived there.

Apparently, the Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West is not quite up to snuff.  It was opened by a friend of Hemmingway’s who was named Joe, and actually decided to plagerize the name of the bar at Earnest’s request.

10:55am – Speaking of Hemmingway, here come our La Florida Cocktails:

  • 1 oz Rhum Clement VSOP
  • 1/8 oz Rhum Clement Creole Shrubb
  • 1/2 oz Martini & Rossi Rosso Vermouth
  • 1/4 oz BOLS White Creme de Cacao
  • 1/8 oz Grenadine
  • 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice

10:58am – From Hemmingway to Trader Vick and his tiki creations.  He took inspiration from the drinks like the La Florida and tinkered with the concept until he finally came up with our well-known and loved tiki drinks: the mai tai, fogcutter, and scorpion.

11:00am – This just in: Jeffrey Morgenthaler is STILL at the pool.  And from there we go to the “Castle Special” from the Castle Harbor Hotel (also known by everyone else in the world as the Mai Tai).  Then to the “Lime Tree Cutter” from the Limetree Hotel (fogcutter ripoff), etc.  During the boom in tourism in the Caribbean in the ’50’s, the Hilton resorts essentially ripped off these famous drinks – and then eventually just hired Trader Vick.  Of course, the Trader’s stint at the Havana Hilton was short-lived, as one Fidel Castro took power in Cuba roughly 5 months later.

11:07am – Wayne Curtis has taken over to talk to us about the various bars in Havana.  Wayne, being a real journalist (unlike say….me), was able to go to Cuba for research purposes.  He’s sharing pictures and stories of his visits to the hotels and clubs that were once the center of the drinking culture in the Western Hemisphere.  Apparently things have gone a bit downhill.  “I don’t care what your political leanings are, [these drinks] are not a good argument for Socialism.”

11:10am – Havana reviewed, on to our Rum Pots:

  • 1.5 oz El Dorado 12-year Rum
  • 1/4 oz Fee Brother French Vanilla Syrup
  • 1/2 oz Funkin Passion Fruit Puree
  • 3/4 oz Orange Juice
  • 3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

Shake well with ice cubes and pour unstrained into a glass.

11:14am – And now we discuss the bane of the tropical drink…the scourge we all know as the Pina Colada – brought to you by Hilton!  Of course, the Pina Colada cannot be considered ALL bad.  Not that it’s good, but it did eventually lead to the Pain Killer.  And speaking of good drinks, that brings us to Martin Cate!

11:18am – Martin takes us on a tour of the islands and their various important spices and flavors.  He gives us an overview on how the spices and flavors are mixed in to rum punches based on a very simple formula.  Everyone say it with us now:

One of Sour
Two of Sweet
Three of Strong
Four of Weak

Congratulations, you can no make your rum punches!  Go forth and imbibe!

11:23am – Martin’s buried cocktail joke (for pimento dram) had everyone in stitches.  I’d try to recount it, but there aren’t words.  I’m going to beg for a copy of the preso and see if I can post it…or if I’m even luckier someone will have it on video and it’ll end up on YouTube.

11:26am – Stephen takes over as the Jasper’s Jamaican Cocktail is handed out:

  • 1.25 oz Cruzan Estate Dark Rum
  • 1/2 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
  • 1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 Tsp Fee Brother Rock Candy Syrup

Shake well with ice and strin into a glass.  Dust with nutmeg.

11:33am – Stephen’s a bit hard to hear, so I’ve slowed down my updates (which probably makes all of you happy).  Jasper’s theme in his cocktails was largely that one should be able to taste the rum in their drinks.  Not to the point that the rum was overpowering, but at least such that you knew you were drinking rum…as rum drinks should be!

11:37am – Jeff wraps things up with the requisite jab at the drive-thru daiquiri and accepts thunderous applause.  More applause now that they’re handing out Hubig’s New Orleans Style Pies to everyone.  Great session.  Greatly entertaining and wonderfully informative.  If you went to something else, you really missed out.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Capn Jimbo

    July 21, 2008, 14:05

    As always, I do love your logs. Of course we are all aspiring taster on this never ending journey in the wonderful world of rum.

    As time has passed Sue Sea and I, at The Rum Project (linked) have gotten to the point where we finally have developed some good and reliable skills and confidence in our own murmurings.

    OTOH you have taken the next step into competition judging (don’t expect Preacher Ed to invite me anytime soon. And vice versa I might add). Accordingly I know we’d really enjoy hearing the experiences of a judge. The judge in your case!

    We’d especially love knowing how the process worked – what rums were presented and how this was done, class by class.

    Of course your ruminations and considerations during the heat of the fray, communicated as only you can, would be fascinating.

    One of the issue with some competitions is that the winners are listed, but little else. Not surprising perhaps. But the real truth is context. Win a gold medal? Great! Only two rums in the running? Oh well. You get the picture. We all learn a lot more from examining the winners in context – which rums competed, how did they compare, and who and how did the scoring?

    Do favor us with more of your terrific observations….

    Best regards,
    Capn Jimbo and Sue Sea
    The Rum Project

  • Matt Robold

    July 21, 2008, 17:02

    I will be posting a complete write-up of the competition. Tales proved to be rather more busy that I had anticipated, and I currently have 5 or 6 pieces in various states of completion. The competition piece should be the first one up, possibly today but more likely tomorrow.

  • havana special

    July 21, 2008, 22:11

    Bookmarked your post over at Blog Bookmarker.com!