Mark had a evening off work, so we jumped on the bikes and headed into Key West. The plan was to rum punch our way up Duval Street. Since booze on an empty stomach is never a good idea, we started at Kelly's Caribbean Bar, Grill and Brewery for Jerk Wings. These plump meaty wings are sweet yet have enough heat to keep you reaching for your cocktail.
This is a tricky drink to get right. Bartenders almost always blow it when it comes to the sugar mix. Too much and it's sickly sweet. Too little and all you taste is club soda. This one had a nice mix of lime and mint and leaned just a tad on the sweet side.
My rum punch was nearly perfect. For me, perfection is equal parts of dark rum, coconut rum, pineapple juice, orange juice and a splash of grenadine for color. No one part of the drink should stand out more than any other. Kelly's came pretty close to the mark with just a splash too much pineapple juice. It wasn't enough to knock the other ingredients out of balance though, so if we hadn't been moving on, I would have been quite happy to stay for a few more. Happy hour prices: well drinks 2.50 and one pound of wings, 4 bucks.
Kelly's has two claims to fame. The building is the original site of Pan Am Airlines, and Kelly is none other than Kelly McGillis of Witness and Top Gun fame. She left Key West after a divorce and the bar is now owned by her ex-husband. If you go, look for her Top Gun jacket in a small case above the bar. It's not well lit and out of eyesight, so it's easy to miss.
Our favorite bartender, Bahama Bob had just gotten off work and we made a mental note to get here before 6 pm next time. Bahama Bob uses a secret recipe, perfected in Cuba, for the best mojito on the island. The man is worth an entire blog post, so we'll come back to him later.
I grabbed a table for two, by the window, and Mark got the drinks. Still in a mojito mood, he took a chance. I stuck with rum punch.
The sweetness of the mojito was closer to where it should have been, but it suffered from an extra splash of club soda. My drink must have been nearby when the bartender was mixing because some of that club soda, a non ingredient in rum punch, ended up in mine and it's not a tasty addition. Club soda cuts the flavor of the juice and turns the drink into an odd second cousin of the rum punch. It wasn't a disaster, mind you, I had no problem finishing it. It just wasn't a true rum punch. If there were happy hour price, these two drinks weren't included.
One more stop felt in order, so we continued south up Duval to the Southernmost Beach Cafe.
If you get here before sunset, this is the best place on the island to watch the orange ball drop below the horizon. A long pier stretches into the ocean offering a sensational view. The pier does fill up quickly, with lots of bulky tripods, so you need to be in place well before the sun goes down.
The satellite dish in the far distance is on the Naval station, the true southernmost point in Key West. If you're not military, you'll have to settle for a photo at the buoy, just around the corner from Southernmost Beach Cafe.
|me at the buoy back in Jan of 2012|
If you're not interested in the view, head straight to the bar. Specialty drinks, during happy hour, are just 3 bucks, so this place fills up fast. There was no room at the bar so we had to sit along the wall with a tiny shelf for a table. Mark stuck with mojitos and I went with a rum runner. (from the happy hour menu) It's basically a rum punch with blackberry and banana liquor. These bad boys are potent, so don't drink 3 and then try to get on your bike to ride home.
At this point, we forgot to take anymore pictures so just imagine one of the glasses from above. If you've seen one rum punch, you've seen them all. It's the taste that sets them apart.