Drink / Food / Good Life / Muse / Travel

Rum and Island Dreaming

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Part I: The Longing

There are so many things absent in our lives this year. A recurring treat that has sidelined this year are the impromptu pilgrimages to the Islands. For years, my wife Casey and I have slipped away for “long weekend” to dates together to the Caribbean. We usually travel on relatively short notice, just when the fuses in our our lives are getting close to the bomb. We live in a small Southern city- that’s nice enough- but not particularly known for cultural offerings. It’s almost hard to even find a nice and quiet spot to go on a date without running into the gossip-queen from church, the couple from the club that wants to share a table, or a client from work. Charlotte is just far enough away for a nice meal and anonymity- but its just as easy to go to the airport and make a a quick trip South. So when the cards align and we can find a someone to loan our kids to- we just slip out sometimes. 

In our two decade long marriage, we’ve been to a large majority of the Islands. The Spanish speaking ones, the Dutch, the British, and French ones, the  “Vegas-esk American-esk” ones, the ones where there is tequila, the ones where there is rum, the ones where cruise ships port, and the ones the have that Calypso and Rasta feel, the ones with mariachi bands. We’ve stayed in guest houses, large hotels, all inclusive resorts (that are kid friendly, adult exclusive, spring break friendly, drunk friendly, and tattoo friendly), and little boutiques. As we get older, our sense of adventure is waning and we gravitate to the familiar, those places we cherish the most. We fine ourselves returning to the same places, nearly on a punctuated rotation. 

The rotation seems to have narrowed to Jamaica, Bermuda, and Harbor Island. We enjoy the British colonial feel and mannerisms. (No, not all of Jamaica is Reggae-Rasta-HeyMon, if you do it right.) The anatomy of a day in each place is similar. Each morning begins with a slow paced breakfast, quiet conversation and incredible coffee in porcelain that honors it. We spend most of the morning in the sun, usually taking a lunch on the beach or about town in a casual and bucolic setting (think chicken shacks, conch salad, grouper burgers). If there is any activity, it happens in this window of the day- but we generally just sit, talk, read and, muse on these trips. About the time we are hot and tired- we find our way to a nap.

Each of the places we chose to stay generally observes tea time- or at least a cocktail time reverent to the clockwork of tea time. We arrived with fresh clothes. This is a time to have cordial conversations with other guests. Over the years we have enjoyed sharing a cocktail with the owners and managers of the places we stay. We have had some fascinating conversations with fascinating people. Tea time usually evolves into some sort of game. Casey and I play gin or backgammon in the open air parlors or we make our way to the croquette lawn. When I was a young man, I made the mistake of asking a venerable cabana bartender if I could have the key to the locker for mallets and balls- at 11 o’clock in the morning. He told me he would meet me there just before “tea” with the same face a waiter might use when you use the wrong fork. We met in the late afternoon. He took of his white tuxedo service coat, rolled up his sleeves, and took me to the lawn. I’ve never been utterly destroyed in any competition in my whole life like that. Casey laughed at the side with a rum punch in hand. I have looked forward to meeting him again on each occasion we make to down to visit.Screen Shot 2020-08-08 at 1.53.13 PM.png

After tea, we retire to our quarters to prepare for the evening. Casey usually takes the bathroom  over first (and longer). I typically use a little of this time to have a cocktail on the porch and a cigar. Sometimes a Scotch, sometimes Gin, but you discover in the heat of the moment that there is very fine Rum to be had on the rocks. I enjoy the lack of pressure and responsibility of vaction- I enjoy the chance to slow down to groom and dress myself. Just as we have gravitated to British Colonial Islands (I might add, we also get this feel in Charleston), we trend to pick places that have a somewhat sophisticated etiquette toward dress and dining. I enjoy splashing Royall Lyme on and an embarrassing amount of Bryll Cream in my hair. Nice summer weight trousers and sportcoat- no tie, and loafers with no socks. Casey always looks stunning and we are off to dinner. Dinner is usually at eight- which means be at the lounge by 7:45 and you will be at the table at 8:30. We enjoy dining outside in candlelight, with all the great seafood and West Indies fare and great live music ambient in the air. Screen Shot 2020-08-08 at 1.56.53 PM.png

Last night (in North Carolina), I poured a glass of Rum I bought on a whim for my Friday night “brown water”. With eyes closed it took me to those places I long to be. Our fuse is short and we need a “balm”.

The Rum was Bacoo 12 year, a Dominican Rum aged in Oak barrels. I came along thinking of rum as cheap booze that you mixed in fruity drinks. My travels taught me otherwise. This rum had flavor qualities of Scotch and Bourbon. It was really cane sugar sweet and had a strong vanilla note- but a mature taste underneath. I read a blog post on Inside Hook about rum, it inspired me to go rum shopping. The sip inspired me to daydream and write this musing post. I have decided tomorrow is going to be an Island stay-cation.

Part II: The Colonial Island Stay-cation. Recipes and Such

  1. Have it all ready the day before. The shopping. The staging and the setup. Loan your kids to someone else, your pets for that matter too.
  2. Wake up a little later. 
  3. Take Breakfast on the porch- in a robe with your loved one. Have a nice breakfast with bacon, eggs, muffins, fresh fruit, coffee and tea. Use good China. Do all the work and let your loved one relax. (ideally hire someone to cook, serve, and clean)
  4. Do something relaxing and entertaining. Lay by the pool, play a round of golf together, or hire a masseuse and an esthetician to come to the house for massages and girly stuff. Sip on a fruity cocktail. {SEE BELOW}
  5. Eat eat crab salad and grouper sandwiches for lunch. {RECIPES BELOW}
  6. Take a big nap.
  7. Invite over a few friends for late afternoon cocktails. Serve grouper ceviche and shrimp cocktails.
  8. Have a candlelight dinner in the dining room after your guests leave. I’m thinking a steak, salad, and starch meal to keep it simple. Really good wine, maybe some champagne.

Restrain from the temptation to see what is happening in the background to make this happen. Put you MF’n phones away. The dishes will still be there tomorrow.

The Playlist: 

-Cocktail Hour:

Toots and Maytals, Funky Kingston

Perfect Island feel with a little motown soul on top.

– Dinner:

Mile Davis, My Kind of Blue


For the day and into the cocktail hour,

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  • Rum Punch:

-20 oz pineapple juice

-20 oz orange juice

-10 oz rum

-5 ounce dark rum

-2 ounce coconut rum

-2 ounce fresh lime juice

-1.5 ounce grenadine

-1 orange sliced

-1 lime sliced

-1 lemon sliced

Cocktail hour (when your “mask-wearing” friends come over for a visit):

A bar set up with:

  • A bucket of Lager Beer (non- adventurous dude friend)
  • A bucket of fresh ice
  • A bottle of Chardonnay at the ready (non- adventurous lady friend)
  • Vodka, Gin, Aged Rum, and  Reposado Tequila
  • Tonic Water and Club Soda
  • Sliced Limes, Lemons, and Oranges


Crab Salad Recipe:
  • 12 oz jumbo lump crabmeat
  • Head of Bibb Lettuce
  • 1/2 cup green onion
  • 2 Tsp. Rice vinegar
  • 2 Tsp. Mayonaise
  • 1 Tsp. Olive Oil
  • Zest of One Lemon
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients except crab meat and onion. Slice both green and white parts of onion. Gently toss the crab lumps and onion in. Serve on chilled glass plates or martini glasses over bibb lettuce and garnish with lemon wedge.

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Grouper Ceviche
  • 1 cup of diced grouper (reserved bits and pieces from the filet used at lunch on the sandwich)
  • 1/4 cup diced firm avocado
  • 1/4 cup diced tomato
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • chopped cilantro
  • one finely chopped serranno pepper (with seeds)
  • Juice of 2-3 limes
  • Zest of one lime
  • 1 Tsp of Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, submerge diced grouper under lime juice. Place in refrigerator until the fish is cooked by the acidity of the lime juice (apprx. 2 hours). Drain the grouper and toss with all other ingredients. Serve with toast points. 

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