Category Archives: Key West

Columns about the Island of Misfit Toys

Bloody Mary- Breakfast of Champions

By Leigh Pujado

Only a crackpot genius could concoct a beverage combining vodka and tomato juice with a bunch of odd flavorings then convince people that it was not only tasty, but a great way to start one’s day.  So where did the cocktail we now know as the Bloody Mary originate?   I like to tell our tourists that it was invented at the Green Parrot by John Vagnoni’s mother, (which is about as accurate as the historical information gleaned from a Conch Tour Train conductor.)

I conducted a little research on the famous hair of the dog drink using highly reliable sources like “The Internet” and the staff at Don’s Place.  Conflicting reports place the Bloody’s inception either in the 1920’s or somewhere between 1978 to 1985, the David Lee Roth years of Van Halen.  Most folks credit actor/comedian George Jessel for coming up with morning hangover beverage of vodka and tomato juice, which at the time (the roaring 20’s) was an easy sell considering the only other morning remedy was chugging a beer floated with a raw egg and pepper.

Then one of drink-slinging history’s most famous mixologists, Fernand Petiot began toying with the cocktail, adding pepper, salt, lemon and Worcestershire sauce.  Rumor has it that Petiot served these vodka-laced tomato treats to Hemingway when he worked at Harry’s American Bar in Paris, then later to Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio when he tended bar at the St Regis Hotel in New York.

Which reminds me, it seems to be fashionable for bars to claim “Hemingway Drank Here.”   I’ve seen the claims all over the world, believe many to be true and am still not impressed.  Hemingway was a well traveled, raging alcoholic.  The World was his bar.  But I digress.

Anyway, the drink used to be called a “Red Snapper,” as the name “Bloody Mary” was too risque for the times, but by the 1950’s, the uptights had let their hair down enough to allow the rightful name, Bloody Mary, into common bar vocabulary.

(I wonder what they used to call a “Sex on the Beach?”  “Fornication in the Sand” sounds plausible.)

These days, people put everything but the kitchen sink into their Bloody’s.  Here in Key West, I am partial to several versions.  Bartender Bob down at Schooner Wharf makes a tasty classic with just enough horseradish to put hair on your chest.  And who doesn’t love the handmade Bloody’s at the Parrot complete with a hot pickled green bean…..just the way John’s mama used to make.

The Porch is OPEN!

The Porch is open!  10 AM to 2 AM

429 Caroline Street (in the Porter House)

Michael Shields: Artist, Visionary & Guest Bartender

Look who stepped behind the bar at the Bottlecap a couple weeks ago for their Friday fundraiser.

Mister Michael Shields swinging his opener like a pro!

Friday July 2nd–Happy Hour

The Drinkslinger Blog’s biggest fan: David

Mister David Evans of Mobile, Alabama, retired Marine, Engineer  and frequent Key West visitor is a big fan of this blog.  David drinks Bud Light, carries around a plastic Captain Tony’s cup everywhere he goes and tells stories with no fewer than four metaphors.  And although there are no hills in Alabama, David is the Drinkslinger’s favorite Hillbilly!

Take This Job and Shove It

By Leigh Pujado

Once upon a time I held a job bartending at an establishment that I found “less than fulfilling.”  I could write chapters on the woes of my disgruntled 5 months there, slinging drinks in my mandatory tropical print shirt, competing for money shifts with tenured drug addicts and struggling to pass the day against an auditory assaulting backdrop of sing along country tunes and “island favorites.”  To make a long story short it was sort of like being sentenced to mixing tropical drinks in a time capsule hell with Jimmy Buffet and Billy Ray Cyrus.

But I digress.

The only reason I bring up this interesting experience in my employment history is to mention that one policy (among the many ridiculous policies) practiced by this bar was the assessing of a “breakage fee” to each bartender at the end of each shift.  What I am saying is that each bartender at the end of his or her shift hands off their cash drawer and sales print-out to the shift manager who then counts the drawer and charges a “breakage fee” to be paid by the bartender.  Each shift I was forced to pay several dollars off the top of my tips to cover the cost of glassware. Notably, this fee was never based on whether or not I or any other bartender had actually broken any glassware.

Listening to “Pencil Thin Mustache” and “Kokomo” multiple times a day was bad enough.  But being fleeced for the cost of doing business was too much to handle.  When I realized I was being charged for this I was incensed!  I was livid.  I was outraged!  And unfortunately I was without legal representation.  But like hundreds of nameless, faceless employees before me, I paid the fee, and after work, went on my merry way and reveled in too much beer and the angry banter of movies like “Office Space.”

Today I stopped by one of my favorite haunts, Louie’s Backyard, to revel in their sunshine filled Afterdeck Bar, which just so happens to be another place I spent a couple of years slinging drinks.  It’s a lovely place, and for those of you who have not been there, it is a must for both it’s majestic Atlantic Ocean view and its delectable island cuisine.

However, for all its merit, Louie’s also wallows in a ridiculous snare of assessing the cost of doing business to its employees.  While I was there (5 PM, just before dinner begins promptly at 6PM,) I witnessed the waiters meticulously counting the silverware.  Management insists on the counting of pieces of silverware nightly and as silverware goes missing, assessing the cost to the servers.

I assure you, I am not making this up.  Louie’s charges their servers for missing silverware.

Several servers have tried making a stink, citing how unfair the $8 periodic fee is, only to be greeted with their walking papers.  While I agree it is a ridiculously unfair practice by management, I understand that complaining about their policy does little to remedy the situation.  In the two years that I bartended on the Afterdeck, I used to bring my own flatware from home as back-up silverware for when we literally ran out of silverware during meal service.

Basically, what I am saying is, “You want to work for crazy people?  Then abide by their crazy rules.”

Me?  I don’t want to work for crazy people anymore.  The beverage industry is too vast and varied to resign one’s self to remain working at an establishment that insists on silly policies.  Louie’s gets away with it simply because it is a beautiful place that literally hoovers over a particularly scenic piece of the Atlantic.

Suffice to say, I didn’t last long at the other bar that charged the breakage fee.  Their myriad of arbitrary rules and regulations and candy ass music left me less than eager to sling their inventory.  But, while the honeymoon lasted and because I was being forced to pay for the glassware, I made certain to break no fewer than 7 glasses per day.

Mozoltov you stupid Fuckers!

The Fight to Keep Fido as a Bar Patron

By Leigh Pujado

There is a very important vote coming up Tuesday at our City Commission meeting.   Key West Commissioners will be voting on whether or not to adopt the Dixie Cup Clary Local Control Act  (State Statute 509.233) which allows dogs in open air establishments if the city chooses to adopt the ordinance.  This vote is important for a couple reasons.  First, it would allow dog friendly establishments to maintain their canine-toting-customer business base.  Second, passing the ordinance will protect our city’s image as the delightful quirky tourist destination.  And most importantly, passing the ordinance will solidify an individual business’s right to make their own rules about their own particular establishment.

The state of Washington recently went through a similar debate over whether to welcome or ban Fido from bars and restaurants. An adviser from the Washington Department of Health  argued that “Dogs can transmit diseases, they drool, shed and don’t use the toilet.  These are potential issues around food.”

Funny–I could say the same about young children and some of our very best customers after a particularly successful happy hour.  But the principle remains the same:  Individual businesses should choose whether or not to allow dogs (or babies or incontinent drunken idiots) into their establishment.

Another argument against allowing dogs is the potential for canine-related injuries and   lawsuits.  Unfortunately there’s an entire genre of law practice that encompasses clumsy idiots suing businesses for big bucks.  Remember the lady who sued MacDonald’s for millions (and won) because her coffee was hot and the cup didn’t bear a warning label?  Well down in Key West we recently had our own victorious clumsy idiot lawsuit.  Last month a jury awarded Bonnie Alayne Dunbar of Marlboro Massachusetts $18,000 for injuries sustained from tripping over a dog at Turtle Kraals several years ago.  I could almost be ok with the verdict if Ms. Dunbar had been bitten or attacked by the dog but she was not.  She tripped over it on her way to the restroom.

After MacDonald’s lost their hot coffee lawsuit, all cups of coffee from their franchises began bearing a large Caution label.  Perhaps dog friendly establishments may enact warning labels of their own to ward off potential klutzes from canine tripping hazards.  Maybe the staff could wear blaze orange vests with the words “WARNING:  DOGS ON PREMISE.  WATCH YOUR STEP!”  Maybe the dog owners, not the businesses, should be the ones getting sued?  Or maybe we could all just be responsible for our own actions?

One business in Charlotte, North Carolina has got this dog issue figured out.  “The Dog Bar” requires pet owners to purchase a $10 annual doggie membership, provide proof of vaccinations and sign a doggie rules waiver.  They welcome all types of well behaved dogs but ban all children under 18.  Copy and Paste their site:

In Key West, perhaps the most notable dog bar, The Schooner Wharf Bar, has been abiding by the recent ban on dogs in restaurants.   Owners Paul and Evalena Worthington are gearing up for Tuesday’s Commission vote by asking supporters to write a letter in favor of the ordinance to the City Clerk at the following address:

If you support keeping the funkiness of dog friendly Key West and allowing businesses to make their own rules, write a letter in favor of passing Tuesday’s ordinance.  And if you ever find yourself in Marlboro, Massachusetts and you run into Bonnie Alayne Dunbar, feel free to bark at her wildly.

(PHOTOS courtesy of Rob O’Neal and The Dog Bar website)