As crazy as it sounds to say, I was fortunate enough to find myself out of work in January 2006. I wouldn’t normally wish unemployment on anyone, but in this case it worked out for me. I really liked the job I had, I was making good money and working cushy hours, and had the bar not been sold and closed, forcing me to look for a new job, I never would have left. I picked up a few odd shifts here and there to tide me over while looking for my next full time gig. Enter Pat Croce.
Pat is a businessman from Pennsylvania. Most famous for once being the owner of the Philadelphia 76er’s, he is also a pirate junkie. At the time he owned the Pirate Soul museum down here in Key West and was looking to add a restaurant on the lot next to the museum. Naturally, it had to be something “piratically” themed…and thus The Rum Barrel was born. I was hired on as one of the original bartenders, and it was there that I discovered both my love for rum and mixology.
I would meet customers on their first trip to Key West, many of whom hadn’t be on a vacation in years, even decades. They would ask for something special, to commemorate their time. Well, with close to two hundred rums to choose from, it was very easy to start mixing and matching flavors. Much like entering a house of mirrors, the more I played around, the more I wanted to learn. Five years later I’m creating drinks like the Captain Courageous and the Elder Statesmen while taking mixology classes with Dale Degroff. And let’s not forget being named by Tommy Bahama as their premiere Rumologist.
I still make to The Rum Barrel every couple of weeks, both to see what the new additions to the rum bible are (seriously, they have a rum bible) and to catch up with old friends who still work there. If you ever find yourself down this way, be sure to stop in and see what Alan or John or any of the other fantastic bartenders have to offer. So grab your friends, plan a trip to Cayo Hueso, and Make Life One Long Weekend ™. Follow me on twitter @popcornjack and meet me here next week for some more rumology.
The Rum Barrel