Sometimes when the heat is on during summer in Key West, the only solution is ice. I want to present a second drinking option here. Mind you, this does not preclude combinations with Emergency Hydration Option 1 from my previous post on the important issue of using cold drinks to lower your core body temperature to safe levels. But it seems important to afford the ever-popular frozen summer treat, the alcohol slushy, separate consideration.
Emergency Hydration Option 2: Frozen drinks.
Granted, nearly any bartender will crank up the blender and whip up a dose of alcohol-laced brain-freeze that will go a long way toward reducing your core temperature. I just want to note a couple of standouts here that may be worth going out of the way for as you seek shelter from the heat of summer in Key West.
The margaritas mentioned by Key West icon Jimmy Buffet most likely happened in Cozumel Mexico. However, there are indeed several renowned founts of this icy-cold goodness to be found here in town. Louie’s Backyard near the southwestern end of the island has a solid reputation for serving a good margarita, and good snacks to go with it. The cocktail deck also has an awesome ocean view that ups the quality of the drink. Local drinkers report that Don’s Place on Truman Avenue pours a nice margarita, especially for those who become familiar with the bartenders and find the one who mixes the best version. For the Tequila purist, the Agave 308 Tequila Bar is undoubtedly the best for specific and eclectic Margarita varieties. Finally, when quantity is of more concern than quality, many locals choose Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill, and Brewery on the corner of Whitehead and Caroline. The Margaritas are machine-made alcohol slurpies, but for $3.50 each during the 4:00 – 7:00 happy hour, this is a very cost-effective way to cool off.
Daiquiris are made with rum and lime juice, or some other combination of rum and fruit. Most people probably know the strawberry version the best. Fruit is fruit, so the thing to look for here is delicious rum and a bartender who knows how to work with it. Serious boozers know that the greatest treasure of the Caribbean is rum, a sugarcane molasses-based delight that put Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Barbados on the drinking map of the world. The standout spot for Rum drinks in Key West would have to be the aptly-named Rum Bar, located on the south end of Duval Street in the Speakeasy Inn.
The Rum Bar offers about 230 varieties of high-quality Rum, and with only 10 seats in the dimly lit, dark-wood paneled house, you avoid the crowds that can induce excessive body heat in a room. Settle on one of the well-upholstered bar stools, savor the air-conditioning, and ask the barkeep to grind you up a frozen dark rum treat.
To wrap things up, let’s think outside the frozen drink box and consider the cocktail that does not need crushed ice to quickly make you forget the heat – the Vodka Martini. Straight booze with no useless fillers, a few tinis will chill you out in no time. Hit La Ti Da Terrace Bar for big strong, well-chilled drinks that come with a bonus shot in an iced carafe sidecar. The bartenders at La Ti Da are able to accommodate custom orders without any distress, so if you really need slush, just have them dump the shaker in the blender for you. I know such talk may upset the shaken not stirred purist Martini drinker. Those folks can regain their calm at Virgilio’s Martini Bar, the place to go for variety, strength, and expert mixology. At Virgillio’s, all they do are Martinis, and they serve the best in Key West even without their $5 Martini Mondays.