Bitters are trans-formative…

A dash or two added to any tropical cocktail that doesn’t normally call for bitters can be a big improvement. 

Amargo Chuncho is a go too bitters for me but as evidenced below experimenting with bitters made from related ingredients can yield excellent results.

I had a number of really good accounts in St. Barts & St. Maarten but it also gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time visiting with my traveling, sailing and surfing companion of many years D. Randy West. He was there quite a lot on the various sailboats he captained and it was his home base for 3 decades. 

Randy was blessed with personality and enthusiasm beyond the norm and was a true “Son of the Beach” (One of a number of Alums from Daytona Beach in the 70’s and 80’s that made their way to the Caribbean & Hawaii to share thier enthusiasm for watersports with the world).  No one better to be in or on the water with.  He taught me to sail and helped me become a better surfer.  In return I taught him to scuba dive and helped him with some of finer points of windsurfing in high winds when he took up the sport. 

He was a great story teller and could spin yarns in a number of different accents.  In early 1981 we opted to spend the winter in the Eastern Caribbean and started the trip off in St. Thomas.  We surfed, dove and sailed for a week or so with champion swimmer Pam Lowenhaupt and her boyfriend. 

I can distinctly remember us hitch hiking on Skyline Drive to Hull Bay one day early in the trip to catch a a swell.  We ended up in the back of a truck with 3 Rastafarians who were for the most part genial.  Of course, there was pot being passed about and the subject got around to religion.  One of the Rastas told us we were “whodevils” and that Jah proclaimed death to all the oppressors!  Randy in his best West Indian brogue came back with “I ain’t no whodevil!  Jah say death to all the oppressors black and white”!  Lord almighty that broke the ice.

After I moved to St. Thomas in 82, and for a number of years after Randy got off the boat show circuit with the concept boat PROCYON, he’d show up in the fall to pick up supplies and do repairs getting ready for season on what ever boat he was running in St. Maarten or St. Barth.  He’d stay with me in the Frenchie Shack I had up near the top of Peter Mountain.  We always seemed to catch an early swell or two at Hull or Caret Bay.  It could get crowded in Hull bay but both of us always enjoyed surfing “The Point” which was a lovely point break that worked well from shoulder high to about 2-3 ft over head.  There were only 2 other locals who liked to surf the winding shallow left. 

We also had some great side trips when the swell was right to Tortola to surf Little Apple and Cane Garden Bay.  Of course we’d hit all the local hotspots for dinner and cocktails wherever we were including the infamous Barbary Coast in French Town which was a favorite.

Randy was most famous for and known around the world as the Godfather of Caribbean Multihull Sailing. He was closely associated with Catamarans of Peter Spronk and especially Ppalu which he actually helped launch in the late 70s shortly after graduating from college.  It was always his favorite and he actually bought Ppalu 4 or 5 years ago but that is another story.

He also authored 2 very entertaining books.  One of them was “The Hurricane Book…  A sailing Captain’s Memoirs”  about all the hurricanes he survived in boats, on land and in the surf.  Reading it was like revisiting my own history with the big storms from Daytona Beach to the Caribbean.

Randy and I grew up on opposite sides of Volusia County born about 6 months apart but never crossed paths till June of 1980. Our interactions with Hurricanes started for both of us with Donna in1960 and for me ended with a narrow escape from Hurricane Floyd in 1999. It was one of the few storms that didn’t chase Randy to hell and back!

The other book was “A Sunny Place for Shady Characters: Tales from St. Barth’s “Le Select” Bar”.  This bar served the traditional French West Indian Cocktail “Ti Punch” all day long.  My first time visiting the island was on an excursion with Randy in 84.  He was Capt. of the Spronk Cat “Zwana” doing “Pony Rides” with tourists from St. Maarten when he first settled into the region.  It is an entertaining read about all the scoundrels that based themselves there back in the day. It brought back a lot of memories as we had many mutual friends.  Among them “Thumper” Frieze (not his real name and living happily ever after) and the Big Kahuna, Pat Turner both of whom I supplied windsurfing gear, other necessities and spent a great deal of time with in and out of the water.  I visited the island 4-6 times a year through 2001 and never missed a visit to Le Select. 

Randy appreciated good food and drink and took to all the local customs associated with such.  However there was a time when Randy gave up hard liquor and drank nothing but champagne for something like 2 years.  In that period I’d travel to St. Bart or St. Maarten and show up at Le Select or the Sailors Bar in Phillipsburg after a day of working my accounts to find Randy holding court drinking Champagne. It was always nothing but good times with Randy.

After moving to Colorado I had only been in touch with Randy a few times but would look him up on the internet to see what he was up to.  A while back I woke up in the middle of the night and I just got to thinking let’s check on Randy and did a google search.   The results were very depressing as I was surprised to learn that he had passed away a few years back. I never thought he would beat me to the grave as he always seemed bigger than life itself.  An incredible character and fantastic friend, I am certain there are many that miss him as I do!


Randy and another Caribbean Legend that we’ll miss…  Mr. Jimmy Buffet 


A Bottle of “Rhum” and a Lime

Jimmy Buffet spent a lot of time on St. Barts a French Island of note where he owned a home and the best night club in the Caribbean.  I can’t help but think that when he wrote Banana Republics, he was talking about the Le Select Bar and the cocktail “Ti’ Punch”  as it is the classic drink of the French West Indies and literally as described “A Bottle of Rhum and a Lime” (rather than in bars of the Latin Countries as the song implies).  Plus Le Select was the home of many expatriates from all over the world.

It is a simple cocktail made with a teaspoon or less of a sugar syrup called Petit Canne (BG Reynolds Demerara works fine) and a quarter sized slice of lime rind mulled together and then stirred with Agricole Rhum.  Rhum Agricole is made from sugar cane juice rather than molasses and has a earthy note to it.  It is sensational with La Favorite Rhum Agricole Blanc which has a lot of funk in the nose… It is called a Grande Punch when using an Aged Agricole Rhum…  Adding 2-3 drops of lime bitters will even make it better. Also if you don’t have Agricole Rhum handy any aged Rum will make a fine Grande Punch.  

It’s also fantastic with my friend Robert Dawson’s, Kohana Agricole Rhum from the Manulele Distillery on Oahu.  If you are going to Hawaii anytime soon make sure you include a visit to this incredible distillery… Robert is a true artisan and doing great things in HI.

 If you are a Rum drinker this is a humdinger!

If you can’t find Toadstool Pennellen Amaro No. 2 try Gran Classico I bet it is pretty good and and plan to give it a spin tonight!

If you prefer blender drinks…



Also below are good examples of riffs that will appeal to a variety of personal preferences.

Hemingway was a diabetic and this particular version may very well be the actual recipe that he drank.  It is spirits forward, simple and clean using only the Maraschino Liqueur to add a sweet balance to the cocktail. Don’t be bashful a dash or 10 drops of Dashfire Lime or Grapefruit Bitters works well in this cocktail.