Since the free-spirited days of the late 1970s, when Jimmy Buffett began singing about margarita cocktails and a laid-back subtropical lifestyle, tasty cold beverages have tapped into new levels of sophistication and creativity.
Today, trail of breweries and distilleries now wind their way through our 125-mile-long Florida Keys island chain, offering libations, brews and handcrafted cocktails infused with subtropical flavors s like Key lime and coconut.
In Key Largo, Keys’ Meads stands at Mile Marker 99 oceanside as the only meadery in the Keys and one of the few in Florida. The emporium offers tastings of alcohol infused with honey from local apiaries, or beehive collections, with seasonal flavors like maple, blueberry, Jamaican cherry, starfruit and habanero. You can also visit them online at keysmeads.com or call 305-204-4596.
If great local beer is more your thing, hop on over to Islamorada, aka, the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, and check out two local breweries who are rapidly gaining a big loyal following.
The Islamorada Beer Co, or IBC, is located at Mile Marker 82.2 oceanside, with a bright yellow-and-teal-colored tasting room. Their legendary Sandbar Sunday beer is like the Keys’ sun-soaked on-the-water lifestyle in a bottle. Find out more at islamoradabeerco.com or call 305-508-9093. The company also creates on-site spirits at Islamorada Distilling, where you can revel in daily samplings of their gin, vodka and dark barrel-aged and spiced rums. Check them out at islamoradadistilling.com or call 305-440-2162.
Florida Keys Brewing Co. also has a microbrewery, tap room and outdoor beer garden nearby at Mile Marker 81.6, oceanside, right in the heart of the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District. It infuses Key lime, citrus and local honey into its brews. Hit them up at floridakeysbrewingco.com or call 305-916-5206.
Known for its local breweries, specialty rums and craft cocktails, Key West is home to First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery, whose historic building includes the original office of Pan American World Airways. The self proclaimed “Southernmost Microbrewery in the USA,” brews three beers on tap and has a good food to boot. Find out more at firstflightkw.com or call 305-293-8484.
At The Waterfront Brewery in Key West’s bustling Historic Seaport, you can knock back a rotating selection of tasting beers including wild brews like the “Honey Blonde Crazy Lady.” Be sure to catch their extremely entertaining and educational brewery tour. Visit thewaterfrontbrewery.com or call 305-440-2270.
Rum reigns at Key West First Legal Rum Distillery, located at 105 Simonton St. on the site of a historically significant pre-Prohibition-era bar. A variety of Legal Rum flavored rums are aged in salt-cured barrels. Free rum tastings, tours and classes on how to make “the best mojito north of Havana” are offered, as well. You can also buy shelf-stable Key Lime rum pies and yummy rum cakes. Click on keywestlegalrum.com or call 305-294-1441 for more info.
The nearby Hemingway Rum Co. Distillery, an 8,200-square-foot brick distillery and attraction with photo tributes to Ernest Hemingway, features a 350-gallon still capable of producing up to 80 gallons of rum daily from molasses, yeast and water. Located at 201 Simonton St., it also includes an interactive scent display where you can smell flavor profiles. Their signature Papa’s Pilar Dark and Blonde rums are both blended from varieties in Key West, the Caribbean and Central America. More at papaspilar.com or call 305-414-8754.
One last recommendation: Pace yourself because this could turn out to be one helluva ride!