Dateline: Key West, Fantasy Fest '09. For several years creative juggernaut Cayman Smith-Martin has been dominating the giant annual parade in terms of pure balls-out creativity, assembling large groups of local kids of all ages to help create high concept ensemble performance art krewes for the event that marks the climax of the week-long, all-the-way-over-the-top party. Most floats are simply sloppily-themed slutty chicks or dudes dancing around to pop hip hop--Cayman's projects tell a story, from his Indian-themed "Lotus Eaters" to the dazzling "Dia De Los Muertos" to this year's theme, his most ambitious yet. "Smuggler's Paradise" was an epic recreation of a golden, dirty era in Key West's past-the early 70s, when the string of islands were one of the biggest in points for drugs coming from the Caribbean and Central and South America. By all accounts it was an incredibly lawless era, a wild, wild west on the water, with massive amounts of drugs and money changing hands between various players from drug cartels, hippy importers and corrupt cops. Cayman set out to recreate this legendary time with some 60 players.
Since I was going to be in town I thought I might pitch in with some kind of punch. The theme of Smuggler's Paradise made me think of Sailor Jerry Rum, with its surfer, slightly punk image and serious punchability. I was particularly keen to use an off-message rum, as that lousy Captain Morgan Rum was a main sponsor of Fantasy Fest. Sailor Jerry's is affordable and mixable and after I stocked up I started sourcing punch fixins' the morning of the parade. One unusual detail was that I planned to make it from scratch at the staging grounds for the parade--on site, and hopefully enlivening, stimulating, euphoria-enhancing, something that would contribute in some way to this endeavor and this vibe.
Sticking with the sweaty, Caribbean theme I went with tropical fruits--I was tempted to go with fresh-squeezed juices, but given the rough, in-the-field nature of the event and the as-yet unknown facilities, I opted for the highest grade store bought juices I could find, and garnished the punch liberally with slices and chunks of fresh fruit. 100% fresh is of course always best, but in this case expediency trumped purity. I picked up some fresh (in the not-pasteurized but not-fresh squeezed sense) OJ. In Key West the best available--and it's quite good-- is Orchid Island. Mango juice from Looza Juices was my secret weapon, bringing the serious island flavor. Fresh lemon and lime juice, and slices of pineapple and banana rounded it all out, and lots and lots of Sailor Jerry punched it up and lots and lots of club soda stretched it back out. cI transported all the gear and product to the staging grounds (basically just a waterfront) in a bike trailer lent by a friend, and found a friendly tailgate where Cayman and crew were getting prepped and got to work.
SMUGGLER'S PARADISE PUNCH
(No recorded ratios...)
Sailor Jerry's Rum
Orchid Island Orange Juice
Loov Mango Juice
I gained some insight into creating punches in the wild; below are some thoughts.
DO: Use big ice cubes made in take out soup or yogurt containers. I messed around with bags of deli ice and it adds complication and drips water everywhere. The giant cubes melt slowly and are easy to transport.
DO: Bring Angostura bitters. Other kinds of bitters too, possibly, like Fee Brother Rhubarb or Regan's Orange # , but never be withouth Angostura. It can rescue a punch that's gotten too sweet and butch it up, and fast, bringing a dirty rootsy flavor that punctures anything saccharine that you've mixed by mistake.
DON'T: bother cutting up bananas, unless it's a garnish. They don't juice up. Try a Looze banana juice.
DO: Squeeze fresh lemon and/or lime juice. This brings the sweetness of the juices back into tangy, interesting territory, and makes even lame tinned juices taste more alive.
DO: Use soda water liberally. You will not regret watering a delicious punch down a little and stretching it out, and neither will your thirsty chums.
DO: Let one batch pretty much run out before starting another--I had a never ending, ever-mutating punch going as I jsut threw stuff in as it got lower and that was probably a little too chaotic for quality control. No one complained, however.
David Wegman was around during those crazy during that era, and his presence added a nice bit of real life to the make believe. This "Olaug" bike boat is inspired by a real boat that was busted with some insane amount of hashish onboard in the early seventies.
Cayman The Smuggler, outfitted as one of the South American militia memebers who were a key part of the drug trade, here with our smuggled rum. More photos after the jump.
These sexy militia girls mingle with sexy/fat cat corrupt cops and mainland detectives, pre-parade.
Mules of all kinds were used for getting drugs across Central America and into the Keys....
...this mule packed PBR.
Back in the day, so many bales of coke and weed got dumped over the sides of boats that were about to be boarded by the Coast Guard that these flotsam of the drug trade were nicknamed of "Key West Whites" and "Square Grouper", respectively. Many local fortunes were made from enterprising locals turning a profit from these found bales and building businesses from that seed money. Or they were just used for a really, really big party.
No modern party is complete without someone taking photos on their iPhone, in this case from a dude playing one of the many folks that got busted during this era.
There was a strong disco contingent in Key West and Miami--as Cayman put it: "these were the ones doing the coke."
But Key West was always more of a weed town.
Cayman fine tuning the stilts of a giant paper mache judge.
I think we sent everyone off into the parade in fine spirits, bolstered by rum, good fruit juice and that high that comes at the climax of a weeks-long, communal creative endeavor. Many thanks to Sailor Jerry for hooking it up.