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Papa’s Pilar Rum party at Stiltsville

Arriving at Miami Springs Power Boat Club stilt house.
Arriving at Miami Springs Power Boat Club stilt house.
© 2013 Rosalie E. Leposky

Novelist and adventurer Ernest Hemingway was a seafaring man who called his boat Pilar, so it was only appropriate that the folks introducing Papa’s Pilar Rum to south Florida should hold their event at sea in a Stiltsville party house.

Papa’s Pilar Blonde and Papa’s Pilar Dark Rum.
Credit. Papa’s Pilar Rum.

A community of wooden shacks perched on pilings at the outer margin of Biscayne Bay, just south of Cape Florida, Stiltsville dates back to the 1930s and at one time included 27 separate structures. Hurricanes and fires reduced their number through the years, and then Hurricane Andrew in 1992 washed away all but seven of them.

Now the remaining Stiltsville structures belong to Biscayne National Park, which makes them available by permit for organized events. One such activity, the Papa’s Pilar Rum introduction party, took place on a structure built in the late 1950s by the Miami Springs Power Boat Club.

Makers and shakers

Papa’s Pilar Rum was inspired by the adventures of Hemingway, who lived in Key West from 1928 to 1939 and docked Pilar at the Key West Navy Yard. The rum is produced by Hemingway Rum Company, LLC, a Florida-based distilled spirits company.

Company principals are rum importer and supplier Jay Maltby, who has held executive positions at Bacardi USA, Cruzan Rum, and IncuBrands LLC; fourth-generation Barbados rum distiller Richard Seale; and bourbon innovator Lincoln Henderson.

Papa’s Pilar Rum was developed in conjunction with Ernest Hemingway’s estate, which will donate its royalty profits to adventure, literacy, and conservation organizations.

Wanting to go

On a very clear day you can see Stiltsville in the distance from Kennedy Park in the Coconut Grove section of Miami. Stiltsville has always been on my bucket list of places I’ve wanted to visit, tantalizingly close but hard to reach.

During my visit to Stiltsville, several park rangers were present, along with representatives from Dade Heritage Trust and the Stiltsville Trust. The number of people allowed on the premises at one time was limited, to protect the structures and the visitors.

Food and beverages were served. Guests played parlor games, threw bean bags, and lowered fishing lines through a hole in the lower floor of the two-story building. Several small fish were caught and released.

Everyone arrived by boat. During the hour-long voyage from the Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove, small cups of Dark and Golden Papa’s Pilar Rum were served. At the building, two bars upstairs and one downstairs dispensed two different drinks apiece, for a total of six:

Stiltsville Specialty Cocktails

Papa’s Blonde
Papa’s Pilar Blonde
Grapefruit peel garnish

Papa's Pride
Papa's Pilar Dark
Grapefruit peel garnish

Hemingway Daiquiri
2 oz Papa's Pilar Blonde
1 teaspoon grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
½ oz fresh lime juice

Stiltsville Cup
1½ oz Papa’s Pilar Dark
1 oz Pimms no.3 (brandy based)
½ oz Lemon
Add mint

Pilar de la Tierra
2 oz Pilar blonde
2 oz pineapple coconut water

¾ oz agave
½ lime squeezed
1 slice diced red jalapeño
Shake vigorously to release some of the juice from the peppers without muddling.
Strain over ice and garnish with slice of jalapeño.

Old Havana
1½ oz Papa’s Pilar Dark
½ Sweet Vermouth
Ginger Beer
Grapefruit Garnish

Tropical food was served

James “Hennessy” Anderson, owner/head chef of Conch Heaven at 11275 NW 27th Ave. chopped endless bowls of conch salad to satisfy a long line of eager diners. He serves conch salad daily at his restaurant.

Anderson’s Conch Salad

Ripe red tomatoes
Bell peppers.
Bahamian hot pepper mix with Scotch bottom and red hot peppers made by Anderson.
Fresh lemon and orange juice

Carlos Fernandez, owner of Coconut Grove Farms, sliced and served common and unusual tropical fruits in various combinations. They included bananas, dragon fruit (red and white), jackfruit, mamey, mango, passion fruit, papaya, pineapple, and watermelon.

Tables in the upstairs lounge area bore sandwiches that disappeared very quickly, and spinach dip in a bread bowl with vegetables for dipping – standard party fare, probably from Publix.

Rum flowed, food was plentiful, and it was a fun Sunday afternoon on which predicted rain and choppy water waited to descend until the event was almost over.

Stiltsville access information

Public access to Stiltsville is by permit only. For details, contact Stiltsville Trust.

For information on using Stiltsville for camera shoots, artist-in-residence visits, small conferences, or whatever, contact Biscayne National Park, or 305-230-1144.

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