Being a bartender is starting to take on a different meaning in Key West. A new wave of bartenders are continuing a trend that started in major cities and is now flourishing on the island. These mixologists don’t just want to make you a drink; they want to make you a good drink with quality ingredients. They are popping up in the nooks and crannies of Old Town to shake up what the rest of the world knows as craft cocktails and making a difference in how we experience the simple act of “having a drink.”
One of locations that has joined the cocktail revolution is The Gardens Hotel at 526 Angela St., thanks to the discerning vision of bar manager Adam J. Duplin. The charming hotel that sits hidden behind a concrete wall on the corner of Simonton and Angela streets has been known for its Sunday afternoon jazz and as host to many benefits for local charities.
“Adam is quite the mixologist and quite interesting,” Gardens general manager Jim Marquardt says about his co-worker.
“I love to cook and for me bartending is just a different form of it; moving from a solid to a liquid and experimenting,” Adam explains. “When I took over the bar it was a run of the mill hotel bar and that’s not what I wanted to do. I’m a whiskey guy and usually gravitate towards Old Fashioneds. I have my own take on how to make one.” I am stepping up the liquor program here and will definitely be adding crafty bourbons and scotches.”
He is currently busy designing the first menu of its kind at the Gardens Hotel that will hopefully be popping up on social media soon. “I want it to be more cocktail oriented, with classic cocktails, fun drinks and higher end spirits.”
One of the drinks that Adam just recently introduced is called the Gin Dandy. It is made with gin, egg white, lavender bitters, dandelion bitters, lemon juice and absinthe. It’s the type of drink that could have been served at Great Gatsby parties, which is fitting as that’s exactly how I picture the Gardens Hotel looking a hundred years ago. Fabulous, with a touch of glam.
The Gardens Hotel dates back to the 1800s and is listed under the National Register of Historic Places. The story goes that in the 1930s a woman by the name of Peggy Mills purchased the mansion along with the surrounding grounds and turned the barren land into a magical garden full of exotic plants from around the world. Since her death in 1979, many detailed renovations have taken place over the years to create one of the island’s top luxury hotels.
“It’s an oasis just a half block away from Duval Street. It’s the number one reason why people choose our hotel. It’s so close but feels far away. Even people who have stayed here before but couldn’t the next time around come to hang out here.”
They mingle together at the bar that directly faces the updated courtyard and pool but still displays an antique sign from Peggy Mills, a novelty with a vintage vibe that speaks of old Florida as it might have been when Hemingway lived here. Meanwhile, I can’t help but notice that the bartender has a sense of style that looks like it belongs to Nick Carraway. Today he is dressed in a pinstriped shirt, with suspendered trousers and a newsboy cap on his head. It’s really as if you mixed up a few scenes from the past and brought them into the present.
Hailing from Newington, Conn., Adam originally made the southernmost move to escape the cold and pursue a career in art galleries. But when the gallery he was working at suddenly decided to close and he was forced to find a new job, he came upon a craigslist ad for the position at the Gardens and he started there on August 10 of 2016. Luckily, he had already gained valuable hospitality experienced with industry stints that included a Thai restaurant, an Irish pub and a wine bar.
“This place was a blessing,” he admits. Despite his recent accomplishments he remains modest and says that his style of bartending is more about the people than anything else.
“Most of my time working here is spent talking to people, telling them where to make reservations and just trying to make their hotel stay as pleasant as possible.”
The bar at the Gardens Hotel is open to the public every day from 2 to 8 p.m. You can find Adam there every Sunday through Thursday. ¦
Follow them on Facebook @GardensHotelKeyWest The Gardens Hotel 526 Angela St. www.gardenshotel.com