Whenever we pull into a new port, I always like to learn about the local foods and meet the people at the markets to find out what they're cooking. It's my way of soaking up culture. When we visited Savannah, that meant one main thing: shrimp.
Paul, a local fisherman, agreed to take me out on his shrimp boat so that I could see first hand how the shellfish were caught. It was early morning when we boarded Bo-Nita, his 52-foot trawler. Like most shrimp boats she was rugged and well-worked in appearance, her wooden hull battered from hauling equipment. We cruised along the Wilmington River in the tall marsh grass. Sunlight filtered through the leaves of large oaks, which looked as if they would topple from the weight of Spanish moss hanging from their limbs. A cool breeze blew off the water, rustling the palm fronds and causing me to don my sweater.
"So, you're interested in shrimpin'?" Paul asked as he toured me around. He had the broad physique of a defensive end, and the width of his shoulders showed how physical the work must be.
"I like to know where my food comes from." I said.
"Well, this ain't no grocery store shrimp you'll be seeing here today," he replied.
Bo-Nita's outriggers held the trawls, large bag-like nets that were dragged through the water and scooped up wild Atlantic white shrimp as the boat moved along. Every hour, the nets were reeled in and dumped onto the boat's aft deck. The catch flopped wildly as the crew sprang to work. One man sorted the shrimp into baskets while another rinsed them with fresh water. The third crew member transported them to the hold, where ice was added to keep them fresh. They all worked furiously and finished the task by tossing the by-catch (jellyfish, sand dollars, starfish) back into the water. The extruder gear allowed larger creatures such as dolphins and sea turtles to escape without harm.
A few blue crabs were in the mix that day. They were stored in a separate red bucket. "Dinner tomorrow," one of the men grumbled as he laid out the nets to be lowered back into the water for the cycle to begin again.
Late in the day, the crew took a break. Paul pulled a basket of shrimp from the cold water and waved a rough, thick-fingered hand over the display like Vanna White presenting that day's prizes. "These here shrimp go straight to market," he beamed. He plunged his hand into the pile. Long wisps of their antennas trailed through his fingers. His eyes danced and the sunburnt lines etched in the sides of his face creased deeper. "Today's a good day."
Paul returned to the wheelhouse and picked up the radio to tell the other captains on the water about his catch. Come to find out, fishing wasn't the only important information they regularly shared. "Falcons are down by 12," Paul said into the mike, "they can't keep it together. Looks like you owe me a round of beers."
After signing off, he set a large pot of water on the stove in the galley and sprinkled in Old Bay seasoning. The smells of peppercorns, allspice, and bay leaves wafted through the air. As the water came to a boil, Paul layered ingredients into the pot: first the onions and potatoes, then kielbasa sausage.He returned the lid to the pot and smiled mischievously at me. "Do you like a little heat?"
"Of course," I replied.
Turning back to the pot, Paul added more seasoning and then corn, still on the cob. It wasn't until the last minute that he poured in the shrimp, so that they wouldn't get overcooked."
This is what we eat here in the fall when the shrimp are best," he drawled. "A low-country boil."
Paul piled plates high with corn, sausage, and potatoes for everyone. I took my cue from the others and dolloped a generous amount of cocktail sauce on the side. We sat on Bo-Nita's aft deck among the nets and equipment, and as we tucked into our food, nobody spoke-we were all too busy peeling, dipping, and chewing. As a cook, Paul had a heavy hand with the spices, and all the food had a delicious kick to it. Juices from the kielbasa sausage drizzled down my chin, and the plump shrimp burst in my mouth, exploding with sweet flavor. Paul was right, these weren't like the shrimp I bought in the grocery store. These were moist and firm, and not at all rubbery as cooked shrimp so often are.
As the last of the day's sunlight fell from the sky, I smiled at this grizzly bear of a man and thanked him. I could get used to being docked here in Savannah. Between the food, the scenery, and the characters, everything was peppered with spice. Just the way I liked it.
This is the easiest recipe for a crowd. Everything is boiled in one pot and ready to eat. There are many brands of spice mix to use: Old Savannah Crab and Shrimp Boil, McCormick's, Old Bay, and Zatarain's Crab and Shrimp Boil. Don't be afraid to leave the shells on the shrimp. Peeling them is half the fun. Make sure to put dishes out to collect the shells or place extra newspaper on the table to wrap up the remains afterwards. The condiment to serve this with is cocktail sauce for dipping.
In a large pot bring water, lemons, onions, potatoes, sea salt, and spice mix to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add sausage and corn and simmer another 7 minutes. Add the shrimp and bring back to a boil. Strain. Mix ingredients for cocktail sauce and serve on the side for dipping. Serve with lots of bread and cold beer. Serves 6
“What do we do with a drunken leprechaun? Early in the morning!”
The same way mysteries of mischievous leprechauns in Irish folklore have transcended through time, the original recipe for this drink is also a mystery. A few variations of this St. Patty’s-themed cocktail are served in local pubs, but most of them include its most important ingredient — good ol’ Irish whiskey. Like a fun twist on the Irish Screwdriver, check out our favorite version of this green concoction.
2 oz Irish Whiskey
1 oz Blue Curaçao
3-4 oz orange juice
Fill a cocktail glass with ice and add whiskey, Blue Curaçao and orange juice. Stir well and garnish with a fresh orange wedge.
This drink is not Irish, but its green color makes for a perfect St. Patty’s Day drink to enjoy at sea. Using the same ingredients but replacing whiskey with tequila, try another easy twist on the classic recipe for a Tequila Sunrise. Sail off toward the horizon while enjoying this beachy beverage.
2 oz Blanco Tequila
1 oz Blue Curaçao
3-4 oz orange juice
1 lime and 1 orange wedge
Fill a cocktail glass with ice and add tequila, Blue Curaçao and orange juice. Stir well and garnish with a fresh lime and orange wedge.
For the salty sailor who could use a sweet kick on V-day, this sweet yet tart drink is perfect for your anti-Valentine’s Day party. This ocean-inspired twist on the classic margarita also makes for a perfect waterside cocktail.
1 ½ oz blanco tequila
1 oz Blue Curaçao
¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Splash of orange juice
1 lime and 1 orange wedge
For a salted rim, fill a small plate with lime juice and swirl your glass rim in it, then dip it into a plate of margarita salt and fill your glass with ice. In a separate cocktail shaker with a light amount of ice, pour in tequila, Blue Curaçao, lime juice and a splash of orange juice. Shake thoroughly and strain into your glass and garnish with a lime or orange.
Also known as “The Isaac,” this romantic red drink was created by original Love Boat cast member Ted Lange, who played Isaac the bartender. Inspired by his signature bright red jacket mixed with the show’s sweet theme, the delicious libation is a perfect Valentine’s Day cocktail for boat lovers.
2 oz white rum
2 oz pomegranate syrup
½ oz fresh lime juice
Splash of club soda
2 pineapple leaf spears
Fill highball glass with ice. In separate cocktail shaker, fill with ice, white rum, pomegranate syrup and lime juice. Shake and strain into highball glass and top it with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a fresh lime slice and two pineapple spears.
*Check out a special segment from Princess Cruises where actor Ted Lange gives a demo of the Love Boat cocktail that debuted on the cruise line in 2015.
In my quest for the best Caribbean Rum, I’ve sampled a few. From Appleton to Ron Zacapa rum, my tastebuds have celebrated the luscious flavors borne from fermenting sugarcane into smooth amber elixirs.
In the pursuit of rum perfection, I’ve noticed that a well-designed label can give clues about what awaits inside the bottle. Many simply present the distiller’s name and location where a rum derives its unique flavors. But it’s hard to resist the image of a crusty old captain, pirate ship or sassy sea wench when pouring a hefty splash into a tumbler.
Curious rum aficionados like myself are always eager to hear the back story behind the libation in our hand. Like a slice of pineapple or lime wedged upon the rim of a glass, the history of a rum’s journey from the Caribbean to our lips can make a cocktail taste even sweeter.
I recently stumbled upon the extraordinary tale that intertwines Jamaican rum, world- class musicians and James Bond. To fully appreciate this unique saga, follow my lead and shake up a GoldenEye Cocktail (see recipe below) to sip while the story unfolds.
Our story begins in 1939, when a London journalist named Ian Fleming joined the British Navy Intelligence Service. His unit specialized in military espionage and covert plans to thwart German aggression in Europe and the Caribbean.
During World War II, Fleming was engaged in Operation GoldenEye, and in 1942 he was sent to investigate suspicions about Nazi submarines in the Caribbean. During this deployment, he became enamored with Jamaica and vowed to live there some day.
When the war was over, Fleming returned to Jamaica and bought 15 acres of plush land that was once used as a donkey racetrack. In 1945, he built a house not far from the banana port town of Oracabessa Bay, and the seaside property became Fleming’s tropical sanctuary where he could focus on writing and the discrete task of taking previously tight-held secrets into a public, fictional genre.
He named the estate GoldenEye as a tribute to his Navy service and began working on a book that evolved around the dashing spy and Special Agent 007, James Bond. This protagonist would emerge as the amalgamation of agents he’d met during his maritime service. As an avid birdwatcher, Fleming took the name for his lead character from American ornithologist James Bond, an expert on Caribbean birds, who wrote the definitive field guide, Birds of the West Indies.
Fleming’s first spy novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1952. This book and all 13 in the James Bond series were written in his bedroom at GoldenEye. Three of them — Dr. No, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun — take place in Jamaica.
Not only did the breezy island life at GoldenEye inspire Fleming’s novels, but so did his fetching neighbor, Blanche Blackwell. She was the muse who helped spark his creative drive. The Blackwell family had lived in Jamaica since 1625, exporting bananas and coconuts and crafting a distinctive brand of rum.
Blanche’s son Chris Blackwell grew up between England and Jamaica, and in his childhood spent a good amount of time with Fleming. In 1954, after Blackwell got booted from an elite British school for rebellious behavior, he came back to the island to get involved in the family rum business. Contrary to plan, he followed his instincts and made a career choice that would dramatically alter the global music scene.
For a while, he kicked around working as the aide-de-camp to the governor and as a waterskiing instructor. But after hearing the blind pianist Lance Heywood play at the Half Moon Resort, Blackwell recorded the musician, and in 1959 he launched a music studio called Island Records. In sync with his unconventional style, it became known for discovering and nurturing innovative performers who had been shrugged off or overlooked by bigger record labels.
Island Records introduced the world outside of the Caribbean to Bob Marley and the Wailers and Jamaican reggae music, showcasing island culture and universal struggles of indigenous people. It launched British bands such as Traffic, Bad Company, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Roxy Music, King Crimson and Fairport Convention. It also cultivated artists such as Cat Stevens, Brian Eno, Grace Jones, Marianne Faithfull, Tom Waits and the Irish band, U2.
Throughout his success in the music industry, Blackwell remained in contact with Fleming and his projects. When the first Bond movie, Dr. No, was filmed in Jamaica in 1962, Blackwell was hired as a location scout and consulted on the soundtrack. Sir Sean Connery, whom Blackwell had met during the filming of Dr. No, remained a friend until his passing in 2020. Using a family recipe, Blackwell launched his boutique rum in 2008 that is distributed around the globe.
Live and Let Die was filmed in 1973 on the Blackwell Estate, which now includes The Fleming Villa. Scenes from the movie were shot near GoldenEye, Blackwell’s luxury hotel in Jamaica. The latest Bond flick, No Time to Die, returns to the exquisite Jamaican backdrop of GoldenEye, and the production team was treated to a supply of Blackwell Rum for inspiration while filming.
TO CELEBRATE 60 YEARS OF JAMES BOND, a special bottle of Blackwell Rum has been released, along with a new memoir by Chris Blackwell, The Islander: My Life in Music and Beyond. If you’re cruising around Jamaica this winter, cue up some Bob Marley tunes, open a bottle of Blackwell’s 007 Rum, and shake it (don’t stir) with pineapple juice and ice to create the GoldenEye Cocktail. And if you’re nestled in at home in a colder climate and dreaming about the Caribbean, we suggest watching a Bond flick and warming up with the Toasted Toddy.
-1 part Blackwell Rum
-1 part pineapple juice
-Lime or pineapple wedge
Shake together and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime or pineapple wedge
-3 parts Blackwell Rum
-2 teaspoons brown sugar
-1 1⁄2 parts fresh lemon juice
-6 parts boiling water
Add all ingredients to a mug, except for the water. Pour in the boiling water, Stir well to blend
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