Weekly Mix: Serving the Spirit of the Sea

by Caroline Hatchett
Antoinette Bruno
November 2013

Restaurant

Bartenders are among the newest (hippest) breed of historians, and at their best, they’re passing more than a drink across the bar; they’re passing down stories. When Brooks Reitz designed his eight-drink cocktail list at The Ordinary, he knew he wanted to share the story of the Charleston Bermuda Race.

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club: Mount Gay Rum, Velvet Falernum, Clement Creole Shrubb, and Lime

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club: Mount Gay Rum, Velvet Falernum, Clement Creole Shrubb, and Lime

The Ordinary – Charleston, SC

The Ordinary – Charleston, SC

Mixologist Brooks Reitz of The Ordinary – Charleston, SC

Mixologist Brooks Reitz of The Ordinary – Charleston, SC

Marfa Daisy: Blanco Tequila, St. Germain, and Linie Acquavit

Marfa Daisy: Blanco Tequila, St. Germain, and Linie Acquavit

While the race is a mere infant on Charleston’s historical scale (born only in 1997), its founding group, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, was established in 1884 and is one of the oldest royal clubs in the world. To celebrate the shared seafaring heritage and cultural ties of Bermuda, Charleston, and their yacht-cruising brethren, the club sponsors a 777-nautical mile race between the ports every two years. The official drink of the club and race (and unofficially Charleston) is the tiki-leaning Royal Bermuda Yacht Club—a combination of Mount Gay rum, falernum, Cointreau, and lime juice—that gained popularity in the 1940s.

Reitz included the drink on his menu for several reasons. “We’re a rum-focused bar, owing that Charleston is a port city with a rich history of rum consumption,” says Reitz, who has not yet attended the race nor purchased the requisite 30-foot vessel to enter. “We’re also a restaurant focusing on seafood, and rum is the spirit of the sea.”

Reitz’s spice-forward, refreshing Royal Bermuda Yacht Club captures that spirit—with a dash of revisionist tinkering. His menu at The Ordinary trends dry and citrusy and is designed so guests can enjoy a drink before dinner without wrecking their palates. “The original tasted a little hot, so I pulled back on the rum and beefed up the lime juice to make it brighter and less sweet,” he says. He also substitutes rum-based Clement Creole Shrubb for the original Cointreau to strengthen the rum theme. “Now, you have all these island or tiki themes running throughout with the rum, falernum, and shrubb, instead of diverging with Cointreau that’s French.”

His guests are intrigued by the name and often need an explanation of the shrubb and falernum, which gives Reitz and servers a chance to sell (ahem, tell) the drink’s story—modern-day, glamorous, resort-wear-clad swashbuckling and all. “Not many people have heard of the race or made the cocktail before, but it immediately prompts conversation,” he says of his best-selling drink. “There’s a lot of history with Bermuda and Charleston, and this drink has been largely forgotten.” And to live up to his duty as barman, story teller, and keeper of history, he says, “We’re doing our best to resurrect it.”

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