Jimmy Buffett, a hockey player and too much rum

Spirits Photo of rum PHILIP MARTIN

Twenty degrees and the hockey game's on

Nobody cares; they are way too far gone

Screamin' 'Boat drinks,' somethin'

To keep them all warm

-- Jimmy Buffett, "Boat Drinks"

In the 1970s, hockey's Derek Sanderson was to Boston what Joe Willie Namath was to New York.

In 1970, he assisted on Bobby Orr's famous overtime goal -- the one that occasioned the famous photo of Orr flying through the air -- that gave Boston Bruins their first Stanley Cup in 29 years. Once the highest-paid athlete in the world (you could look it up), Sanderson was the fur coat-wearing, Rolls Royce-driving, movie star-handsome sportsman bachelor. He even partnered with Namath in a Boston location of the infamous Bachelors III, the proto-singles bar that Namath almost quit football to run.

In 1971, Sanderson walked away from Bachelors III and opened his own bar, Daisy Buchanan's (named for Jay Gatsby's obsession in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby) which caused a rift between him and Namath that exists to this day. (Or at least hadn't been healed as of 2012, when Sanderson published his autobiography Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original: "When we opened Daisy's, I simply walked away from Bachelors III. I just didn't give it a second thought. I never told Namath I was leaving, and that's not like me. He was miffed, and he had every reason to be. We haven't spoken since. He was a great friend to lose.")

Daisy's was where Sanderson would hang out when he wasn't on the road. And where a struggling young singer-songwriter named Jimmy Buffett would hang out too.

Now hang on. I know I'm not going to change your mind about Buffett. You're either a fan -- a Parrothead -- or you dismiss him as a Jamaican jerk chicken wing-pushing tycoon. (Buffett is reportedly richer than Bruce Springsteen and Mick Jagger.) But if you listen to the work the man did before "Margaritaville" made him a lifestyle brand, maybe you come away thinking about him differently. I would defend his first six studio albums.

But anyway, in 1971, his marriage was falling apart. He was going broke. His record company misplaced the master tapes to his second album, High Cumberland Jubilee (delaying its release until 1976). But somehow this sad sack was hanging out with Derek Sanderson.

As Sanderson remembers it in his autobiography, Buffett was "working at a gin mill" in Cambridge. And drinking a lot at Daisy's. On one particular February night, "with a belly full of rum and tonic serving as antifreeze," Buffett was ready to head home, but couldn't find a cab.

"Then he noticed one idling nearby, with the driver nowhere to be seen," Sanderson writes. "Cold and buzzed enough that he didn't care about the consequences, Jimmy jumped in and drove himself back to the hotel. He swears he left the fare on the front seat. He wrote a song about the incident and released it in 1979. It's 'Boat Drinks.' Whenever he plays the New England area, Jimmy usually plays 'Boat Drinks' and mentions me."

Now, a couple of things need to be mentioned here. First of all, "boat drinks" are simple rum drinks typically served in and around the Caribbean. The idea is that you ought to be able to mix them on your boat.

Secondly, Buffett's song "Boat Drinks" doesn't tell the story that Sanderson says it tells. Instead, it's a pleasant singalong about a beach bum marooned in a hockey town, watching the game on TV in a bar while longing for Southern beaches and frothy rum and crushed ice concoctions. But when he plays it in concert, which is fairly often, the website Buffettnews.com lists it as his 16th most-played number, he usually introduces it with a variation of Sanderson's story.

He tells a version of it in the liner notes to the 1992 boxed set Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads that corroborates the main details of Sanderson's story, but doesn't say he was actually in the company of the great center himself. And no matter how much he'd imbibed, you think he'd have remembered that detail.

As for Sanderson, it's understandable that he may be a little hazy on the details. In the mid-1970s he slid into a drug and alcohol addiction that drained his fortune and required 13 trips to rehab -- in his book he writes that he routinely consumed four bottles of Bolla Soave before noon "just to get square" -- before he finally emerged clean and sober a decade later. He's OK now -- he owns a financial consulting firm that specializes in helping pro athletes hold on to their money.

Buffett's building a $1 billion retirement village in Daytona Beach, Fla. He doesn't drink margaritas anymore, he went off sugar a while ago.

Like Buffett, boat drinks are -- in some quarters -- given little respect. I treat all cocktails with more than three ingredients with suspicion. Zombies and Painkillers and any drink invented by "Trader Vic" Bergeron are really just delivery systems for alcohol for people who don't like to drink. (Bergeron also invented the Mai Tai, the Scorpion, the Zombie, the White Witch, the Suffering Bastard, the Queen's Park Swizzle and the Doctor Funk of Tahiti. As well as the Pu-Pu Platter.)

Still, a well-balanced mojito can be sublime. And then there's the Papa Dobles, the drink Ernest Hemingway described in Islands in the Stream:

"He was drinking another of the frozen daiquiris with no sugar in it and as he lifted it, heavy and the glass frost-rimmed, he looked at the clear part below the frapped part of the drink and it reminded him of the sea. The frapped part of the drink was like the wake of a ship and the clear part was the way the water looked when the bow cut it and you were in shallow water over marl bottom. That was almost the exact color."

Never a temperate man, we might imagine that Hemingway would have gotten along with Sanderson and Buffett had he had the opportunity. On his 50th birthday, he made love three times, shot pigeons, drank a case of champagne with five friends and "looked the ocean for big fish all afternoon."

Papa made boat drinks by mixing his good rum with lime juice and fruit.

While it is fine to mix good rum, the best rum -- like the Cuban Havana Club, which shouldn't be confused with the merely good Puerto Rican Havana Club (Pernod Richard, which produces the Cuban-made version, is fighting with Bacardi over rights to the brand name) -- should be taken with, at most, a couple of cubes of ice.

Aged dark rums are the best, for they are old and expensive, aged in seasoned oak barrels like brandies. Light rums are more accessible and affordable -- the bulk of the U.S. market -- and well nigh ubiquitous (Bacardi Light is the best-selling spirit in the world. They're made in stainless-steel tanks in big plants and require no more than a year of aging. These are the rums that are appropriate for boat drinks

Rum is a wonderful hot-weather drink because its rich flavors blend nicely with most fruits. Add lime and, if you must, sugar to rum and you have a daiquiri, one of the simplest, most perfect drinks ever devised. You can mix the lightest rum with mangoes, guavas, papayas, bananas, even Coca-Cola, and still know you are drinking rum. Unlike neutral vodka, rum does not go incognito only to rise up and smite you later. It blends in, it supports -- every so often it even reminds you that you are in fact drinking alcohol.

By conservative estimates there are at least 1,500 different brands of rum in the world, produced in about 40 countries in the Caribbean and the Americas as well as several in Africa and Asia. As with single-malt scotch and cognac, vagaries of soil, climate and water influence a rum's distinctive character. For instance, most Jamaican rum -- even the white rum -- is robust and full-bodied, while by contrast rum from Barbados is relatively soft and complex.

One rum we haven't tried is Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Rum, which comes in spiced, silver, dark and coconut varieties. Margaritaville also offers ready-to-drink margaritas, mojitos, mai tais and "Skinny Island Punch."

At popular prices.


The Key West Citizen

Singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett Democrat-Gazette file photo 




Style on 06/24/2018