The Barfly’s Companion to Global Boozing #3 by Susan Lilley
Location: 524 Duval St, Key West, FL
If you are fortunate enough to stumble into Virgilio’s, off Key West’s raucous Duval Street and a few steps down Appelrouth Lane, you should pause and savor your entrance to this velvety refuge. This is a grown-up bar. There will be (thanks be to Bacchus) no underage college students with fake IDs doing shots and urinating in the corners. Key West has plenty of those places. Most bars in Key West are open-air, windowless watering holes with boundaries so non-existent you can throw your drink in the face of an offensive lout out on the street without leaving your seat.
But not at Virgilio’s! Here in an airy yet enclosed garden setting you are cushioned, coddled, and bathed in dim, flickering cocktail light. Although you can get anything you want to drink here, you’re a fool if you don’t order one of their signature martinis. The generous, perfectly concocted Virgilio’s martini (preferably a classic, non-sweet one) is served in a traditional stemmed glass along with MORE of the same in a crystal beaker partially submerged in a mini-ice bucket for you to refill at your pleasure. NOTE: Key West, in case you didn’t know, is a partying town. Care must be taken if imbibing other adult beverages during the evening, and it’s best to save metabolic space for this particular bar hang. Careful pacing can help you avoid the uniquely piercing pain of the hangover P.G. Wodehouse called “The Sewing Machine.”
Live music is another reason to hang your straw hat at Virgilio’s for a few hours, especially on a good night. I have heard blues, jazz, reggae, and a night devoted to Frank Sinatra. But you will never know in advance, try as you might. It’s the luck of the draw. Last trip, the band featured a vocalist so devoted to the idea of Bonnie Raitt that she had a big white streak in her hair and opened with convincing impression of Raitt’s cover of “Runaway” by Del Shannon.
Hey, maybe it WAS Bonnie Raitt! Not sure. Damn those mega-martinis.
Susan Lilley (Episode 82, Episode 85) is a Florida native. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Poet Lore, The Southern Review, Drunken Boat, Slipstream, Sweet, The Apalachee Review, and The Florida Review, among other journals. She is a previous winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Award and her chapbook, Night Windows, won the Yellow Jacket Press contest for Florida poets. Her chapbook, Satellite Beach, is out from Finishing Line Press. She was stunned to be voted top choice for Best of There Will Be Words prose reading series in Orlando for 2013, which resulted in a chapbook of memoir essays called When We Were Stardust.