Believe it or not, I did not want to do this story. I did not want to party and drink tequila all night. I was tired. In fact, I was exhausted. I just wanted to leave the first honest days work I had committed in several months and just go home and sleep. The lovely Sam, sadist that she is, had different plans.
"You call yourself a gonzo journalist? Hunter S. Thompson is rolling over in his grave!", she berates me.
"Hunter was shot out of a cannon, sweetheart. Johnny Depp lit the fuse. He isn't in a grave.", I counter.
"Whatever. You are going."
I had never taken an energy shot before. I see them all the time at stores on the counter near the checkout. 5 Hour Energy, Energy Boost, Crystal-Meth-in-a-Can, you know the ones. I decide to buy a 5 Hour Energy and slam it on the walk to the Hog's Breath where they claim "It is better than no breath at all." I was out of breath by the time I reached the bar so I suppose it was a good thing they had some on tap.
Unsure of the reaction of mixing tequila with over-the-counter liquid cocaine, I immediatly order a shot of Sauza with training wheels (lime and salt) and slam that as well. The cactus juice burns nicely on the way down and made my eyes water a little. I am sitting next to Dewitt, a retired plumbing contractor who says he hardly ever comes to the Hog. He is more of a Conch Replublic Seafood Co. guy. He is here to see his favorite bartender, Ogie, compete in the mixing contest. The idea of the contest is to take Sauza tequila(the sponsor) and mix it in new and interesting ways to dazzle the judges. The spectators get free samples of each concoction as they are mixed. Simple enough.
The Hog's Breath has never been a favorite bar of mine and I am not really sure why. The bloody marys are excellent especially the spicy pickled green beans they serve with them. I have sat at the dark back bar many a morning eating the crispy little bastards just like they were breakfast. I saw Kenny Chesney here once and it remains one of the best concerts I have ever seen. You can even see me on the Hog's Breath website in the "Live Sessions" file. I am the one standing in a garbage can for a better view, head shaven and surrounded by a herd of boisterous and drunken lesbians. The stage is small, the venue is intimate, and the Hog's Breath boasts over 1100 live acts a year, some are big names like Kenny.
Another Sauza and lime goes down even easier than the first although my hands are shaking like a crackhead. I am trying to take notes as the event fires up but my hand is having an epilectic fit and is having a terrible time trying to keep up with my overheating mind.
I should probably explain my drinking habits now. Although I have the reputation for drinking anything... I DO NOT DRINK TEQUILA!!!...as a rule. Whenever I have gotten drunk on tequila in the past I have done some pretty embarrassing things, like stripping off all my clothes to dance on a table in a Tijuana bar, or taking off my clothes to run through a New Orleans graveyard, or getting naked and...Ok, all of my tequila stories end up with me in some stage of undress. The inevitability of extreme wierdness while nursing the agave plant have allowed me to justify sticking to whiskey and vodka. I don't lose as many clothes that way. A man must know his limitations.
By the time the two girls from Maryland steal my barstool and take roost at the corner of the bar, I am on my fourth shot of tequila and lime. I gave up the salt two shots back. The Taste Off has not even begun! I am not quite snockered yet but I had noticed that my nerves had settled considerably. The two girls introduce themselves as Amy and Kim and they tell Dewitt and I that they are on vacation from their husbands. I am not drunk enough to speculate on the potentiality of the situation but file the knowledge in the back of my mind for later. Drunk girls are always fun, especially when they are on vacation from their husbands in Key West.
The contest kicks off with Art Levin, Mc and General Manager of the Hog's Breath introducing the judges. John Wells, Ben Hennington, Clinton Berris, Paul Clarin, and Cat Canady are the lucky judges of this years contest. John Wells is the Southernmost Rep for Sauza(say it sexy) tequila and apparently a vigorous tester of his own product. Paul Levin is the Editor of the Key West Citizen. Cat was beautiful as always. They all looked excited to taste the offerings of the contestants. Damn, that sounds dirty, doesn't it?
The first to the stage was Josh. Representing Cowboy Bill's, Josh was touted as being a "flair" bartender. Reminiscent of a younger, better-looking, and much less insane version of Tom Cruise in "Cocktail", Josh dazzled the crowd with booze juggling, bottle flips, and amazing acrobatics involving all of the ingredients he included in his drink which included dry ice as a focal point in the presentation. The huge cocktail looked volatile although upon tasting it was sort of generic. After all of the flair, I was expecting more.
The next couple of contestants were kind of boring in their presentations but the drinks were decent. Not stellar, just decent. By this time the Maryland girls had noticed that I was writing notes and were asking me about myself. My favorite subject. They bought me a shot of Sauza to wash down all of the other tequila I had consumed and I regaled them with stories of sailing and being a semi-serious writer in Key West. My tales kept them enthralled until the ladies from the Rooftop Cafe hit the stage. Jaws dropped and there was a collective "hubba-hubba" from all of the males in the crowd and most of the females as well. Emerald green bikini-clad and gorgeous, the three girls danced and gyrated seductively while the cocktail was prepared. And what a cocktail it was! 2 shots. One a mixture of mint, hot peppers, and I am not sure what all, the other straight Sauza. The idea was to let the green shot sit on the tongue for a moment before washing it down with the tequila. It was incredible! I had 4 shots before Andre, the tequila boy, cut me off. Claiming that other people wanted to drink the minty ambrosia, Andre disappeared into the thronging masses. I made a note to cut him out of the will. Cheeky little monkey...
Just as well, I had already forgotten where the restroom was.
Cynthia from the Alamo was next, I think. A beautiful brazilian barmaid, she whipped up something that I also drank a lot of before Andre took it away from me. He was really beginning to bug me. I do not remember what it was but I am sure it had Sauza(say it sexy) in it. Also in the contest was Chris from the Sports Page. I drank some of that as well.
By the time Ogie bounded onto the stage with his beautiful(and half nekkid) assistant, April, I was completely hammered. I was talking 900 miles per hour and dancing to the beat of every stupid assed tequila song that the Hog's Breath could scrounge. The energy shot was operating at full capacity and I felt like I was back in the Eighties with a straw stuck in my nose. Ogie was the crowd favorite having won the previous years' contest and everyone around me told me to be prepared for a real show. The team did not disappoint. April was wearing a huge sombrero with aquarium tubing connected to it that ran around her lithe body several times and emptied into 5 plastic bottles secured on her waist. Ogie mixed the drink in her hat and the ingredients siphoned down the tubes into the bottles which April mixed while dancing and shaking her hips like Shakira. Their energy won the crowd. I do not know what it tasted like although I drank 2 shots of it. Ogie and April were awarded first place and a large chunk of cash.
The rest of the evening was a blur of impromptu shots, drinking 6 kinds of Sauza(say it sexy)from the trophy itself, someone grabbing my crotch, finding out the editor of the Citizen is from my Corinth, MS(my hometown or close enough), falling down on the sidewalk while talking to my friend Chris Ryan on the phone. I ended up stumbling to the dock where I park my BIG dinghy with a open bottle of Sauza, no shirt or shoes, sharing with everyone I met along the way. Thank the gods of drunkeness that the lovely Sam was there to row me home to the Rusted Root or I would have never found it.
The only question I have now, nursing this hangover, is where the hell is Andre with my hair of the dog?
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