As I was ushered to my seat at the Key West Theatre with the help of a sticky note, one could feel the intensity of the evening. These attendees — mostly snow birds escaping the harsh northern weather — had done their research and wanted prime seating. The Key West Art & Historical Society and the Tennessee Williams Museum’s month-long celebration of Tennessee Williams’ life brings the usual mix of exhibitions, screenings, and theatrical productions. This reception and presentation however aimed to highlight the innumerable connections between the history of beverage and theater and literature legends.

The night’s speaker, Philip Greene, is a hot commodity on the mixology-lecture circuit. His latest book, “A Drinkable Feast: A Cocktail Companion to 1920s Paris,” was published in fall 2018. This was the fruition of multiple lectures, presentations, and a previous publication that were all spurred by Greene’s revelation that he is a descendant of liquor royalty.

Years ago, Greene discovered that his great-great-grandfather was Turiaf Dupré whose wife was Marie Louise Peychaud. Dupre and Peychaud both settled in New Orleans. It turns out the infamous Sazerac was invented by Antoine Peychaud who was Marie’s third cousin. Thus making Greene something of a pumpkin vine descendant.

Greene graduated from Loyola University New Orleans School of Law and is trademark counsel for the United States Marine Corps. He’s a commanding individual and it’s his command of the audience and subject matter that made this such an appealing and brisk event.

We learned that the Rum-Coco was the most delectable summer night drink you could enjoy. The connoisseurs at my table made quick work of this light spritz. It was surprisingly smooth and crisp with only a slight punchy note as it hit the back of my throat. As an infrequent drinker, I had finally discovered something that I could comfortably order at the bar without fear of sputtering.

Negronis, Sazeracs, Martinis, and rums all followed in Greene’s energetic presentation, punctuated by tales of Tennessee Williams’ time on the island. Each story and jaunt through history was followed by swift servings of the discussed beverages. The generous pours rendered the separate in-theater bar wholly unnecessary, save for those who really wanted to get hammered.

As the woman to my left toasted to Greene’s hosting of the event, we were treated to one of the more profound quotes by Hemingway to cap off the night. “Always do sober what you said you would do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” Drunk or sober, the audience excitedly chorused their hopeful return and attendance to next year’s event.

Philip Greene| Tennessee Williams Museum

Images via Carol Tedesco 

About the Author

Kevin Assam has no qualms asking uncomfortable questions and disarming even the most tight lipped of interview subjects. When he is isn’t busy exploring absurd situations he likes to put his penchant for creative content to use. He has a few interesting accomplishments under his imaginary belt. His size 28 pants are tight enough without any waist constricting devices. Ask him about that time he went to Key West.