Key lime trees once grew outside every Key West home––and they’re still abundant on the island. Though tiny, key limes pack a punch of tart flavor. Even a teaspoon of juice, or a smidge of zest, brings a dimension of wow to food––and to drinks as well. Putting a spin on Florida’s most famous dessert, many bars have reinvented key lime pie as a cocktail. Here are five of the best key lime martinis in Key West: no fork required.
#5 White Tarpon
The A & B Marina is no regular marina, and nor is the White Tarpon any regular marina bar. The world becomes all million-dollar yachts and tip-top shrimp cocktails here, and the only thing colder than the oysters-on-the-half-shell are the shivering martinis. Marinas bring all walks of life together, from millionaires to gypsies, and they all come together at White Tarpon for a “slice” of the good life.
#4 Louie’s Backyard
Perched on the edge of the Atlantic since 1971, Louie’s Backyard has fine-tuned the art of Key West dining (try the superb conch chowder). At a table in the regal dining room, or outside at The Afterdeck bar, a key lime martini steps up its game and turns into an elegant and worldly drink. Sipping it as the sun melts into the horizon amounts to a bliss that’s hard to describe. The slap-happy dogs at the adjacent Dog Beach come pretty close.
#3 Tempt at The Saint Hotel
This sexy sibling of the New Orleans original lives conveniently across Eaton Street from The Tropic Cinema––making it the perfect stop before or after a show. Key lime martinis aren’t “technically” on the menu, but mention you have Head Bartender Saint Paul’s permission and, poof! There’s an Alice in Wonderland element to The Saint Hotel, so be prepared to believe six impossible things by martini number two.
One half of the historic, marvelous, and classic A & B Lobster House, Alonzo’s may offer the best Happy Hour deal in town: half price drinks and menu items, 4-6:30 pm. Gather at a table on the boardwalk defining Key West harbor, watch charter boats bring in the day’s catch, and wash down salty, ocean flavors like buffalo shrimp with a cool, sweet-tart martini. The only multi-tasking you’re doing now is enjoying dinner and dessert at the same time.
#1 Café Marquesa
This charming, corner restaurant in Old Town is not only romantic and intimate, it’s a favorite local hideaway with one of the island’s favorite bartenders (look for cat-eye glasses and spiky platinum hair). The martini is her art form, and she whips them out as fiercely and precisely as a ballerina twirling on her tiptoes. Practice, practice, practice has made this one perfect.