Sean's Blog

Sean Murphy, Bistro owner, has written articles from time to time for the Anna Maria Island Sun and other periodicals. Sean’s articles tend to be light-hearted and satiric. They feature anecdotes and musings from his forty-plus years in the restaurant life and his beginnings in the rocky coves of Nova Scotia. We organize them here according to stories about his larger-than-life Uncle George, his observations about things culinary, “Food for Thought”, and reflections on beer, wine and spirits. Our intention is merely to amuse. Occasionally there may be kernels of useful information imbedded in the stories.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 20:05

The Riddling Rack

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on January 29th, 2018in Sean's Uncle George

My Uncle George was the fountainhead for much of my instruction in the "Facts of Life".

George kept Playboys in his basement in a big wooden crate. Once the cousins found the crate the Stork was history.

George explained the "Wine Facts of Life" to me when we started making wine.

Uncle George had desecrated his suburban front lawn and covered it with horse poop and planted blueberries. It turned out that blueberries love horse poop. George discovered that if we made wine from the blueberries then he would be a Vintner and we were off and running. George began to speak of his vineyard and vintages and fellow vintners.

That blueberries grew on bushes and not vines was an alternative fact.

George was overjoyed when I asked how wine was made. He loved stuff that was iconoclastic. He showed me some grains of yeast and explained, "It’s called fermentation. These little yeasties drink the sugar in blueberry juice and pee alcohol until they pass out in the alcohol. They also pass gas."

It sounded a lot like one of our Irish birthday parties.

It occurred to George as we were bottling the wine that if he added a little extra yeast and sugar he might get more alcohol. This started what is known as second fermentation.

George had invented blueberry champagne.

The myth of real champagne’s creation is as odd as my Uncle George story.

The credit is accorded to a couple of monks - Dom Perignon, a big tall guy, and Dom Ruinart, his little helper. Dom Perignon was a cellar master in a monastery in Champagne, a province of France. He probably stumbled upon making champagne by putting wine in a container that had leftover sugar in it. After the good father mastered the basics of bubbles he tried to keep it a secret, but his little helper took off down the road to the next monastery and started making his own champagne.

The bubbles were on the loose.

The champagne the boys made had stuff floating around in it and looked more like cloudy beer than bright and sparkling champagne. It took a woman to make champagne beautiful - surprise. The neighborhood widow, Mrs Clicquot - in French the veuve Clicquot - radically improved the look of champagne by inventing the riddling rack.

A riddling rack is big board with holes in it. You stick the bottle of champagne sideways in one of the holes. All the junk slides down to the bottom side of the bottle. The bottles are turned and increasingly inverted until the bottle is upside down and the junk is in the neck. Then the neck is frozen, the frozen junk is removed - degorged - and the bottle is recorked and wired shut again.

The widow’s portrait is still on the famous orange label of Veuve Clicquot. She is kind of scary looking. She spent a lot of time in the basement.

When George invented blueberry champagne he left out the wiring-the-cork-shut part.

The bottles did not blow all at once. It was spread out over a few days. Most of them blew in basements and sheds so it wasn’t too bad. One unfortunate bottle exploded in Aunt Mary’s dining room. Mary was the sister who almost became a Sister. She damn near killed Uncle George.


If you are inclined to see a real riddling rack, I bought a couple and used them to make sliding doors at the Doctor’s Office, our new little craft bar.

Sean Murphy is the Head Coach of the incredibly talented team that runs the Beach Bistro, it’s little sister Eat Here, and their new craft cocktail bar, The Doctors Office. Some of his articles can be found on the Bistro’s web-site,

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 19:59


Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017 in Beer, Wine and Spirits

I was young and foolish.

It was an evening of bad decisions.

The first bad decision was to drink tequila.

Salt-tequila-lemon, salt-tequila-lemon, salt-tequila-lemon.

As is often the case with Tequila we lost count.

The bar headlined a piano player.

The piano-player’s beautiful fiancé was sitting at the bar.

The tequila had convinced me that I was in love with the beautiful fiancé.

I asked her to marry me.

She declined.

She explained that she really was in love with the piano player and was going to marry him.

My heart was breaking.

Piano guy approached. When she stood to introduce me, it was apparent she was taller than me – another blow.

I told piano guy that I was desperately in love with his fiancé and that I was certain that eventually I would win her over.

My friend Val was my wingman. Val had also consumed a great deal of tequila but he was a helluva wingman. He coaxed me toward a bar around the corner.

He said we should go there and drink more tequila.

I told the new love of my life that I would return.

We stepped out into the dark night. The bright flash of an electric street car blasted white in a huge mirror perched high up on a telephone pole.

It was a sign.

The mirror was one of those enormous bus mirrors that they put way up on telephone poles so that bus drivers can see around the corner.

I needed that mirror. If I could rip that mirror off that pole and bring it to my new true love I would steal her heart.

Piano guy who.

A tequila minute later I was three stories in the air with my feet planted on the pole’s pegs and my two hands wrenching on the upper corners of the mirror. I was heaving all my weight back and forth to work the gigantic mirror free of the pole.

Wingman Val had secret desires to be a fireman. Some fool had already taught him the fireman’s carry.

That’s the one where the fireman has you on his back and is gripping your wrist and foot in one hand leaving the other hand free to scale ladders and telephone poles.

Val was climbing up the pole to get me.

"Don't worry Murph, I’ll save you. I’ll bring you down with my fireman carry."

The image of Val fireman-carrying me thirty feet down the pole pierced my tequila madness.

"No, no, no, no.

It's OK Val.

I can climb down.

I am climbing down right now.

I don’t need the dam mirror. She's not worth it. I can live without her.

To hell with her and her dam piano player."

We made it down the pole.

There is an urban legend that trace elements related to mesculine from the mescal cactus create a unique tequila insanity that converts drinking fools into merry pranksters.

Scientists rebut this. They are adamant that tequila drinkers lose their minds because tequila is too often gulped rapidly from shot glasses. It is not the drink it is the speed of drinking.

The same scientists claim that there is nothing in Absinthe that makes you see Green Fairies and that there is nothing in Tequila margaritas that makes you see green flashes at sunset.


I wonder what they are drinking.


Tequila is the Bistro team’s "go to" beverage in a hurricane.

After those exceptional young people finished boarding everything, waiting out the storm, and putting everything back together again, all that was missing was two bottles of tequila.

The Bistro team is the best culinary team anywhere and they are used to eating and drinking the world's best stuff. They could purloin whatever they want during a storm. Those two missing bottles of Tequila are powerful evidence that tequila is the preferred beverage for hurricanes.

It also goes well with all those limes that are flying by.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 19:53


Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on January 29th, 2018 in Beer, Wine and Spirits

When I am out for breakfast and the waiter asks, "What would you like to drink?"

I always answer… "whiskey".

I guess I think it’s funny.

Technically it is correct. The waiter did not ask me what I will drink with breakfast they asked what I want to drink with breakfast.

I would love to have whiskey for breakfast.

I don't because I have stuff to do.

Wanting whiskey for breakfast is probably genetic.

I am of Irish ancestry. I suspect the Irish might want whiskey all the time.

The word whiskey is from the Gaelic uiske.

Uiske means water in Gaelic

Yup…in Irish, water and whiskey are the same word.

The Irish relationship with whiskey is legend.

It is said that God invented whiskey so the Irish would not take over the world.

The Irish are still working on taking over the world. We are using whiskey.

We are working on America first.

It is early yet.

When the Irish came to America they brought distilling skills with them.

Prior to the American revolution, America’s spirit of choice was rum.

Molasses from the Caribbean was distilled on Staten Island and in Boston - Irish neighborhoods – and made into rum that competed with British distilleries.

The British got aggravated and began to tax the sugar and molasses that was imported for the rum trade. The Bostonians revolted and threw tea into the harbor.

They did not throw any rum in the harbor.

After the revolution, the new American economy began to recover. As soon as they had enough bread to eat they turned to making whiskey from grain - and the Irish were there with whiskey-making skills to aid the transition.

To cover the bills from the revolution Mr Hamilton convinced President Washington that the new government should tax the new, popular whiskey.

Whiskey had become so popular that there was a rebellion – the "Whiskey Rebellion".

The whiskey "revenuers" were tarred and feathered, the army was called up, there was some scrapping, and the Whiskey Rebels moved west to Kentucky. They invented bourbon.

Bourbon and Irish whiskey are currently on the rise as the favorite spirits in America, and the rest of the world.

The Irish are back, armed with bourbon and whiskey.

It is only a matter of time.

The religious question is the last impediment to the Irish taking over the world.

They have begun to put it behind them.

I share a report from Ireland of a Murphy reaching out to pastors of the Baptist tradition.

Murphy was crossing a small bridge over a river on the way home from a whiskey tasting.

A Baptist preacher on the river bank called out to him.

"Murphy would you like to find Jesus today."

It being a Sunday and warmed by the whiskey, Murphy called back, "Well sure".

He made his way down to the river bank.

The preacher seized Murphy by his collar and trousers and pushed him beneath the surface of the river. He held him there for a few seconds and then pulled him up.

The preacher asked, "Have you found Jesus?"

Murphy sputtered, ", I haven't"

The preacher plunged him under again and held him there for a full minute.

When the preacher yanked Murphy up he was struggling for breath.

"Have you found Jesus ?" demanded the preacher.

Murphy gasped, " I haven't."

The preacher drove him down again. The preacher was mightily strong in his limbs and in his faith and he held a struggling Murphy beneath the waves until Murphy almost expired.

He pulled him up again.

The preacher shouted, "Have you found Jesus….?"

A near-drowned Murphy caught his breath as best he could,

"No, I haven’t found Jesus…are you sure this is where he went in ?"

With Bourbon and Bushmills and Baptists at our side - the future is ours.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 19:48


Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on January 29th, 2018 in Beer, Wine and Spirits

The origins of vodka are clouded in mystery.

Historians say that it is impossible to ascertain with any certainty where and when it was first made.

That’s because the people who were there were drinking it.

The consensus is that the Poles invented vodka and the Russians ran wild with it.

The word Vodka is derived from the Polish and Russian words for water.

The Irish confuse the word for water with Whiskey.

The Poles sometimes make vodka from potatoes.

There is a pattern here.

Even for the Irish drinking with Russians is a bad idea. Anthony Bourdain says that no matter how good you think you are at holding your liquor that any twelve-year-old Russian can drink you under the table.

I am not big on Vodka. I was mauled by vodka as a young man.

My hard liquor experience had begun with a few sips of lemon gin that Mikie O’Leary stole from his mom.

Juvenile Catholic males at one time attributed mystical properties to lemon gin.

We believed it could cure virginity.

We got the gin concept all wrong.

You don’t lose your virginity by drinking lemon gin, you lose it by getting other people to drink it.

Mrs O’Leary’s gin was training wheels for my tragic bout with vodka.

It was a warm and sultry, summer Saturday night. The plan was to procure vodka from a bootlegger and share it with my buddies before we all went to a dance.

I got off work late and everyone had already left for the dance.

Determined to catch up, I sat down with a pint of vodka and a pint of orange juice.

The first thing I learned about vodka was that, unlike gin, vodka does not taste like anything.

A tumbler full of vodka and orange juice tastes a lot like a tumbler full of orange juice.

I drank three or four tumblers in rapid succession.

I never made it to the dance. There is an old saying that Baptists don’t approve of liquor - “because it leads to dancing”. It did not lead to dancing that night.

Fifteen minutes after quaffing the pint I was sprawled in anguish on the bathroom floor. I stayed there until I crawled out of the bathroom, virginity intact, on Monday morning.

I pleaded with God to deliver me from that Vodka hell. I promised that I would become a priest and dedicate the rest of my life to his service.

One little miracle and he didn’t deliver.

Aside from my personal scarring I have other reservations about vodka. I am in the business of making stuff that tastes great. I am inclined to disdain a beverage that acquires a reputation for greatness by not tasting like anything.

Vodka makers generally distill their product three times to approximate pure ethanol and then add water and filter the product through treated carbon, sand or even diamonds to remove the kind of substances that give character and flavor to rums and whiskeys. Most of our inexpensive vodkas are made by adding water and flavorings to almost pure alcohol made by the large agricultural conglomerate, Archer Midlands.

My favorite use for vodka is as a subtle presence in foods.

A little vodka is great in the Bistro’s famous tomato soup or with an oyster shooter with clam juice and V-8.

The craziest vodka cocktails are the ones where it is mixed with caffeine.

The Espresso Martini - "makes you alert but stupid."

My new favorite crazy is Vodka and Red Bull - “…because you want to be wide awake for this mistake.”

At one time Mr Trump started a vodka company. That did not go well either.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Monday, 06 November 2017 20:53

Vote For Uncle George

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017 in Sean's Uncle George

My Uncle George had moved from the cove to a nice suburban neighborhood.

Nice lawns. Nice shrubberies.

George hated shrubberies.

He ripped out all the shrubberies and paved his entire property with horse poop and planted blueberries.

The blueberries loved the horse poop but it drove George’s neighbors crazy.

The neighbors complained to the city commission. The commission started bugging Uncle George. George decided to run for commissioner.

He asked my Dad for help.

Dad ran an Irish Catholic political machine. He had five hundred dead guys that were still voting.

He called them his reliables

The reliables were run by a corps of good Irish Ladies.

It went like this.

Mrs O’neil handed out the ballots at the polling station.

Mrs Kelly registered the voters.

Mrs Kelly went house to house to see who could vote. She went to Mrs O’Malley’s house on Dublin Street.

Mrs O’Malley invited her in for tea. Mrs Kelly enquired about Mrs O’Malley’s dear departed father, Sean.

“Will Sean be able to vote?”

“He wouldn’t miss it.”

Mrs Kelly put a little tick by Sean’s name on her voting list.

The ringers did the voting for the dead guys.

Big Mike Kelly was a cab driver who ran a team of ringers.

The day before Election Day, Mike went to the jail and found five guys.

He got them cleaned up and gave them each twenty bucks.

On Election Day Big Mike drove his five ringers to the polling place.

Mike went in first and got his ballot from Mrs O’Neil. When he went into the booth he put the ballot in his pocket.

Back at the cab Mike marked the ballot then gave the marked ballot to the ringer along with a little card with the name of his dead guy and his address. The ringer told Mrs O’Neil he was Sean O’Malley from Dublin Street.

She gave him a ballot. He went into the booth and put the marked ballot into the box and brought out his clean ballot.

Big Mike took the clean ballot, marked it, and sent in the next guy.

When the ringer system was explained to me, I asked my dad why they went through the elaborate process of pre-marking the ballots.

Dad said, “Well you know, you can't trust the ba***rds.”

Uncle George’s campaign was great fun. We had parades with cars covered with George's posters. All the cousins were hanging out the widows yelling, “Vote for George!”

Then after the parade we would all go back to George’s house and watch his buddies drink rum and tell lies.

A week before the election George had it in the bag.

It scared George to death.

He came to dad.

“You gotta get me outta this.

I never thought I'd win. Please help me lose. No one can know.”

Dad cussed.

George pleaded.

The hardest part was keeping it a secret.

At the last minute Dad was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

On Election Day each of the twenty cab drivers ran the ringers like they always did except they marked all the ballots for the other guy.


George lost by a whisper.

He did well enough to keep his respect and his horse poop.

No one was the wiser except for Dad and the twenty cab drivers.

George’s horse poop grew the most abundant blueberries in the county and I learned a valuable lesson about politics…Sometimes it's all about horse poop.

Hope you all voted. Every voter who shows up at the Doctor’s Office or Eat Here or the Beach Bistro bar with their I Voted sticker gets the first one on us. Dead or alive.

Monday, 30 October 2017 16:31

Election Day

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017 in Uncategorized

It is election time on our island. We should be grateful that there are good and honest people running and that our island elections will not be influenced by money and Russians.

When I was a kid back in Nova Scotia I loved elections.

My father ran the south end of Halifax for the Liberals.

His campaigns were less than totally scrupulous but they were a lot of fun.

Dad began campaigns with the appointment of electoral workers.

He hand-picked each one.

In each precinct Dad would pick one house where the voting was held. Mrs Kelly was paid a hundred bucks and the voting booth was set up in her parlour.

Mrs Kelly’s parents lived with her, and she had two kids of voting age who lived with her, and her husband voted the way she told him to. For a hundred bucks Dad got six votes.

Then Dad picked Mrs O’Neil as the head polling clerk. Mrs O'Neil’s parents lived with her too, and so did her two kids, and Mr O’Neil always voted her way.

She got a hundred bucks. Six more votes.

Mrs McGillicuddy was picked as the assistant polling clerk. Mrs Reardon was picked as the polling registrar and Mrs O’Malley was assistant polling registrar. They each had big Irish families.

A hundred bucks apiece. Eighteen more votes.

Dad began his campaigns with five, good, Irish Catholic women in each precinct and was up thirty votes per precinct before the polls opened.

There were fifty precincts in the south end.

Dad owned fifteen hundred votes out of the gate.

My friends and I got jobs delivering flyers.

We were paid a huge five bucks a day – enough for a hockey stick and a bag of candy the size of your head.

My friends’ parents didn't have to buy hockey sticks and Dad scored another twenty votes.

On election day our house was set up with phone lines and people manning the phones and people working the voter lists. Everyone was drinking beer and eating beer nuts. Dad’s poker pal owned the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise and he sent over buckets of fried chicken. There was beer nuts and fried chicken everywhere.

I ate better than Christmas.

All over the yard and up and down the street there were taxi cabs.

The cab drivers were precinct captains. Their job was to get out the vote and drive voters to the polls.

Back then hardly anyone had a car but nobody walked to vote. The phone workers sent the cabs to pick them up.

When the cabs picked up the voters there was a little paper bag in the back seat.

In the paper bag there was a mickey of rum and a pair of nylons.

My earliest election memory is sitting in my pajamas with Dad’s buddies in the basement filling up little bottles of rum from big bottles of rum.

Dad liked it when I filled the bottles because I didn't drink the rum.

The most exciting part of election day were the ringers.

They called them ringers because they were dead ringers for voters who were dead.

When Mrs Reardon, the voting registrar, went around to register the voters in each house she registered Mrs Martin’s dear departed father, Jack.

Jack Martin was a good Liberal. He was such a good Liberal that he was still voting ten years after he had died.

One of the cab drivers would go into the poll and say he was Jack Martin, get his ballot and vote. Most of the drivers voted five or six times.

I suspect our Island elections will be less fun than my Dad’s.

I miss my Dad. He has been gone for some time now. I take comfort from knowing he may still be voting back home.

Remember Dad’s election advice next election day.

“Vote early, and vote often.” – and drop by the Doctor’s Office for a big post-election whoop-up.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Tuesday, 24 October 2017 00:05

Absinthe, the Green Fairy and Tulips

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017 in Beer, Wine and Spirits

I think we should run Absinthe for President.

Everybody loves Absinthe. The Absinthe fan club reads like an A-list of intellectuals and artists from the last two hundred years.

Hemingway, Renoir, Oscar Wilde, Vincent Van Gogh, Toulouse Latrec, Frank Sinatra, Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Picasso…They all loved absinthe.

If Absinthe created a cabinet from its supporters it would be an intellectual giant compared to the cabinet we have now.

Most of the Absinthe cabinet notables would have to confess that at times their Absinthe president drove them crazy.

Nothing new there.

Absinthe is best and most dramatically served from an Absinthe fountain.

The fountain is a sculpture supporting a large glass vessel of ice water suspended above a network of tiny taps. Absinthe glasses are placed under the taps. Small slotted absinthe spoons containing a sugar cube are balanced on top of the glasses.

The tiny taps are operated by the patron to drip water over the sugar into the absinthe.

As the sugared water drips into the clear green absinthe it creates a swirling cloud bespeckled with twinkling crystals from the dissolving sugar.

The crysta cloud is quite beautiful. Centuries of absinthe protagonists swear to the presence of a green fairy dancing in the swirling, sparkling cloud.

Absinthe fans rejoice in the whimsical experiences they have had in company with the Green Fairy.

Oscar Wilde spent an evening of sipping absinthe with friends. He was the last to leave the bar.

At end-of-night cleanup the bartender threw buckets of water onto the stone floor.

The water sprouted beautiful tulips from the stones.

As Oscar floated out the door he could feel the tulips brushing against his legs.

I love tulips.

Many distillers of spirits and liqueres add flowers to their creations.

The significant flower in absinthe is the flower of artemis absinthium, - wormwood.

The flowers were used in sacrifices to Egyptian gods as early as 1500 BC.

The psychotic properties of Absinthe may be traceable to thujone from the flowers. Thujone is a trace chemical associated with certain physcological capabilities – like maybe it can make you forget to breathe.

Absinthe became crazy popular in the nineteenth century and then was outlawed through most of the twentieth.

Absinthe was made illegal as a concession to winemakers. It became such a popular pillar of French culture that by 1850 the wine industry grew apprehensive about loss of market share to absinthe. They began a program of fake news to damage absinthe’s reputation. They were finally able to have it banned.

The cause celebre that put lawmakers in the wine producers’ pockets was Jean Lefay’s murder of his family in 1904.

The wine guys blew up the fact that Jean drank two glasses of Absinthe just before killing off the wife and kids.

They obscured the fact that Jean was a professional drinker who earlier that day had consumed a bottle of brandy and two bottles of wine. It sounds like Jean drank all the liquor in the house and then went crazy when he found out his wife and children were tippling his absinthe.

Lefay may have been just another angry redneck who has discovered that the kids have been stealing his beer and watering his bourbon.

Absinthe became rehabilitated around 2000.

Scientists began to downplay the dangers of wormwood and

liquor marketers could recognize a great marketing opportunity when they saw it.

I found my first absinthe fountain in a tiny absinthe bar in Nashville. The dimunitive bar sells chocolate all day and at night converts to an absinthe bar.

One look at that absinthe fountain and I had to get one.

So I did.

It’s at the Doctor’s Office.

Come visit and sip. We will introduce you to the green fairy.

We will walk through tulips.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Monday, 31 July 2017 15:56

Demon Rum

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017 in Beer, Wine and Spirits

Demon Rum

The British navy ran on rum.

Winston Churchill was at one time the First Lord of the Admiralty.rum barrels on boat

When asked to make a toast to the “Great Traditions of the British Navy”, Churchill scowled and toasted “To rum, ……., and the lash”. (Ask me about the second one when you see me.)

By the mid-1700’s a sailor’s ration of rum was a half-pint per day.

It was mixed with lime as a precaution against scurvy and with water as a hedge against mutiny.

While Sir Francis Drake was scouring the Caribbean coast looking for stuff to steal, he was sitting on the afterdeck sipping a cocktail named after him - the “Draque” - rum, lime, and sugar - a Daiquiri.

The rum that Drake was drinking was probably Cachaça - a Brazilian rum made from sugar cane. When the British learned they could make rum from sugar cane they began to ship slaves to the Caribbean to grow the cane. The rum was cheaper than Dutch gin or French brandy and the trade in rum and slaves took off.

Rum sowed the seeds of rebellion in the North American colonies. By the mid-1700’s America had hundreds of distilleries making rum from molasses and competing with British distillers. The Brits did not like the competition and decided to tax the colonies’ sugar and molasses.

The American colonists began grumbling about the taxes over their rum punches. The rum enthused them to toss a bunch of tea into the harbor and we were off to the races.

During the American Revolution, British Navy Rum was passing through Nova Scotia in big barrels.

The barrels were sold as “almost empty” to the Nova Scotians. The barrels held dregs and drippings and rum that had soaked into the oak and pine.

The Noveys poured in a couple of gallons of hot water and rolled the barrels up and down the hills to dilute the dregs and soak up the rum from the wood.

In Nova Scotia the dreadful concoction was called “Swish” and in Newfoundland it was called “Screech”.

The name Screech pretty much says it all.

I had buddy who drank a boatload of Screech on a Saturday, woke up on Tuesday and could not hear until Thursday. We had to talk him out of joining the priesthood.

When the British army got kicked out of Boston it went to Nova Scotia. Then it left again to link up with Cornwallis to attack New York. When the army left, the Nova Scotians rose up and attacked a British fort.

Two war canoes loaded with gunpowder were sent from Maine to help.

The Mainiacs in one of the canoes got into the rum and didn’t make it. The Nova Scotians ran out of powder, the uprising failed, and the Noveys went back to their Swish.

Churchill’s was known to nip a little rum himself. It helped with his oratory. He was the greatest orator in modern history. To be fair, McCain looked good last week.churchill

My favorite Churchill story treats of his opposition to the “appeasers”, the financial elite and fascists in Britain who wanted to make a truce with Hitler.

Lady Astor was a leading appeaser.

In the House of Commons Churchill attacked Lady Astor and her appeaser friends.

He said they would make a deal with the alligator if the alligator agreed to eat them last.

Lady Astor was not pleased.

That night Churchill was her guest at dinner at Astor House.

Lady Astor was pouring coffee.

When she poured Churchill’s coffee she said to him, “Winston, if you were my husband, I would put poison in your coffee.”

Churchill replied, “Lady Astor, if you were my wife, I would drink it.”

The coffee would have been better with a little rum.

The poison might have been Screech.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Monday, 24 July 2017 16:10


Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017in Beer, Wine and Spirits

The milestones of my life have been marked by balancing rock in nova scotia 2

Sounds redundant, but it is true.

I grew up on the rocky shores of Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia is just one big rock sticking out into the North Atlantic. The native peoples were Micmac. “Nova Scotia” is Micmac for “Land of Big Rocks and Little Trees.”

(No it's not. It's Latin for “New Scotland” - but the Micmacs can't be blamed for not knowing Latin.)

My first memory is of rocks and water.

I was swinging from a rope hanging off a rock wall.

The incoming tide had me in its sights.  

My mom had put me in a harness and tied me to a tree near the rock wall to play. The rope was a little too long. I had toddled over the edge of the wall and was swinging to and fro above the rising waters when my grandmother found me.

Some wish she had left me.

Others claimed that the swinging from a rope was a precursor to a later, fitting judgement.

I grew up on the cove with about forty cousins.

The cove was surrounded by rocks the size of Volkswagens that we climbed on and smaller rocks that we threw at Protestants.

Slate rocks were the best chucking rocks for distance but they would swerve and change direction. If your Protestant had a good head start you just whipped one out there and asked the Holy Ghost for guidance.

The best stones for medium distance accuracy were flat round beach stones. There are lotta guys wandering Nova Scotia with little dents in their heads from those smooth stones.

A major milestone in my life was being able to throw a rock across the cove.

We spent entire days throwing rocks across the cove.  I can still remember the satisfying clink as that first rock cleared the water.

Another milestone was swimming across that rocky cove. You were not a “made” cousin until you swam the cove and you weren't tough until you could swim it while the other cousins threw rocks at you.

One of the more recent milestones in my life is about another kind of rocks.

The Beach Bistro – Eat Here team has opened a craft cocktail bar. A lot of thought has gone into the rocks in the cocktails.

Opening a craft cocktail bar is a natural extension of operating an award-winning restaurant. Like any great culinary creation, a truly wonderful cocktail requires exceptional, authentic ingredients crafted by a skilled artisan. A great cocktail has become an integral part of a memorable dinner with loved ones sharing life’s milestones - first dates, engagements, weddings and anniversaries.

And great cocktails are all about the rocks.spherical ice ball

The rocks in cocktails have three purposes...cooling, diluting and presenting.

Different cocktails are inclined to different rates of cooling and degrees of dilution.

Small-batch bourbon is happy to cool slowly and disdains dilution. Beachy Margaritas are best cold immediately and diluted to reduce the inclination to wander dazed in the hot sun.

The “presenting” is the rocks biggest impact. A giant sphere in your aged rum is not only cooling but looks cool.

A cylindrical rock with pretty flowers frozen inside will make your mojito go “wow”, and inspire you to send pictures back home.

My favorite rock is the perfect sphere made in a heavy, metal ice baller. The weight of metal in the two halves of the baller rapidly melts a cylinder of ice into a perfect sphere right before your eyes.

The melting may not improve the efficacy of the sphere but the theatre is amazing.

They also throw well.

So far, I have been able to launch one of the spherical ice rocks damn near the length of Becky’s lumber yard next door.

And the evidence is gone by morning.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Monday, 12 June 2017 15:33


Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017 in Food For Thought

Summertime and the living is easy...and hotter.

Shorts are dress-up wear - and maybe the only appropriate wear - in Florida in Summer.

So I thought it would be nice to try some on....shorts that is…from the Beach Bistro's 32 years.


Annette has been with the Bistro family since its inception. Years ago a patron enquired of Annette...”What is the difference between the Scampis and the Scallops...?”p BB Rack of Lamb 72

Annette replied…

“A buck.”


JP was presiding over the Dining room and had just served a beautifully prepared and presented Rack of Domestic Lamb....the best lamb in the world.

The gentleman patron leaned back in his chair...spread his hands as if in sacramental pose and proclaimed...

"I wonder what the poor people are doing tonight...?”

JP quipped...

"We are waiting on you sir."


Steve Carini was the wait staff’s senior player.

He was very caring and attentive to two elderly lady patrons.

They became sufficiently enamoured of him to ask …"You are such a good waiter young man. Is it your ambition to own your own restaurant some day?”

Steve smiled and replied...

"No M'am. It is my ambition to stop working in this one."

On Steve’s last night, while opening the last bottle of wine he would open as a waiter, his corkscrew of twenty years broke off at the screw.

Just like that Steve was a retired warrior with a broken sword.

A young man with his ambition accomplished.


My favorite bartender in the whole world…?caipirinha lemongrass

I know some incredible bartenders. Fred and Brianna at Beach Bistro and Chris and Kaleigh at the Doctor’s Office but one day in Philly my favorite was working at the Black Bass.

I was early for a reservation at a pretentious place down the street. To kill time I sat at the bar and ordered some oysters and a glass of Sancerre.

The bartender opened with… “Where are you from….?"

Almost all bartenders open with. “Where are you from?”

Gets patrons talking about themselves and asks a question they know the answer to.

“I am from Anna Maria Island.”… I said

“Really,,,?” he said.

“My favorite restaurant in the whole world is on Anna Maria Island.”

All my senses tuned to high alert.

“And what restaurant would that be...?” I asked.

“A little place called the Beach Bistro.” he said.

“Well,” I said. “You just became my favorite bartender in the whole world.”


Last week I got a new favorite travel writer. Jan Tuckwood was writing for the Palm Beach Post, one of the Florida’s top newspapers.

Jan wrote that her favorite restaurant was the Beach Bistro, and that it was “the best restaurant in the state.”

She also loved the island's new bar - the Doctor’s Office.

Of The Doctor’s Office she wrote that it was “the cure for your old dull self”.

Sounds like a good way to start a hot summer.  



Sean Murphy is the Head Coach of the incredibly talented team that runs the Beach Bistro, it’s little sister Eat Here, and their new craft cocktail bar, The Doctor’s Office.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Monday, 05 June 2017 17:09


Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017 in Food For Thought

Canada's two greatest exports have a shared heritage.

I am talking Poutine and Hockey.

They both came from rinks.

I was born in Canada and lived there a good chunk of my life.

That means that I can say outrageous things about Canada and get away with it.

It is like being Donald Trump. I can't be held accountable for what I say.

Poutine is basically French fries and gravy. The curd part is a variation from rural Quebec where they did not know how to get rid of curds.

Fries-n-gravy was a Canadian staple. It was hot and cheap and could be prepared anywhere there was an old stove. It was cold a lot so we didn't need much in the way of refrigeration.

We all know Canucks are crazy for hockey. As kids growing up we spent hours every day in hockey rinks. When we weren't playing on the ice we were playing in the corners with pop cans and tennis balls.

We lived in rinks.

We smelled like rinks.

Grownups called us “rink rats”.

These rinks were nothing like the Lightning palaces that Americans attend to watch NHL games.

These rinks were just big frozen tin cans. Some had outside toilets. They didn't stink until they thawed out in the spring.

Every rink had a “canteen”. The "canteen" in the rink consisted of an old stove and a kettle.

The kettle was for tea. Canadians love tea. They love drinking tea while watching hockey.

The stove was for poutine. It generally had an oven and one or two working burners on top.

The fries were dumped on a sheet tray and cooked in the oven.

The gravy was generally Franco-American Beef Gravy that was heated in a pot on top of the stove.

One of the rink ladies scooped the oven fries into a paper cup and slopped some of the gravy on top. And that was poutine.

Fries-n-gravy was a big chunk of the menu for high school kids.

Across from my high school, St Patrick's High School, (Catlick), there was a greasy spoon diner that sold a ton of "fries-n-gravy".

Marie and Flo presided over the lunch counter.

One day my buddy found a hair in his "fries-and-gravy".

He lifted the guilty specimen from his plate and announced to Flo that he had found a hair in his fries.

Flo plucked the gravied tendril from his fork, studied it, and proclaimed…

"It ain't mine. Must be Marie’s".

I used to marvel that the poutine served to me in rinks and honored by Marie with selections from under her hair net could be treated with such gravitas by foodies.

I came to realize that I am grateful for fries-n-gravy.

I could not have survived my misspent youth in rinks and high school without it.

My chef staff and I determined to express that gratitude by creating a helluva poutine for Eat Here.

We needed a phenomenal gravy. Our favorite light bulb went on…Foie Gras.

The best demis and gravies in New Orleans are called “debris” demis because they have bits of debris from the braising pan floating in the gravy. In our Eat Here version the debris is chunks of our pot roast and pieces of Foie Gras.

Because nobody really likes curds we garnish with an aged parmesan.

And that is how you make a helluva poutine.

When I was a snotty-nosed kid clunking around the rink in my rubber boots - hockey stick in one hand and a cup of poutine in the other - I never woulda guessed. 

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN

Monday, 15 May 2017 16:34

Bar Talk ... "Warm Coats"

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro, as Syndicated to the AMI Sun Published on October 22nd, 2017 in Beer, Wine and Spirits

Bartenders are listeners.

You sit at the bar. You drink. The Bartender listens.

The topics can be tricky.

The patron’s ex-wife.

This one is real tricky. 

The bartender has to try to kill this conversation because the person to the left is somebody’s ex-wife and the guy to the right is going out with an ex-wife. 

The patron talking about his ex-wife is not a happy guy.  He gets a couple of drinks in he will get morose and then the bar will get morose and morose people tip poorly.

Politics. Not good right now. Republicans are morose.

Religion. Fire and damnation. Morose.


The Floridian’s Favorite Warm Coat. This is one of my favorites.

Every Floridian has one warm coat he wears during those coupla weeks in December when the Canadians slip us a couple of those too-dam-cold “Canadian Cold Fronts.”

This week that one warm coat is heading to hibernation in the back of the closet but next October it will be back again.

By October we will be sick of the heat and overjoyed to welcome that first, refreshing cool front.

People will laugh and drink and dance naked in the streets.

By December some of those cold fronts will get fiercer and colder and more belligerent.

There will be bitterly cold “Canadian Cold Fronts”. Dam Canadians.

Those warm coats will climb back out of their closets and the locals and their warm coats will march into the bar like critters marching into the ark – arm in arm – two by two.

On those cold nights it is as if every bar stool has two guests – the patron and their coat.

The coats are introduced to the bartender and the other patrons in the bar.

“I got this coat from my sister’s ex-husband - he played football at Notre Dame. SOB is still behind in alimony and I’m keeping the goddam coat.”

“I got this coat from the mayor of Buffalo – we got raided in a poker game and he had to rush out without it.”

“I got this coat in Failene’s basement for a dollar in ’72.”

There is always a lady in a great big fur – testimony to acres of forest denuded of small animals.

The lady with the fur loves her coat – as martinis slide down she begins to slide deeper into the fur and the warm, romantic memories of her lost youth.

“Ralph gave me this coat after he got back from Vegas”. 

A guilty fur coat.

I’ll miss the winter coat talk. Memories of winter coat convesations will keep me cooler in the hot days from now until the next “big chill” in October.

One dog day in September, when the heat is cruel and relentles and crushing, I will dig around in the trunk at the back of the closet for my special warm coat.

I will slide into it like an old boot and go sit by the pool in the white hot sun and I will dream of cold fronts and all my friends around the bar in their special coats - shiny suede, broken zippers, mismatched buttons and matted sheepskin collars.

I will look forward to cooler days again and I will wonder what Ralph did in Vegas that was so bad he had to buy that fur.

Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN