Plantation Old Reserve, Barbados

Provisions Market, 11615 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur; 314-989-0020

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Arrgh, budding sailors, go ahead and find Barbados on a map. It's right near Guatemala, ain't it? No, it's sandwiched between Trinidad and Toboggan. I thought it shared an island with Jamaica. No, that's Haiti. OK, wait. Let me think. It's due south of Cuba; it's the third leg of the Bermuda Triangle. Countless Navy brethren have been lost there, and they roam the Barbadian shores drinking rum, screwing ghost-whores and swashbuckling. Wrong again, at least about the location. You expect to sail these waters with your half-assed knowledge? Forget it. And there's no way that the captain's going to splice the main brace with your shoddy knowledge. You'll get your daily allotment of rum when you learn how to navigate these waters.

In fact, Barbados is the easternmost island of the Caribbean; its quarter-million inhabitants speak English and produce some of the greatest cricket players in the world. And they also make some mean frickin' rum -- the best in the world.

"Splicing the main brace" is sailor lingo for receiving an eighth of a pint (a "tot") of rum from the captain. The tradition arose as a reward for actually repairing (splicing) the main support of a ship's mast (the brace), a particularly grueling task. When this chore was accomplished, sailors were permitted to get drunk on rum.

Ah, rum. When we were drunks, Drink and a friend once drank nearly an entire fifth of Bacardi, and started feeling a tad tipsy. A third friend came in, looked at the bottle and gasped, "I can't believe you guys drank a whole bottle of 151!"

"That was 151?!!" we screamed, incredulous that the empty bottle was in fact the 151-proof (75 percent alcohol) variety rather than the tamer 80 proof. Within an hour we puked out what seemed to be our entire central nervous systems.

Believe it or not, we're not sailors. We are wussies, and our hands are writers' hands, and our face, while ugly, is soft, and in the sun it turns beet red. No one issues us a tot of rum; rather, we drive our Volkswagen out to Creve Coeur and grab it from Provisions Market.

Provisions belongs to the same posse that owns the great Wine & Cheese Place, and the shop has an ace spirits selection (in addition to a well-stocked upscale deli and grocery), including all three varieties of Plantation Rum: one made in Trinidad, another in Jamaica and this, the most expensive ($27.99 for 750 ml), distilled in 1991 and matured in small oak casks. The result is a solid spirit with hints of burnt sugar (of course), vanilla and marzipan; it stays in the mouth long after the liquid has impressed the esophagus and made its way into the stomach ocean. There, it enters the stormy sea, where a huge clipper ship attempts to stay afloat and keep its main brace from splitting. If it snaps, we're going to be up all night splicing, and we'll expect to be rewarded in the morning with another tot of Plantation.

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