Skip to Content

What is the most popular drink in Key West?

Key West, Florida is known for its vibrant drink culture and the wide range of signature cocktails that have gained popularity among locals and tourists alike. One such drink that stands out as the most popular in Key West is the Rum Runner. This delightful concoction is a must-try for anyone visiting the island, as it perfectly captures the essence of Key West’s laid-back lifestyle and tropical atmosphere. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the Rum Runner, exploring its history, ingredients, and unique appeal. We will also discuss its significance in Key West’s culture and its popularity among residents and visitors. Additionally, we will touch upon other popular drinks in Key West, giving you a comprehensive overview of the island’s vibrant beverage scene.

Overview of Key West’s drink scene

Key West is a haven for drink enthusiasts, offering a diverse range of beverage options to cater to everyone’s tastes. From tropical fruity cocktails to craft beers and local brews, the island has it all. This is largely influenced by Key West’s tropical climate and beach lifestyle, which encourage people to indulge in refreshing and cooling drinks that complement the surroundings. Whether you prefer a beachfront bar, a lively pub, or a cozy lounge, Key West has numerous establishments that specialize in crafting delicious and unique drinks for locals and tourists alike.

Description of the Rum Runner

The Rum Runner is a classic Key West signature cocktail that has a rich history and a distinct flavor profile. Originally invented in the 1950s by a pirate-themed bar called the Holiday Isle Tiki Bar, the drink was created as a tribute to the island’s history of rum-running, where smugglers would transport and distribute illegal alcohol during the prohibition era.

The Rum Runner is made with a combination of dark rum, blackberry liqueur, banana liqueur, orange juice, pineapple juice, and a splash of grenadine. The mixture is typically shaken with ice and served in a tall glass, garnished with a slice of orange and a cherry. The resulting drink is a vibrant red color with a tropical fruity aroma that instantly transports you to paradise.

What sets the Rum Runner apart from other cocktails is its unique taste and appeal. The combination of dark rum and fruity liqueurs creates a flavorful and well-balanced drink that is both sweet and tangy. The addition of citrus juices adds a refreshing twist, making it the perfect beverage to enjoy on a sunny day by the beach.

Popularity of the Rum Runner

The Rum Runner has achieved an iconic status among the locals and tourists in Key West. It is a drink that encapsulates the spirit of the island and is highly sought after by those seeking an authentic taste of Key West’s beverage culture. You can find the Rum Runner on the menus of most bars and restaurants in Key West, reflecting its widespread popularity.

The demand for the Rum Runner is especially high during special events and festivals, such as the Key West Food and Wine Festival and the annual Hemingway Days celebration. During these occasions, mixologists and bartenders put their own spin on the traditional recipe, creating limited edition and seasonal variations of the Rum Runner that further enhance its appeal.

Role of the Rum Runner in Key West’s culture

Aside from being a delicious cocktail, the Rum Runner holds a special place in Key West’s culture. It represents the island’s laid-back and carefree lifestyle, where people gather to unwind and enjoy the simple pleasures in life. The drink is often associated with beachfront bars and waterfront establishments, where patrons can enjoy stunning views while sipping on their refreshing Rum Runners.

Furthermore, the Rum Runner pays homage to Key West’s history of rum-running, which was a significant part of the island’s past. The illegal transportation and distribution of alcohol during the prohibition era played a vital role in shaping the island’s identity. By incorporating the Rum Runner into its drink culture, Key West celebrates this history and keeps the spirit of rum-running alive.

Finally, the Rum Runner contributes to the overall tourism experience in Key West. Visitors from all over the world come to the island to enjoy its pristine beaches, serene waters, and vibrant nightlife. Trying the Rum Runner becomes an essential part of their itinerary, as it allows them to taste and experience a drink that is unique to Key West.

Variations and adaptations of the Rum Runner

While the classic Rum Runner recipe remains popular, Key West’s mixologists and bartenders have put their creativity to work and come up with various adaptations and variations of the drink. These innovative twists add an element of surprise and excitement to the traditional recipe.

One way mixologists have modified the Rum Runner is by incorporating local ingredients and flavors. Key West is known for its vibrant culinary scene, and bartenders often take inspiration from the island’s tropical fruits and spices. You may find Rum Runners infused with flavors like Key lime, coconut, or even a touch of ginger or jalapeno for an added kick.

Additionally, limited edition and seasonal variations of the Rum Runner are introduced during special events and festivals held in Key West. These versions often feature unique ingredients and garnishes that are in season, making them a true representation of the island’s culinary creativity.

Other popular drinks in Key West

While the Rum Runner reigns supreme as the most popular drink in Key West, there are several other beverages that also deserve attention. Key Lime Martini, Mojito, and Margarita are among the top choices for those who prefer a different flavor profile. Key Lime Martini combines the tangy taste of Key limes with creamy vodka, creating a refreshing and zesty drink.

The Mojito, a Cuban classic, is another popular choice in Key West. Made with fresh mint leaves, lime juice, simple syrup, and white rum, it is a light and refreshing cocktail that perfectly complements the island’s tropical climate.

Lastly, the Margarita offers a delightful combination of tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur. Served on the rocks or blended with ice, it is a go-to drink for those who enjoy a mix of sweet and tangy flavors.

For beer enthusiasts, Key West also has a thriving craft beer scene, with several local breweries offering a variety of unique and flavorful brews. Whether you are a fan of IPAs, lagers, or stouts, you can find a craft beer to suit your taste in Key West.


The Rum Runner stands out as the undisputed champion of Key West’s drink scene. With its colorful history, unique taste, and representation of the island’s culture and lifestyle, it has captured the hearts and palates of residents and visitors alike. Trying the Rum Runner is a must-do when in Key West, allowing you to savor a drink that embodies the tropical essence of the island. However, don’t limit yourself to just one drink, as Key West offers a plethora of other popular beverages to explore and enjoy during your visit. So, raise a glass and cheers to the vibrant drink culture of Key West!


  1. The 7 Best Key West Drinks for Your Next Trip
  2. Best Drinks & Our Favorite Key West Cocktails
  3. Favorite Key West Specialty Drinks…. – Key West Forum
  4. 17 Food And Drinks You Have To Try In Key West
  5. How To Drink Like Hemingway in Key West