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Ziggin’ and Zaggin’

It’s not unusual for a life to head in one direction and then something else in a completely different direction is the end-result. The journey is hardly ever a straight line. Life is like that, ya’know.

Let’s just say a young man takes a great interest in tattoos. So much so that, at an early age, he knows he wants to lay ink just under the human skin in an artistic way Many items come into play here. Understanding how colors and depth work in a physical sense; being able to create designs in all sorts of period styles; and positioning the tattoo in just the spot desired by the wearer. Then there is the proper operation of the equipment, possessing a steady hand and placing ink correctly, all in a safe and sanitary manner.

(FYI, I speak here from anecdote, never having had the desire nor the bravery to actually go through the process.)

Norman Keith Collins was born on Jan. 14, 1911. People are drawn to different passions and Collins always loved tattoos. While traveling the country, he met “Big Mike” as they hopped from freight train to freight train with no particular time-frame or destination. Mike shared his extensive knowledge of tattoos.

Collins finally joined the Navy, took great interest in Southeast Asia and then ended up in Honolulu after his stint. He became captain of a large three-masted schooner, played the saxophone in his own band, and did a radio show gig. But tattoos were never far from Collins’ thoughts and he set up a shop in Honolulu, specializing in old-school Americana illustrations.  

He did not think Norman Keith was a proper name for a guy of his robust character. He preferred to be known as Sailor Jerry. In 1973, he suffered a heart attack while riding his Harley. He got up from the fall, rode the bike home and three days later, died.

Some folks thought an oversized presence like Collins deserved to be remembered in a way befitting the person. Sailor Jerry Rum was created to honor the man who was larger than life.

The rum is bold, smooth, versatile, good for mixing or sipping. The Spiced Rum, following the tradition of rum distillers to add spices from the Far East to the liquor in order to achieve approachability and less sweetness, features a hula dancer on the label and the back label, seen through the bottle, also depicts an array of tattoo illustrations done by Sailor Jerry himself.

In a bit of irony the rum is distilled in the Caribbean, the U.S. Virgin Islands, not in Hawaii, which would have been in keeping with the Collins’ story but would not have provided the style of product the developers wanted. 

Collins was married several time and Louise, Sailor Jerry’s widow, children and grandchildren, still reside mostly in Hawaii.

Sailor Jerry’s birthday January 14 is upon us. We should raise a glass of his rum in his honor. There are all too few grand and colorful characters left in America and taking a moment to honor an example of one seems like a good thing to do.


Ginger Spiced Negroni

  • 1 part Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
  • 1 part Campari
  • ½ part ginger liqueur
  • ½ part sweet vermouth

In empty mixing glass, measure Sailor Jerry. Add Campari, ginger liqueur & sweet vermouth. Add a few chunks of ice and stir to blend flavors and dilute. Add more ice and repeat. Strain into empty chilled old fashioned glass. Add fresh ice block and garnish with candied ginger.


It's been very cold around here since the first of the year and maybe this recipe will take the edge off. Darn sure won’t hurt.


Sailor Jerry Hot Chocolate

  • 1.5 part Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
  • 1.5 part Butterscotch Schnapps
  • 3 parts hot chocolate
  • Whipped cream (as desired)
  • Chocolate shavings, candy cane, or cinnamon stick garnish
  • Dash of orange bitters

In a warm beverage mug, add equal parts Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum to Butterscotch Schnapps, then add hot chocolate, top with whipped cream, shaved chocolate, and garnish with a cinnamon stick or candy cane, or more chocolate, then complete with a dash orange bitters.


Recipes courtesy of Sailor Jerry Rum.




Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine.


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