Chris Shultz and his cohort of professional merry-makers have been opening, and occasionally closing, bars and restaurants in Key West for a decade now. His team has been behind local favorites like Mary Ellen’s, Tiki House, the Porch, the Other Side, 2 Cents, and now, General Horseplay, the fun-loving kid sister of the bunch that is truly coming into her own.
General Horseplay’s décor takes locals in a time machine to bygone favorites like the Porch and 2 Cents—locals will immediately recognize the iconic, steampunk-style light fixtures, and cartoonish art on the walls that reflects the brand Shultz and company have spent 10 years honing.
If General Horseplay is half nostalgia, however, the other half is innovation. Shultz has teamed up with Tim Rabior, who is co-owner and chief mixologist (okay, I made up that title) at General Horseplay, with an all-star cast including beloved Porch alum and wife Livi Shultz and Porch alum and Pirate radio personality Landon Bradbary on the back bar.
The team has built out General Horseplay to have a music venue in the back and a top-notch cocktail bar in the front (there’s a mullet joke in there somewhere). They are also innovating on the ingredient front: some of the flavors on GH’s new cocktail list taste exotic but are regional. They’ve been driving all the way to Robert is Here in Homestead, the iconic fruit stand, to make sure GH has the only cocktails of its kind in town.
“We go up to Robert’s every couple of weeks. That was the original idea when we opened,” Shultz said. “Tim and I drive up, and we get some cool shit and see what magic Tim can make with it.”
And Rabior’s already making a lot. The new jackfruit cocktail, derived from the massive, sticky tropical fruit full of sweet and savory character, is refreshing and unexpected.
“The jackfruit is one of the most unusual ingredients,” said Rabior. “They are difficult to work with, so that’s why they aren’t used as much. Jackfruit is full of sap, and it’s impossible to get off your hands. Robert showed us how to use it.”
The seeds can be baked and eaten, and the yellow, fleshy fruit has become a popular meat substitute for vegans. Rabior steeps the fruit “like a tea or syrup” in order to extract maximum flavor and extend the life of the ingredient. The new jackfruit cocktail is bourbon-based, with jackfruit, bitters, lemon juice, egg white and Angel’s Envy Bourbon. It’s super light for a bourbon-based cocktail, and they’re dubbing it “The Tropical Envy.”
They also pick up fruit like guanabana, sapodilla and papaya. The new papaya cocktail is a tangy, refreshing mix of Aperol, reposado tequila, lime, and fresh papaya.
This is where GH has arrived after months in the making—and the process hasn’t been as pretty as the papaya cocktail.
“Some of them got killed by hurricanes, some got killed by landlords, but they all did well.”
“We had to figure out what to do with the space, and gutted some of it,” said Shultz. “There were pigeons, cats, possums, strippers, wildlife. The area where there used to be wet T-shirt contests was a disaster. And we cleaned it all up to make the lovely complex you see here today.”
Now they are featuring live music and one of the best sound systems in Key West. General Horseplay carries on the grand tradition of the 2 Cents happy hour (rolling the dice to determine the drink price), and runs specials like the “Teeny Mary,” a mini Bloody Mary crowned with a local garden hen egg. Surprisingly, there were no chickens on the property—they source those eggs from elsewhere. They also grow their own herbs for cocktails on the property.
“You can order anything here from a $20 specialty martini to a Bud Light,” said Shultz.
Since the clean up and now the bi-weekly treks to Robert is Here for the freshest fruit, GH has its sights set on continued excellence.
“We are hoping to be nominated for Best New American Cocktail Bar in Cocktails,” Shultz said.
After Robert showed Rabior and Shultz how to best butcher and use the unusual fruits, they hope to offer the same goodwill in return.
“Hopefully some time, Robert will come down on his motorcycle and try some of our new cocktails,” said Shultz.