Why so many rums at Palace Café?
Rum is the chosen spirit of Palace Café’s Black Duck bar. Sugarcane has been an integral part of the south Louisiana economy and culture for more than 200 years, when the Jesuit priests first brought sugarcane to Louisiana in 1751. The site of the first successful cane production was in downtown New Orleans, on Baronne Street, just steps away from where you are sitting. Nearly fifty years later, on what is currently Audubon Park, Etienne de Bore was successful in creating granulated sugar. Though, he wasn’t the first in history to complete this feat, he was deemed the first to do it in an economically feasible manner.
The by-product of sugar is molasses. Molasses was originally seen as waste. It wasn’t until it was discovered that mixing it with the liquid skimmed off of cane juice during its initial boiling and fermenting it, that a starting point for distillation occurred. This would become what we know of today as Rum. New Orleans may not have created rum, but we like to say we’re the northern most point of the Caribbean, and with our long sugarcane history, locals have been drinking the spirit for hundreds of years.
Why the Black Duck Bar at Palace Café?
The Black Duck, captained by Charles Travers, was the most notorious rum running vessel during Prohibition. It was powered by twin Victory aircraft engines, making it capable of speeds up to 30 knots per hour. This ensured that it could out run nearly all the Coast Guard patrol boats. On December 29th in Narragansett Bay the Black Duck’s rum running days came to an end. Coast Guard captain, Alex Cornell ordered his patrol boat to fire on the boat. The gunfire resulted in the death of three of the four crew on board, Captain Travers was the only survivor. The story made front-page headlines, including in the New York Times.
The ship and its cargo were seized. The Coast Guard refitted the Black Duck as a patrol vessel, captained by none other than Alex Cornell. It went on to capture many rum runners up until the end of prohibition in 1933.
Although the Coast Guard was exonerated for the deaths of the Black Duck crew, it sparked the debate over whether prohibition was worth killing people over. Public opinion began to change. After promising to repeal prohibition if elected, Franklin D. Roosevelt won in a landslide in 1932. The 21st Amendment was passed to repeal the 18th Amendment in 1933.