Lucy “Lulu” Buffett—the self-dubbed “crazy sista” of the talented Buffett clan—is owner-chef of Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s restaurants in Gulf Shores, Alabama and Destin, Florida and the author of the new cookbook Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life. Below, in her own words, Buffett shares how her family’s love of music and food intersected in the most delicious way.
There is an infamous honky-tonk down the street from my home in Perdido Key, Florida called the Flora-Bama. The owners of the quintessential Gulf Coast dive are friends of mine. With humorous characters and a half a century of colorful memories, this homespun beach-front bar has been weathered by hurricanes, featured notable musicians, poured an ocean full of fruity cocktails and beer and held weekly beachside Sunday church services (with Bloody Mary’s). The Flora-Bama is the go-to place summer spot where, for decades, young folks have come of age in more ways than just ordering their first alcoholic beverage, if you get my drift.
The name of the bar comes from the fact that half of it sits in the state of Florida, while the other half sits in the state of Alabama. Its reputation and legacy are legendary to us coastal bar crawlers. For the young and the young at heart, there is simply no better place to have a rip-roaring time on vacation or a locals’ weekend escape than the Flora-Bama!
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When my brother Jimmy came upon a song entitled The Bama Breeze about a mythic bar on the Southern coast, it didn’t take him long to realize it could be based on the legends and stories about the Flora-Bama. As a former patron in his younger days and as a child of the Gulf Coast, he felt the song captured the cultural landscape—working hard and playing hard, of the place that shaped us and we call home. So he decided to include it in the album. Yes, we boomers still call them albums!
I was later told that in the studio they cut two versions of the song. One the original lyrics as they were written, the other Jimmy (or Bubba, as my sister and I call him) had changed the lyrics to “LuLu” being the owner of the bar. No one knew which version he decided to go with until the album was released. I was, of course, delighted that he kept LuLu as the bar owner tossing a little “gumbo love” to his little sister and my own coastal café, LuLu’s. When it came time to shoot the video, I was coincidentally in New Orleans when Jimmy called and asked if I wanted to play the part of the bar owner. Being the crazy sista of the family (every Southern family has one), I decided, “why not?!” It was fun, it was HOT and it was hard. At the end of the day I was grateful to be traveling back to LA (Lower Alabama) and my day job behind a stove instead of in front of a camera!
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To memorialize my brief moment of fame, I decided to create a specialty drink called The Bama Breeze. It’s pink, fruity, refreshing and potent! Thousands of customers every year enjoy them at the open-air bar at LuLu’s that overlooks Homeport Marina (named after my parents’ home) on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Bama Breeze Cocktail Recipe
1 lime, cut into wedges
1⁄2 oz. simple syrup (recipe follows)
3⁄4 oz. ruby red grapefruit-flavored vodka
3⁄4 oz. coconut rum
Put 2 lime wedges in the bottom of a metal cocktail shaker. Add the simple syrup, vodka, and run. Muddle gently, avoiding the lime rinds, which can add a bitter taste. Fill the shaker with ice and cranberry juice. Pour the mixture back and forth between the shaker and a large mixing glass a few times. Pour the drink into a glass, add a straw, garnish with a lime wedge.
Simple Syrup Recipe
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup water
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, pour the syrup into a storage container. It will keep, refrigerated, for a long time.