The Ritz-Carlton's Fort Lauderdale-based beverage manager James Camp isn't just another mixologist. He's also one well-traveled guy.
Outside of South Florida, Camp has worked for the Ace Hotel Group in Southern California, the Regattabar Jazz Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts' Harvard Square, and the Charleston Place Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina. That makes for a well-versed take on cocktail culture in the United States.
But you could say the Ritz's main bar man is well-placed in his current position at the Fort Lauderdale hotel's new restaurant, Burlock Coast. A rum lover at heart, he's heading a rum-focused bar program with a menu that boasts selections sourced everywhere from Spain, Panama, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to Jamaica, Martinique, and Haiti.
In addition to the wide variety of rum available at Burlock Coast, you will also find a retail shop where you can purchase any of the more than 40 selections — an homage to South Florida's rum-running past. That includes a solid selection of Florida-distilled products like Fort Lauderdale-based Fwaygo, a silver rum from Key West Local, and a sherry-cask-aged rum from Florida Old Reserve in Auburndale.
We recently caught up with the Burlock Coast cocktail master to get more detail on his favorite drinks and watering holes in South Florida.
New Times: What inspired you to begin bartending/working the hospitality industry professionally?
James Camp: My favorite TV show growing up was Arthur Hailey’s Hotel. The hotel life makes for a fun life and a great, healthy career.
What’s the first important drink or cocktail menu you remember making?
I got to make a nonalcoholic swizzle for Herbie Hancock in Cambridge. He said I was the only cat to ever charge him for a drink. I told him it was that good of a cocktail.
What’s your favorite establishment in South Florida right now (besides your own, of course)?
Cleo in South Beach. Chef Arturo Paz is straight fire.
Do you have a favorite drink on the Burlock Coast menu?
My favorite drink would have to be the Midnight Panther. It’s a silky, savory cocktail with Averna
Do you have a favorite drink or bar program outside of Burlock Coast?
The Scarlet Tanager at Blackbird Ordinary [in Brickell], because I think it's helping to make ginger ale cool again. Ginger beer never had to steal the show.
What’s in store for your next big menu change?
What’s your favorite after-hours spot?
Lagniappe [in Wynwood], because it’s my main hang’s favorite spot — she showed it to me, and I've been hooked ever since. They’ve got a rowdy juice selection and great music.
What do you drink (or make for yourself) when you're in the mood for a cocktail?
Name one of the best drinks you’ve had recently?
The Bad Habit from Stache in Fort Lauderdale. It's Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, lime juice, simple, Cherry Berry jam, and Velvet Falernum.
What do you feel is lacking from the South Florida food and drink scene?
Sonic pairings. Basically, beverage managers pairing their playlists to their cocktails. People drink with their ears just as much as with their eyes.
What would you like to see
I think it’s evolving in a really neat, positive way. I like watching it happen in real time. I wouldn’t change a thing right now. I do, however, think we are due for a second wave of hypnotic medicines being claimed by the bar scene. We’re ready for the next Jägermeister, for example.
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If you could open your own establishment, what would you name it, and what would the concept be?
I’d open a restaurant named Hickory, based on old, heirloom Southern recipes. It would have a big vegetable focus.
Name one bar tool you could not live without?
My bar spoon. That's it.
Burlock Coast is located at 1 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-302-6460, or visit ritzcarlton.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.