Death Before Decaf, Flip Flops & His Next Move: Drinking With Keith Popejoy

Anyone looking for a proper drink in Delray Beach knows that a visit to Death or Glory is a must. Opened just over a year ago in April 2017, Death or Glory was nominated for a Tales of the Cocktails Spirited Award for Best New Cocktail Bar this year. The restaurant and bar tucked inside the 1925 historic Falcon House, once home to another popular restaurant, a pharmacy and even a family owned theater, is packed with nostalgia…and craft cocktails.

Opened by Isaac Grillo and April DeVona, Co-Founders of Repour Bar in Miami; Ayme Harrison, former owner of Kreepy Tiki; and Annie Blake, of Cocktail Kingdom, Death or Glory gets its name from head bartender and bar manager Keith Popejoy’s pop-up bar during the Shaken South Florida’s eleven-round single-elimination cocktail competition.  So we thought it was about time to go drinking with Keith Popejoy.

Drinking with Keith Popejoy

Tell us about the overall beverage program at Death or Glory and how the bar got its name.

Death or Glory is a neighborhood bar in Delray Beach, Fl. We definitely cater to locals. My personal motto has always been, “Come as you are; drink what you like.” Come off the beach in a tank top and flip flops or put a suit on and have your anniversary with us. Inside, the bar is classically driven, low lit, and sexy. Outside, is Tiki as Fuck!, vibrant, and fun. Death or Glory is the name I came up for a Pop-up bar I implemented for the final round of a local competition called Shaken. At the time, owner Ayme Harrison was looking for a new space/concept and the rest is history. Isaac Grillo of Repour, his wife April DeVona, and Annie Blake of Cocktail Kingdom all came on board as partners. Basically, the overall meaning is Go Big or Go Home. And the obvious…rock n roll!!! It is the bar business after all.

How did you get started in the bar business?

My Uncle has a pivotal role in raising me, as well as my decision to become a bartender. After his time in the service, he bartended for thirty or so years, made a good living doing it and told me the craziest stories. In high school, I started bar backing in music venues. By the time I was in college, I found myself behind the bar in nightclubs. After I finished school, I used my degree to become an English teacher, but that was short lived. I’m no day-walker. I returned to the clubs for a couple more years, until I caught the cocktail bug. It wasn’t long before I found myself in a bar management position at a gastropub in West Palm Beach. I hurled myself into the experience, immersing myself in every piece of history and literature I could find.

What is your current go-to drink order?

I’m a huge fan of the Manhattan and most of its variations.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee … Death before decaf! Black and iced…

Tell us about your first boozy experience.

My brother and I procured a bottle of Jack Daniels from the college kid who lived next door. Between us and some other very inexperienced imbibers, we swigged the liter away pretty quickly. Needless to say, I pour Jack just a little further away from my nose, than other spirits. Also, Miller High Life and Jameson was always a staple in my Uncle’s home, so they both live in a nice cozy corner in my heart.

What is your hangover remedy?

Lots of sleep and blackout curtains

What’s your vacation, no f*cks given drink?

I like to see what every place I visit is doing behind the bar but when the fucks run out, I’ll take a shot of Fernet and a High Life (so cliche!!) haha

What would be your death row sip to say farewell?

After the life I predict I had lived, I should probably just have some water.  But in the end, I’ll take a pour of Chartreuse V.E.P.

If you could have drinks with anyone dead, alive or fictional, who would it be and what would you be drinking?

My Uncle. He passed before I was old enough to have a drink with him and long retired from behind the pine. I think a pub somewhere in South Boston, where he grew up, would be a most fitting setting, with a proper pint of Guinness and some Jameson.

Who is the best drinking buddy for a wild night out?

My best bud and right hand at Death or Glory…Cassidy Moser.

What’s your closing song?

Lucero: Can’t Feel a Thing

What is your current theme song behind the stick?

Against Me!: Sink Florida Sink

Any advice to the young guns out there?

To the guppies… know your limits. It’s a fun business but keep your vices narrow and make it out of the industry alive and respected. Words to my younger self…never say no to an opportunity. Almost everything in the industry will help you grow even if you learn what not to do.

If you had the magic power to change one thing in the drinks industry, what would it be?

I wish drug use wasn’t so prevalent. I pride myself on being in the industry for 17 years without indulging in the extra curricular activities.

Shameless plug time, what’s going on in your thirsty world?

As good as South Florida and the folks at Death or Glory have been to me, it’s time to move on. I am moving to Nashville to cut my teeth in a new market for the first time.

Keith Popejoy’s South Florida Favorites

  • Sweetwater: Boynton Beach
  • Driftwood: Boynton Beach
  • Repour: Miami
  • Better Days: Miami
  • Harry’s Banana Farm: Lake Worth
  • Hullabaloo: West Palm Beach

Death or Glory Details

116 NE 6th Ave, Delray Beach, FL 33483; 561) 808-8814; deathorglorybar.com

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