Ben Etheridge began making rum in his backyard before he was legally able to drink it. He tasted the bottles with his late father, a lieutenant in the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, who provided constructive criticism and advice. Although he grew up to be a certified arborist, general contractor, and self-taught engineer, Ben’s passion was always making alcohol.
In 2012, the Etheridges went all in: Ben sold his home and construction company, his father invested his PBSO retirement, and they founded Black Coral Rum in Riviera Beach. Their success morphed into Steel Tie Spirits in West Palm Beach, located just southwest of Grandview Public Market. Steel Tie is a true craft distillery in every sense. Its non-GMO, pesticide-free, and locally sourced ingredients are made in a still Ben built—and he proudly claims the facility “reeks of molasses” grown in Clewiston. The still is housed in a building that withstood the hurricane of 1928.
A cheerleader for Palm Beach County, Ben explains that his family first came here in the late 1800s; in 1917 they helped lay the tracks next to the distillery, hence the name Steel Tie. “West Palm is just starting to realize the possibilities of what it can be,” he says. “It’s becoming a mecca for breweries and distilleries, and we’ve worked closely with the city to make the regulations more welcoming.”
The law currently doesn’t allow him to charge for the tasting that accompanies a tour, so guests are welcome to drop in and experience both free of charge. He dreams of a day when the distillery will be an immersive educational experience and a venue for special events. He’s also hoping to implement his concept of a cocktail academy to teach visitors how to explore the boundaries of craft libations.
The current lineup includes the double-distilled Steel Tie vodka, made from American-grown wheat, rye, and corn, as well as three Black Coral rums (white, spiced, and black). While the still provides the opportunity to expand production, Ben is adamant that he’ll never compromise. “Up until now, we could have made four times as much money bottling for other people,” he admits. “As we grow, it’s important that we continue to make our own products.”
3 parts Black Coral white rum
2 parts pineapple juice
1 part lime juice
1 part coconut milk
1 part simple syrup
1 part falernum liqueur
Combine ingredients and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice into a glass.