Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Bartime travels to Jolly Bob’s

I had a dream the other night. I was sitting on an endless beach, soaking up the sun, sipping an exotic coconut cocktail, enjoying the colorful scenery, listening and never getting tired of the waves lazily crashing upon the shore again and again like a metronome. Unabashed hedonism, you ask? In my dreamland, why, yes indeed!

Then I was startled by an infernal electronic racket, courtesy of my daily buzzkill–also known as my alarm clock, which rudely spit me back into reality. Reality can be such a bitch.

Since a trip to the tropics is out of the question during this stressful time of the year, I needed to find an oasis capable of returning me to the carefree bliss of my dream. When I am fueled with this desire, the only place for me to go is Jolly Bob’s on Willy Street.

Tucked off the street in a bright aqua-blue, single-story, cinder-block building, Jolly Bob’s might be easy to miss if not for the incongruous color. The plain sign outside reads “Jolly Bob’s Jerk Joint,” in reference to the jerk seasoning used in many of the dishes offered and the original name of the establishment (it now simply goes by Jolly Bob’s). Underneath the simple exterior, however, lies a tasty food and drink voyage unlike any other in our humble, sun-craving Midwestern city.

Stepping inside Jolly Bob’s, one is bombarded by spicy and pungent aromas emanating from the open-air kitchen adjacent to the doorway. A few steps further, and your attention shifts immediately to the colorful back-bar, highlighted in bright yellow and the silver of mirrored walls. While these colors add a delightful splash to the aqua overtones, they are merely a sideshow to the amazing array of over 50 types of rum, over 20 types of tequila (including Dos Gusanos, featuring two worms in the bottle) and the usual menagerie of spirits.

Owner Tim Erickson is not bashful of his collection, which ranges in origin from warm climates such as Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Nicaragua and the French Caribbean.

“We probably have the largest rum and tequila selection in Madison and beyond,” he says with a smile.

While the selection is impressive, Jolly Bob’s is best known for its colorful, potent and complicated “boat” drinks one expects to find on vacation in the tropics. Few venues provide the opportunity to enjoy such warm-weather favorites such as Bob’s Rum Punch, an amber rum drink mixed with blue curaçao; Lisa’s Love Lotion, made with either Cruzan Orange or Banana rum and pineapple juice; and the Rasta Raspberry Slammer, a frozen drink with Coruba Dark Jamaican rum mixed with lots of raspberries.

One of the more popular drinks is the Purple Meanie, invented in Jolly Bob’s first year of existence by a bartender with the notorious nickname “El Dynamo.” Blended with Wray and Nephew Jamaican Overproof and Coconut rums, along with blue curaçao, grenadine, and lime juice, which together create the drink’s namesake color, the Purple Meanie packs a punch. My friend Chris describes the purple concoction as, “The old fail-safe, fool-proof, after-two-sips-and-I’m-feelin’-all-right drink!”

Aside from the unique liquid choices, many of Jolly Bob’s cocktails feature interesting and hard-to-find garnishes. Fresh mint, fresh strawberries, fresh pineapple, blood oranges and raw sugar cane are featured in several drinks. The array of ingredients creates diversity and complexity.

The staff, adorned in colorful Hawaiian-type shirts, is professional and up to the drink variety challenge. Bartender Deb Vera, who has been at Jolly Bob’s for several years, explains, “It takes some time to master the recipes–we have a lot of shaken drinks that are labor-intensive, and we want them to be just right.”

Given the labor input, the drinks are surprisingly well-priced. Most of the featured drinks are $4 to $5. Such affordability, combined with the party-like atmosphere, makes Jolly Bob’s a fun and relaxing place to spend some time.

“This is not a place for uptight people,” owner Tim Erickson states. “We want to see them enter and leave with a smile on their face.”

The overall feeling is one of comfort and enjoyment, almost to the point of being disarming. The reggae music invokes warm memories when the weather is chilly, and the drinks keep spirits high. As such, it comes as no surprise that Jolly Bob’s is a hit for first-time dates and the occasional marriage proposal.

Jolly Bob’s, named after a former colleague of Tim’s on a catering gig in Beaver Dam, has been in the happy-ending business for almost 10 years and will mark its anniversary May 5. The party will not be until Memorial Day, and as for the actual anniversary date: “We just hope to get the patio open,” Tim explains.

The outdoor patio only adds to the feel-good tropical flair of Jolly Bob’s. Besides the Memorial Union Terrace, the patio is the place to be in the summer and thrusts you into the carefree mood even greater than the ambience inside.

Jolly Bob’s is a drinking and eating experience mixed with a hefty serving of a holiday party in the islands. The jolly bar and jolly restaurant are ingredients for a jolly good time. Tim describes his vision this way: “I wanted a fun place for reggae, rum, Red Stripe beer and spicy Caribbean food.”

Although lacking the clean and crisp, salty air of a sunny beach by the sea, Jolly Bob’s provides a relaxing place to kick back and enjoy life. Far from a dream, this Madison reality will melt your worries away like the ice in your tasty drink on a warm, sunny afternoon.

Bartime will enjoy one final hurrah this semester at none other than the Memorial Union Terrace. Check out the article this Wednesday, May 8. Cheers!

Jolly Bob’s Painkiller


Mix the following in a 12-ounce glass with ice:

1 1/2 ounces Pusser’s 95.5 Rum

1/2 ounce coconut syrup

Add equal parts orange juice and pineapple juice until glass is full

Pour contents in a shaker, and shake away! Refill the 12-ounce glass with contents, and top with grated nutmeg. Enjoy!

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