Welcome to Pick Your Poison, wherein the world’s best bartenders help stock your bar, one spirit at a time.
August 16th is National Rum Day.
Why are we celebrating? Because at its best, rum is an endlessly versatile spirit that can please casual drinkers, hardcore whiskey fans and every tippler in between. It’s great in cocktails (Dark 'n' Stormy, rum punch, daiquiri), while the darker, aged rums rival any high-end brown spirit for sipping.
But the sweet and spicy liquor can be difficult to comprehend. While most rum is produced in the Caribbean and Latin America, you can find variations (good and bad) all over the globe. And there are really no set standards (unlike, say, a tequila) and a LOT of regional variety.
As well, the cheap, probably flavored rum you got started with — we won't name names — might have turned you off to exploring the complexity of the spirit.
So, we called in perhaps the country’s most knowledgeable rum expert, Martin Cate, the owner of San Francisco’s tiki haven Smuggler’s Cove (which has the largest rum selection in the U.S.) and co-author (with his wife Rebecca) of Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki, a James Beard Award-winning book.
Here is his cheerful face, which is a thing one grows accustomed to having when they regularly drink good rum:
And below, in his words, you'll find five quality rums for your home bar. Consider this a starter kit.
Without further ado ...
Appleton Estate Reserve Blend
“A versatile rum that offers an approachable introduction to bolder Jamaican flavors. It combines ripe fruit and baking spice notes in a rich rum that plays well in both citrus and stirred applications.” BUY IT HERE
Real McCoy 12 Year Old
“Slightly lighter in body but deeply character-ful, Real McCoy 12 Year Old is produced at the influential Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. A minimum of 12 years of tropical aging gives this rum huge wood tannins, and is stellar in classic stirred cocktails. A great way to lure bourbon drinkers over to our side.” BUY IT HERE
Rhum Neisson Blanc
“Any selection should have a classic AOC Martinique Rhum Agricole in the mix, and this iconic producer offers one of the best. Unaged to let the bright and floral qualities of fresh cane juice rum shine through, this is great in the classic Ti’ punch, daiquiris and highballs.” BUY IT HERE
“Designed to be the thunderous bass at the heart of classic exotic cocktails, Plantation OFTD brings bold flavor and high proof to a spirit that is unapologetically rum. A blend of heavy pot-still rums from around the Caribbean, OFTD has lingering flavor for days and a gentle bitterness that contrasts nicely with spiced syrups and fresh citrus.” BUY IT HERE
“One of the finest of the new wave of American craft rum distillers, this elegant and refined rum from Colorado works beautifully in simple cocktails, or just on the rocks. Woman-owned and distilled, Louisiana-sourced sugar, and impeccable green credentials make Montanya a rum you can enjoy with both head and heart.” BUY IT HERE
Please follow @smugglerscovesf on Instagram for some more rum inspiration.
Main photo: Rusty Gillespie/Flickr Creative Commons