Jammyland Cocktail Bar & Reggae Lounge (image: Eugeneshoots)
The best rum bar in Las Vegas isn’t in a celebrity-owned restaurant or high-roller lounge. In fact, it’s not even on the Strip. To lose yourself in a world of properly mixed Daiquiris and Mai Tais, you’ll have to hop a cab 15 minutes north of the neon to the Arts District neighborhood, with vintage stores and low-rent art galleries. Locals call it 18B, and it’s where you’ll find Jammyland Cocktail Bar & Reggae Lounge.
The new bar, named after a famous record store in New York, threw open its garage doors and welcomed drinkers and their dogs onto its patio earlier this year. In addition to craft cocktails and island-inspired bites, it’s home to the most impressive list of rums in the Sin City.
There are just under 100 bottles on the shelves—a small parcel when compared to Tommy Bahama’s 200-plus bottle menu, purported to be the largest rum collection in Vegas. Jammyland’s selections aren’t constrained by shelf space but by the owners’ pickiness. “It’s not about a number for us; it’s about being fiercely curated,” says co-owner Allan Katz.
Some examples of what the bar carries include Duncan Taylor Barbados 12-year-old rum, Foursquare Zinfandel Cask Finish rum and Avuá Jequitibá Rosa aged cachaça. Can you find these in any rum bar? “Hell naw. Any place Martin Cate owns? Definitely,” says Katz.
Just don’t ask for Black Tot. They don’t stock any bottle more than $100 as, according to them, “it simply isn’t worth it,” says Katz. “And I’d never sell someone on a spirit whose value isn’t there for me personally.”
But the top-shelf bottles you see, which Katz and his business/life partner Danielle Crouch have collected for years, are not for sale. They only break those open for friends, their monthly rum appreciation club Killdevil Coalition and, occasionally, the curious.
The rum lovers, however, will happily guide newbies and enthusiasts alike to bottles that align with their interests, even offering tastes for verification and education. Looking for the top three Don Pancho–produced rums less than $70 per bottle, rums from each distilling tradition or the bar’s top three favorites from Trinidad? A flight will be laid out before you. And if you’re lucky, maybe Katz has just the song to pair with it. He creates Spotify playlists for his cocktail menus.
Danielle Crouch and Allan Katz (image: Eugeneshoots)
Crouch and Katz both have cocktail pedigrees backed by the likes of Tony Abou-Ganim, Dale DeGroff and Julie Reiner and gained from working bars in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Jammyland is a culmination of that experience and all the special rums they picked up along the way.
The idea for their own Jamaican-inspired bar first came to them back when they lived in New York in 2009. But fate took them on a near-decade-long journey to San Diego and Los Angeles, eventually leading them back to Vegas, where they’ve owned a house since 2003. The Arts District was always going to be home to their bar.
Mai Tai (image: Eugeneshoots)
A halfway mark between the Strip and downtown, 18B has attracted those with their own passion projects to share with the world. “It’s people that are so supremely passionate about a specific thing,” says Katz. He points to his neighbors, like coffee roaster Jerad Howard of Vesta, whose “style is distinct enough to be almost polarizing,” Retro Vegas, a store whose collection “is unlike anything,” and Kevin Holder of Hop Nuts Brewing with his “really singular style.”
And this is where Jammyland fits in like a puzzle piece. “It’s a bunch of us that are kind of obsessed about the stuff that we love, and we want to share it undiluted with the world,” says Katz. “And that’s the great thing about being in Vegas, because the world constantly darkens your door.”
Daiquiri (image: Eugeneshoots)
Katz is against calling any rum “the perfect one for Daiquiris,” but these are his personal favorites to serve in the cocktail:
Appleton Estate White:“One of our favorite rums happens to be Appleton White,” says Katz. “I’m so glad they didn’t change the formula. It’s one of those rums you give a little sip and it’s obviously a Jamaican rum, it’s got a fair amount of hogo on it. Especially in its old packaging, which looks like absolutely nothing special. You make a Daiquiri with it, and suddenly it’s like a little, mousy person who has an enormous tenor. Holy shit, you can make that sound!”
Rhum Barbancourt White: “The eight-year-old is a benchmark, the 15-year-old is sublime, and nobody pays much attention to the white expression, but it has very Havana Club–esque characteristics,” says Katz.
Caña Brava: “It’s still one of my all-time favorite Daiquiris,” says Katz. “That pineapple yeast really explodes once you make a Daiquiri with it. Their Daiquiris almost taste like honeysuckle.”