Tahiti claims one of the world’s oldest rum-distilling traditions, dating as far back as 300 A.D. Today on the islands, where Tiki culture thrives and every sunset seems like an excuse to raise a glass, rum remains the spirit of choice, with a handful of local distilleries, plus countless bars stocking a wide range of bottles and expressions. This is where, and how, to drink rum in paradise.
Go to the Source
Domaine Pari Pari is a rhum agricole facility that also produces vanilla-based products, in addition to cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil and more. Applying his background in the wine industry and the notion of terroir, founder Laurent Masseron spent nearly a decade studying heirloom sugar cane species, in an effort to uncover plants that would yield the highest-quality rhum. As of two years ago, Masseron released his first batch, and today he sells six rhum agricole expressions—some infused with vanilla and others rested in Madeira casks—around Tahiti and via his website.
On the island of Moorea sits the behemoth of Manutea, one of Tahiti’s oldest distilleries that also serves as a winery and fruit juice production space. When Manutea debuted in the early 1980s, its core business was based around pineapple juice. But today, the company is best known for its ubiquitously served Rotui brand of fruit juices. At some of the island’s better bars, you’ll find both the company’s pineapple wine (which is just as it sounds—wine made from fermented pineapples in place of grapes), and pineapple rum, distilled from fermented pineapple.
Hit the Hotel Bars
Of French Polynesia’s 118 islands, fewer than half are inhabited by humans, and even fewer are clad with hotels marketed to foreign travelers. Thanks to its vast and stunning aquamarine lagoon, Bora Bora has emerged as the islands’ most tourist-beloved destination. And although it’s not equipped with its own distillery, it nevertheless offers the islands’ widest selection of rum-soaked bars.
In general, Bora Bora’s most high-end drinking dens, typically stocked with a mix of local and imported rums from places like Cuba and the Caribbean, are located within hotels. Although in and around Vaitape, Bora Bora’s downtown stretch, one will find more local hangouts, many with idyllic lagoon views.
In terms of hotels, Bora Bora’s most stunning new property is Conrad Bora Bora Nui, which replaced a Hilton last April. And while Conrad boasts a handful of eating and drinking options, the most scenic space to kick back an apéritif or digestif is at Upa Upa Lounge, a contemporary indoor/outdoor Polynesian place with a partial glass-bottomed floor that hosts the property’s vast selection of rums, counting about 14 bottles, plus three house infusions using ingredients like local Taha’a vanilla. Try that rum in the Paoti, a cocktail of vanilla-bean-infused rum, white wine, cinnamon, orgeat and local mango and passion fruit juices.
For a proper tropical tipple, Aparima Bar at St. Regis Bora Bora offers a roster of well-built Tiki drinks. The specialty here is the Hina, a mix of fresh coconut water, coconut syrup and coconut ice cream, blended with rum and served in a coconut shell.
Drink Like a Local
For those keen to venture out of the modern comforts of Bora Bora’s many five-star properties, head to the city of Vaitape. Situated under several freestanding palapas on a lagoon-side deck, visit Bora Bora Yacht Club, a place to dock your boat, spend the night or simply order one of the island’s best Piña Coladas, made with freshly squeezed coconut milk.
Not far away is MaiKai, part of MaiKai Bora Bora Marina & Yacht Club, where the local catch, like a mahi burger or poisson cru (raw local fish, coconut, lime), is paired beside a chilled house punch flavored with vanilla rum and cinnamon.
French Polynesia’s business hub and most densely populated area can be found on Tahiti island. Set within Marina Taina, about a 10-minute drive from Fa’a’ā International Airport, is Pink Coconut, a contemporary indoor/outdoor eatery and popular sunset cocktail spot that serves a serious, and seriously boozy, Mojito, built with a mix of local Mana’o Tahiti rum plus Havana Club. In addition to a handful of rum-rich options, like the Ti’ Punch and Daiquiri, one will also find a slew of other classics.
During the day, it’s a more casual affair, with a somewhat continental menu on offer beside local seafood specialties, to be enjoyed with prime views of the super-yachts docked feet away. By night, come before the sun dips for killer pink skies and more of a lounge feel, with live music on weekends.