Rum has been on the rise in recent years, taking over bar shelves in Tiki temples, neighborhood saloons and everywhere in between. With the increased attention comes more education. Bartenders are boning up on the spirit’s regional styles (from grassy agricole to funky Jamaican) and showcasing them in their drinks. From Chicago to Denver, these are the 11 rum cocktails to drink now.
Can't make it to any of the bars serving these great drinks? Try making the Cita from this list at home.
Michelin-starred Thai food in a San Francisco hotel? Kin Khao remains one of the country’s great modern Thai restaurants, turning out luscious rabbit green curry and irresistible Pad Kee Mao to locals and tourists alike. Cocktails showcase Thai ingredients and inspiration, while the Pattaya Shake takes on the spirit of Thai tea in Brazilian form (and a drink that cools spicy dishes). Akin to a Thai Batida, this drink switches out cachaça and coconut milk for charred pineapple-infused rum, coconut cream and condensed milk.
In a multiroom, 1896 building with glowing back patio, Bit House Saloon opened in 2015 with an ambitious vision: to go fully high-low with boozy Popsicles, Moscow Mules on draft and cheap beer alongside inspired cocktails and sherry and rancio wine menu sections fit for drink geeks. El Gaucho Borracho (“The Drunk Horseman” in Spanish) also plays both ways, going geeky with beloved Plantation Barbados five-year-old rum and nitrogen-shattered cilantro, gratifyingly milky with horchata and toasty sweet-tart with caramelized pineapple and lime juice.
The epitome of Tiki culture in D.C., Archipelago (opened early 2016) plays surfer films over rooms lined with bamboo and Tiki paraphernalia, while the bar stocks Tiki mugs and an array of rums. Festive drinks partner with bites like Crab Rangoon Dip and Chinese BBQ Pork Nachos. Graced with a banana cut to look like a dolphin holding a cherry in its mouth, Banana Daiquiri Take No. 653 is a dream take on a Banana Daiquiri. The depth of the rum is enhanced by both fresh banana and Giffard Banane du Brésil liqueur, a few dashes of Bittercube Blackstrap bitters and fresh lime.
Sunny even on a rainy day, Ēma brings Cal-Med sensibilities to downtown Chicago from SoCal native and chef C.J. Jacobson. His California-Mediterranean cuisine is paired with a wine list that highlights Spain’s Canary Islands, the Middle East and other gems. Then there are Julian Cox’s cocktails. An L.A. cocktail pioneer who has been Chicago-based in the last couple of years, Cox oversees drink menus across Lettuce Entertain You’s many Chicago and national restaurants. His Pistachio Milk Punch feels appropriate to Ēma’s menu and sunny vibe, showcasing the luxurious El Dorado 12-year-old rum and Amaro Montenegro, velvety and nutty with egg white and house-made pistachio milk.
As we were sad to see the New Orleans goodness of Boxing Room close in S.F.’s Hayes Valley, its parent, Absinthe Group, has launched Barcino in its space this August with executive chef Ryan McIlwraith focusing on Catalan cuisine from the seafood-abundant region of Spain. Bar manager Collin Nicholas ensures drinks showcase Spain’s goodness, from sherry to vermut, while pairing well with food. La Caña is a cocktail that does both, featuring Havana Club añejo rum, given elegant funk with a touch of Neisson rhum agricole, layered with manzanilla sherry, chamomile and pineapple syrup, toasted pistachio syrup and egg whites. It’s a tropical refresher ideal with, or without, food.
From its retro-cool Denver location to its convenient locale at the airport (a savior for those of us wanting a quality pre-flight cocktail), Root Down has long been a Denver favorite for its festive brunches and sustainable business practices. The drinks remain a bartender collaboration, and the Cane & Able is a prime example. This sweet-and-sour rum cocktail features silver and amber overproof rums given bitter backbone from Campari and balsamic vinegar. This perfectly balances sweet pineapple and tart lime juice—a drink that’s both culinary and tropical at the same time.
Oklahoma City’s popular A Good Egg Dining Group serves Tex-Mex meets Mexico, by way of OKC, at Barrios, where we love the Guava-Habanero cocktail. But when it comes to rum, the Cactus Fruit Slushie pops with its vivid pink hue from prickly pear puree. A base of Plantation five-year-old rum gains lush texture from coconut and blending. The drink arrives in slushie form, with sour gummy worms as garnish. Sip it in the spacious back patio with some tacos or queso, and you have yourself an ideal summer meal.
Going with that now-common pre-Prohibition vibe, right down to chandeliers, exposed brick and live music, Rye of Baltimore (reopened in a new space in summer 2016) looks ahead with Perez Klebahn’s cocktails. The bar can make a classic, to be sure, but house drinks pull on classic structure while using local spirits and fresh combinations. The Thirteen Songs, served over crushed ice, is Tiki in spirit but current in style, featuring local Baltimore distillery Old Line Spirits Navy-strength aged Caribbean rum and Neisson rhum agricole for a touch of elegant agricole funk, vivid with coconut, lime and absinthe, garnished with a pineapple wedge.
Two-Michelin-starred Lazy Bear remains a destination restaurant for chef David Barzelay’s innovative tasting menus, but bar manager Nicolas Torres ensures drinks are as memorable as the food. The Good Drink Hinky Dink is inspired by the Bay Area–created Mai Tai (including a Trader Vic’s nod in the drink name), showcasing Caña Brava rum, house-made orgeat, blue curaçao and clarified lime in silky, Milk-Punch-style clarification punctuated with a bracing float of house-made espresso and dark rum.
At UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar, bar manager Sabrine Dhaliwal ensures that the cocktails are worth a visit as much as the wine and food. Bartender Vanessa Coupar (formerly of UVA, currently the bar manager at El Santo) created the Cita cocktail (cita being Spanish for “meeting” or “appointment”). Orgeat and pineapple juice lend a rich mouthfeel to robust Havana Club three-year-old rum, while Campari liqueur lends bittersweet backbone. Bittered Sling Lem-Marrakech bitters perk it up with whispers of lemon zest cinnamon, cumin, mint and black pepper. A touch of crème de cacao ensures a luxurious chocolate undertone, enhanced by chocolate shavings dusted on top.
New on the Upper East Side from Jeremy Strawn (formerly of Death & Co and Mulberry Project), Sugar East is one of only eight NYC bars where you can still legally smoke indoors. A sleek midcentury modern design of lush woods and brass is the backdrop for Havana-themed bites and cocktails that showcase rum and beyond. Smoke weaves its way into the drinks as well with the Coconut, served in a hollowed-out gourd with a smoking cinnamon stick punctuating the top. Havana Club blanco and añejo rums are given bitter-herbal nuance from fernet and absinthe, brightened with coconut and pineapple juices and aromatic with that burning cinnamon.
Mixing your cocktail