Often relegated to punch bowls and poolside drinks, rum rarely gets the attention enjoyed by other premium liquors, such as cognacs and whiskeys. That’s changing, however, as the old-school spirit made from sugarcane is cropping up on more cocktail menus around Denver. “Rum is definitely a dark horse,” says Jessica Wilkinson, bar manager at LoDo’s Samba Room. “It’s like a scotch or a whiskey—it takes an advanced palate to appreciate the flavors.”
Rum-love has spread from Denver’s South American and Caribbean eateries (Samba Room stocks more than 20 varieties, and 8 Rivers houses 62 rums in its vault) to restaurants like TAG and Steuben’s. And while mixed rum drinks aren’t disappearing, Mauricio Zorrilla, co-owner of Berkeley’s Cafe Brazil and the adjoining Rum Room, wants drinkers to savor aged varieties straight-up. The Rum Room, which opened last year, stocks nearly 80 rums and offers flights (priced from $7.50 to $14.50) that cover Jamaica’s full-bodied, molasses-heavy varieties and Martinique’s rhum agricole, a lighter, floral sip produced exclusively from sugarcane juice.
Others, like TAG’s Mike Henderson and Steuben’s Sean Kenyon, swear that rum is a perfect substitute in old-school drinks that rely on whiskey and brandy, such as the Manhattan and Old Fashioned. “Cocktails aren’t masking the flavor of rum anymore,” Kenyon says. “And rum is moving from a big mixing spirit to a sipping spirit, which is something I love to see.” We couldn’t agree more.