Atmosphere

Rum Runners

The sugarcane liquor (finally) hits the top shelf of Denver's bars.

By
May 2010

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.