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16 of the Best Rum-Centric Cocktail Bars in America

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Over the past half-decade the tiki bar – kitsch still included – and the Caribbean-themed rum bar have been re-imagined on both coasts, with notable additions in between. One thing both of these trends have in common: rum. Though many classic rum-based drinks associated with 1950s Havana and the tiki craze of the 1930s and 40s are finding their way into top cocktail bars across the country, there are more than a dozen great bars that have hedged on them entirely. Below, a map of some of the best rum-centric cocktail bars in the country.

But first, some background: The first tiki bar, Don the Beachcomber, popped up in LA in 1933. It incited a craze that birthed bars like Trader Vic's and San Francisco's legendary Tonga Room, and gave us such vacation hangover culprits as the mai tai and the zombie. By the late 1960s the tiki bar had gone out of fashion, but not before almost every city in America had one.

When the bars began to creep back into vogue (draped in irony, mind you) in the late 1990s they were revived without attention to things like fresh juices or homemade syrups. Commercial mixes became the name of the game. But America's craft cocktail movement has helped re-imagine the traditional tiki bar, and do these very complicated drinks — and their history — justice. Thanks to guys like Martin Cate of Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco and Richie Boccato of Painkiller in New York many of us finally know what a real mai tai tastes like.

The same is true for Caribbean-themed rum bars, most of which draw on 1950s-era Cuba and its cocktail heritage. Cienfuegos in New York and Rumba in Seattle are terrific examples. These bars focus on fizzes, flips, daiquiris and punch bowls all re-imagined with fresh ingredients.

Now, without further ado, your guide to the American rum renaissance.

· All Cocktail Week 2012 Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. La Descarga

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1159 Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 466-1324
The tiki drink was invented in LA at Don the Beachcomber, but until recently LA wasn't exactly at the head of the class when it comes to rum-centric bars. La Descarga opened two years ago and instantly raised the bar with its elegant ode to Cuba. The bar features more than 70 rums and the drinks are traditional Carribean drinks, many of which predate the tiki era. [Photo: Flickr/djjewelz]

2. Caña Rum Bar

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714 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 745-7090
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Caña is a private membership bar (you and everyone else can be one for $20/year and gets you into the bar's monthly rum tastings). The list of more than 140 rums is LA's largest and the drinks range from the classic rum and coconut water, served in a young coconut, to inventive drinks like the Shaky Alibi (Plantation Panama Vintage Rum, house-made Boont Amber Ale Curaçao, Imbue Vermouth, Gentiane-Orange Bitters), which utilize fresh ingredients and house-made syrups. [Photo: 213 Nightlife]

3. Tiki Ti

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4427 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 669-9381
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Los Feliz's 12-seat Tiki Ti was established in 1961 and hasn't changed much since. In fact, founder Ray Buhen's son and grandson are Tiki Ti's only bartenders. The list full of more than 80 drinks and the requisite tiki kitsch feels like an anachronism in the context of LA's growing craft cocktail scene, but that's exactly what makes it great. [Photo: Tiki Ti]

4. Rum Club

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720 SE Sandy Blvd
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 467-2469
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The year old bar from the folks behind Beaker & Flask is more rum in name than it is in practice. But despite not diving head first into an all-out rum theme, kill-devil still dominates the list of both classics and proprietary rum drinks. [Photo: Roth/Eater PDX]

5. Hale Pele

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2733 NE Broadway
Portland, OR 97232
(503) 427-8454
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Thatch Tiki Bar is re-imagined... as a new tiki bar... in the form of Hale Pele, a spot conceived by tiki-expert-about-town Blair Reynolds. More than 20 classic tropical drinks are on offer, from Mai Tais to Zombies, and later this month, the spot will launch its extensive spirits list, highlighting more than 100 rums, liqueurs, agaves, and other cane spirits. –Erin DeJesus [Photo: Avila/Eater PDX]

6. Rumba

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1112 Pike St
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 583-7177
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This Caribbean-inspired bar takes its rum seriously. It boasts over 100 different varieties and the drinks (which are mostly rum-centric) are separated into categories like "Old Havana," "Island Drink," and "Punch." Décor is inspired by 1950s Cuba and comes complete with dominoes. [Photo: S. Pratt/Eater National]

7. Smuggler’s Cove

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650 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 869-1900
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Hands down one of the best tiki bars in the country, complete with waterfall, wood planks and all sorts of pirate-y bric-a-brac. All kitsch aside, this small (it has a capacity of 50 people spread across three floors) Hayes Valley hideaway features a strong selection of rums and drinks that draw on early 1900s Caribbean traditions and classic American tiki drinks. [Photo: Jennifer Yin/Eater SF]

8. Forbidden Island

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1304 Lincoln Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501
(510) 749-0332
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Even three years after Martin Cate (of Smuggler's Cove) relinquished his partnership in Forbidden Island, word is the drinks are still up to par. The bar embraces the typical tiki décor, complete with bamboo booths, a wall of spears and clubs, and – of course – a waterfall. And the drinks are all about twists on classics using fresh ingredients. No commercial mixers here. [Photo: Michael T/Yelp]

9. Bar Agricole

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355 11th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 355-9400
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Rum seems to have found its stateside spiritual home in SF. Thad Vogler and Eric Johnson, the two guys behind Bar Agricole's tightly-curated cocktail list use only top spirits and ingredients. The bar is rum-centric, but the gin drinks also shine. [Photo: Jennifer Yin/Eater SF]

10. Kill Devil Club

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31 E 14th St.
Kansas City, MO 64106
(816) 877-8312
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This is latest venture from Kansas City Star Mixologist, Ryan Maybee (Manifesto, The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange). The bar celebrates KC's jazz roots and pairs them with rum drinks, punches, and a strong selection of rums. [Photo: Kill Devil Club]

11. Frankie's Tiki Room

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1712 W Charleston Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89102
(702) 385-3110
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Before being purchased by the folks behind The Double Down Saloon, Frankie's was a famous off-strip dive bar. Now it's a full-blown tiki bar (one of the first to emerge in Vegas in decades) and the drinks, a combination of classics and proprietary drinks, utilize fresh juices and homemade syrups. [Photo: Facebook/Frankie's Tiki Room]

12. Adrift

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218 S. Broadway
Denver, CO 80209
(303) 733-8454
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Denver finally has its very own craft tiki bar. The glossy bamboo walls and amber lighting add a little retro class to the standard neo-tiki trappings. There are around forty rums available and all of the tiki favorites, crafted with fresh ingredients. [Photo: Adam Larkey/Eater Denver]

13. PKNY (Painkiller)

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49 Essex St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 777-8454
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This is New York's best bar in which to blackout. Under the neon lights and between crushed ice and rum and scorpion bowls you're almost guaranteed a wild night and a rough morning. But it's worth it. This gloriously out of place Lower East Side oasis serves the city's best tiki drinks and serves them strong. [Photo: Eater NY]

14. Cienfuegos

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443 E 6th St
New York, NY 10009
(212) 614-6818
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Ravi de Rossi's (of Gin Palace, Death & Co. and Mayahuel) Cienfuegos is all about fizzes and punches. The décor is 1950s Havana (think Latin rococo), rum is served by the finger, and punch bowls come in four sizes. Cuban small pates help crush the sugar cane blow. [Photo: Facebook/Cienfuegos]

15. The Hurricane Club

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360 Park Ave. S
New York, NY 10010
(212) 951-7111
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This Park Avenue South restaurant embraces what is essentially a modernized version of any number of Trader Vic's restaurants across the country. The place is loud and large and the drinks—all 35 of them—utilize traditional tropical ingredients, but are not traditional tiki drinks. The man behind them: pastry chef, Richard Leach. [Photo: Eater NY/Krieger]

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1. La Descarga

1159 Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA
The tiki drink was invented in LA at Don the Beachcomber, but until recently LA wasn't exactly at the head of the class when it comes to rum-centric bars. La Descarga opened two years ago and instantly raised the bar with its elegant ode to Cuba. The bar features more than 70 rums and the drinks are traditional Carribean drinks, many of which predate the tiki era. [Photo: Flickr/djjewelz]
1159 Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA

2. Caña Rum Bar

714 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Caña is a private membership bar (you and everyone else can be one for $20/year and gets you into the bar's monthly rum tastings). The list of more than 140 rums is LA's largest and the drinks range from the classic rum and coconut water, served in a young coconut, to inventive drinks like the Shaky Alibi (Plantation Panama Vintage Rum, house-made Boont Amber Ale Curaçao, Imbue Vermouth, Gentiane-Orange Bitters), which utilize fresh ingredients and house-made syrups. [Photo: 213 Nightlife]
714 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015

3. Tiki Ti

4427 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027
Los Feliz's 12-seat Tiki Ti was established in 1961 and hasn't changed much since. In fact, founder Ray Buhen's son and grandson are Tiki Ti's only bartenders. The list full of more than 80 drinks and the requisite tiki kitsch feels like an anachronism in the context of LA's growing craft cocktail scene, but that's exactly what makes it great. [Photo: Tiki Ti]
4427 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

4. Rum Club

720 SE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97214
The year old bar from the folks behind Beaker & Flask is more rum in name than it is in practice. But despite not diving head first into an all-out rum theme, kill-devil still dominates the list of both classics and proprietary rum drinks. [Photo: Roth/Eater PDX]
720 SE Sandy Blvd
Portland, OR 97214

5. Hale Pele

2733 NE Broadway, Portland, OR 97232
Thatch Tiki Bar is re-imagined... as a new tiki bar... in the form of Hale Pele, a spot conceived by tiki-expert-about-town Blair Reynolds. More than 20 classic tropical drinks are on offer, from Mai Tais to Zombies, and later this month, the spot will launch its extensive spirits list, highlighting more than 100 rums, liqueurs, agaves, and other cane spirits. –Erin DeJesus [Photo: Avila/Eater PDX]
2733 NE Broadway
Portland, OR 97232

6. Rumba

1112 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101
This Caribbean-inspired bar takes its rum seriously. It boasts over 100 different varieties and the drinks (which are mostly rum-centric) are separated into categories like "Old Havana," "Island Drink," and "Punch." Décor is inspired by 1950s Cuba and comes complete with dominoes. [Photo: S. Pratt/Eater National]
1112 Pike St
Seattle, WA 98101

7. Smuggler’s Cove

650 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Hands down one of the best tiki bars in the country, complete with waterfall, wood planks and all sorts of pirate-y bric-a-brac. All kitsch aside, this small (it has a capacity of 50 people spread across three floors) Hayes Valley hideaway features a strong selection of rums and drinks that draw on early 1900s Caribbean traditions and classic American tiki drinks. [Photo: Jennifer Yin/Eater SF]
650 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94102

8. Forbidden Island

1304 Lincoln Ave., Alameda, CA 94501
Even three years after Martin Cate (of Smuggler's Cove) relinquished his partnership in Forbidden Island, word is the drinks are still up to par. The bar embraces the typical tiki décor, complete with bamboo booths, a wall of spears and clubs, and – of course – a waterfall. And the drinks are all about twists on classics using fresh ingredients. No commercial mixers here. [Photo: Michael T/Yelp]
1304 Lincoln Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501

9. Bar Agricole

355 11th St., San Francisco, CA 94103
Rum seems to have found its stateside spiritual home in SF. Thad Vogler and Eric Johnson, the two guys behind Bar Agricole's tightly-curated cocktail list use only top spirits and ingredients. The bar is rum-centric, but the gin drinks also shine. [Photo: Jennifer Yin/Eater SF]
355 11th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

10. Kill Devil Club

31 E 14th St., Kansas City, MO 64106
This is latest venture from Kansas City Star Mixologist, Ryan Maybee (Manifesto, The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange). The bar celebrates KC's jazz roots and pairs them with rum drinks, punches, and a strong selection of rums. [Photo: Kill Devil Club]
31 E 14th St.
Kansas City, MO 64106

11. Frankie's Tiki Room

1712 W Charleston Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89102
Before being purchased by the folks behind The Double Down Saloon, Frankie's was a famous off-strip dive bar. Now it's a full-blown tiki bar (one of the first to emerge in Vegas in decades) and the drinks, a combination of classics and proprietary drinks, utilize fresh juices and homemade syrups. [Photo: Facebook/Frankie's Tiki Room]
1712 W Charleston Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89102

12. Adrift

218 S. Broadway, Denver, CO 80209
Denver finally has its very own craft tiki bar. The glossy bamboo walls and amber lighting add a little retro class to the standard neo-tiki trappings. There are around forty rums available and all of the tiki favorites, crafted with fresh ingredients. [Photo: Adam Larkey/Eater Denver]
218 S. Broadway
Denver, CO 80209

13. PKNY (Painkiller)

49 Essex St, New York, NY 10002
This is New York's best bar in which to blackout. Under the neon lights and between crushed ice and rum and scorpion bowls you're almost guaranteed a wild night and a rough morning. But it's worth it. This gloriously out of place Lower East Side oasis serves the city's best tiki drinks and serves them strong. [Photo: Eater NY]
49 Essex St
New York, NY 10002

14. Cienfuegos

443 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009
Ravi de Rossi's (of Gin Palace, Death & Co. and Mayahuel) Cienfuegos is all about fizzes and punches. The décor is 1950s Havana (think Latin rococo), rum is served by the finger, and punch bowls come in four sizes. Cuban small pates help crush the sugar cane blow. [Photo: Facebook/Cienfuegos]
443 E 6th St
New York, NY 10009

15. The Hurricane Club

360 Park Ave. S, New York, NY 10010
This Park Avenue South restaurant embraces what is essentially a modernized version of any number of Trader Vic's restaurants across the country. The place is loud and large and the drinks—all 35 of them—utilize traditional tropical ingredients, but are not traditional tiki drinks. The man behind them: pastry chef, Richard Leach. [Photo: Eater NY/Krieger]
360 Park Ave. S
New York, NY 10010

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