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.Read More