Along with its sunny brethren of tropical islands and southern locales, San Diego lines up with the best places on earth to enjoy rum. Whether in a tiki-style cocktail or sipped like a fine cognac, rum is the spirit that never stops giving, with a variety of styles and profiles for any palate.
Rum is defined as a distilled spirit from fermented sugarcane and byproducts, such as molasses. Produced all over the world, it is most famously known from the regions of the Caribbean and Latin America. Rum production dates back to the 17th century to its first recorded distillation in the Caribbean.
In a nutshell, sugarcane is harvested, crushed to release juices, and boiled for sugar concentration. Rum is fermented for one day to several weeks, then distilled in either a column still or pot still. Barrels for aging rum can vary, including new or used whiskey casks, sherry or cognac, all lending their own unique characteristics.
Light/Silver/White: Distilled in oak barrels and charcoal filtered to remove color, this lightest body rum has notes of vanilla and almond. The style is often featured in cocktails like mojitos, piña coladas and daiquiris.
Examples: Bacardi Silver, Oronoco Fazenda Reserva, Flor de Caña White, Tommy Bahama White Sand
Gold/Oro: These rums are medium in body and have stronger flavors due to aging in oak barrels. Look for notes of caramel, toffee, banana and almond. Like light rums, they are featured prominently in tropical, tiki-style cocktails
Examples: Appleton Special Gold and Estate VX, 10 Cane, Mount Gay Eclipse, Rhum Barbancourt
Dark/Black: Often pot-stilled and aged in charred oak barrels for longer periods, dark rums have flavors of vanilla and caramel, with notes of smoke. Look for these as toppers to Mai Tais and in the Hurricane or Dark & Stormy cocktails.
Examples: Gosling’s Black Seal, Myers Dark, Pampero, Pyrat, Zaya, Ron Zacapa
Spiced: Available on the market in a variety of flavor profiles and quality levels, look for flavors of butterscotch, cinnamon, baking spices, citrus and herbs. Known for appearing in cocktails including the Cuba Libre and Mai Tai.
Examples: Captain Morgan, Sailor Jerry’s, Trader Vic’s
Rhum Agricole: Made exclusively from sugarcane juice and controlled by the French government in the West Indies, these rums tend to be more expensive than other styles and have earthy, funky flavors of truffle and grass.
Examples: Rhum Clément, Depaz, Neisson, Rhum J.M.
Top spots for rum in San Diego
False Idol: For the ultimate rum experience, join the Mystics of Alkala club for a 35 lesson epic adventure into the world of the spirit, including over 300 tastings of rums and cocktails. Levels of mastery include: Acolyte (Level 1), Worshipper (Level 2), Exalter (Level 3), and Conjurer (Level 4). Head into False Idol for more information and to sign up.
675 W. Beech St., Little Italy, falseidoltiki.com
The Grass Skirt: Go for the exceptionally rare rums at this P.B. hotspot, with their offerings of the sought after Appleton Estate 50-Year-Old Jamaica Rum and Papa Andres Brugal Rum. Don’t miss Steven Tuttle’s version of the Pina Colada with his Carmen Miranda, crafted with Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva, high proof Jamaican rum, lime, pineapple, coconut syrup and banana cinnamon syrup.
910 Grand Ave., Pacific Beach, 858.412.5237, thegrassskirt.com
Kettner Exchange: Alongside an extensive list of rums, try their famous KPK (KEX Painkiller), a blend of seven rums with passionfruit, pineapple, coconut and lime.
2001 Kettner Blvd., Little Italy, 619.255.2001, kettnerexchange.com
Tidal: In honor of movie producer Jack Skirball and his transformation of Paradise Island, The Skirball is made with Myer’s Dark Rum, Mahina coco, orgeat, pineapple, raspberry-hibiscus and lemon-thyme infusion.
1404 Vacation Rd., Mission Bay, 858.490.6363, paradisepoint.com/tidal-sd.php
Mille Fleurs: Upgrade the average mojito at your next brunch with the Del Mar race-inspired Dark Horse, a refreshing cocktail featuring Diplomático Rum, fresh blueberries and mint, fresh lime and a float of Grand Marnier.
6009 Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe, 858.756.3085, millefleurs.com
Sycamore Den: The Banana Bold Fashioned is an action-packed version of the classic Old Fashioned. Crafted with bourbon, banana liqueur, Jamaican overproof rum blend and bitters, the cocktail comes with a banana chip soaked in overproof rum and lit on fire.
3391 Adams Ave., Normal Heights, 619.563.9019, sycamoreden.com
Mister A’s: Go have your cocktail with a side of “Arrr!” thanks to the Walk the Plank, made with Diplomático Anejo, house-made roasted pineapple juice, cinnamon, fresh lime and Falernum, with a dark rum float.
2550 Fifth Ave., Bankers Hill, 619.239.1377, asrestaurant.com
The Oceanaire Seafood Room: Lovely and delicate the aqua-colored Oceanaire 2.0 features Havana Club Anejo Blanco Rum, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, fresh lime juice, Monin banana syrup, Senior Curacao Blue Curacao and a lime “seaweed” garnish.
400 J St., downtown, 619.858.2277, theoceanaire.com
Havana 1920: This list would be incomplete without listing this authentic Cuban restaurant and bar. The Riders on the Storm has Brugal 1888 Solera Rum, lime fresh ginger, Jaeger and R&D House Bitters. Also not to be missed is the Hotel Nacional with Diplomático six year rum, fresh pineapple juice, fresh lime juice and apricot liqueur R&D Aromatic #7 bitters served in a vintage champagne glass.
548 Fifth Ave., downtown, 619.369.1920, havana1920.com