We’ve covered the most important whiskey bars and gin joints in the US. Today, we’re branching out from the states and heading into the wild wild world. As we’ve said before (many, many times before), the rise of cocktail culture and spirits-centric bars is good for you. This is especially true if you have a passport and aspirations of getting a few new stamps — because — as rum specialist Shaun Cole, bartender at The Edmon in Hollywood, California, tells us — Rum bars are hotter than Hansel in 2001.
We asked Cole to pick influential rum bars all over the globe from San Francisco, to Cuba, to Greece. As with our previous “most important” lists, it should be noted that Cole’s list isn’t specifically bars, haunts, and watering holes that only serve rum-based drinks (although some of them do). This list is merely a rum enthusiast and expert’s idea of the most important, envelope-pushing, innovative, exciting rum bars in the world — based on the skill of the bartenders, geography, and any other X-factor that makes them unique and noteworthy.
The Rum Bar @Speakeasy Inn – Key West, FL
Located on the quiet end of the bustling Duval Street in Key West. The former Speakeasy during Prohibition carries over 230 bottles of Rum and serves up delicious fresh cocktails, like the Painkiller, while maintaining that Key West signature laid-back charm.
Key West is the landmark for Rum bars in the U.S. (thanks to all the rum-runners during Prohibition) and the Rum Bar @Speakeasy Inn encapsulates the history and charm of Key West in one historically preserved building.
Floridita – Havana, Cuba
You can’t talk about Rum bars and not mention el Floridita. It’s “la cuna del Daiquiri” or “the cradle of the Daiquiri” and the known stomping ground for “Papa” Hemingway — making this a definite bucket list item. Though now filled with tourists and a statue of Papa, the properly dressed waitstaff still transports you back to the 1940’s — making this a must-stop on a hot, sunny afternoon. Get cooled down by consuming the “Papa Daiquiri” (Hemingway Daiquiri), a daiquiri with grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur on crushed ice.
Bootlegger Tiki – Palm Springs, CA
Even though Palm Springs is more than 100 miles away from the nearest ocean, rum cocktails are the order of choice in this laid-back, desert oasis. Located in the original 1950’s Don the Beachcomber, Bootlegger Tiki is serving up some of the best cocktails you’ll find anywhere. Try the ‘Kingslayer’ with Demerara Rum, Rhum Agricole, Campari, Falernum, Donn’s Spice #2, lime and pineapple juice and pair it with some chili, lemon mangos.
Trust me: You’ll be racing back to Palm Springs to chill every weekend.
Baba au Rum – Athens, Greece
Former Worlds 50 Best Bar, the very small and incredibly thoughtful Baba Au Rum is an absolute “must see.” This was one of the first bars to bring rum on this level to Europe’s mainland in 2009 and the bar that started the new wave in the Athens bar scene. They have an outstanding Rum collection and delicious cocktails like the umami driven Baba Au Rum Daiquiri or the Buccaneers Negroni with grated Tonka Bean.
La Factoria – San Juan, Puerto Rico
The bar that kicked off a wave of great bars opening all over Puerto Rico. This is about as cool as bars come…very low-lit, outdoor lights hung inside the bar, chalkboard cocktail menu, and ceiling fans that will remind you of your childhood bedroom. The live jazz will make you wanna dance all night long.
This is the bar you wish you created with your college best friends… except they make incredibly delicious cocktails.
Tiki Ti – Los Angeles, CA
Since tiki drinks started in Los Angeles it’d be impossible to not mention one of the longest standing bars in my beloved city. In the 1930’s, tropical drinks were hitting the scene in Los Angeles and Ray Buhen was there making the drinks at some of the top spots like the Seven Seas, the Luau in Beverly Hills and the Palms in Anaheim. Finally, in 1961 he started Tiki Ti, located on the border of Silverlake and Los Feliz on Sunset Blvd.
Tiki Ti is about the size of a one-car garage and up until last year you could still smoke inside. For a city that is constantly changing and on trend with the latest fad, Tiki Ti has been delivering delicious drinks and red cheeks through it all. And it’s still delivering the same charm through Ray’s son and grandson who are there nightly whipping up the tropics.
Smugglers Cove – San Francisco, CA
Hands down probably the best drinks I’ve ever had…and I’ve had a great deal of them at Smugglers Cove.
Besides the cocktails themselves, every time I’ve been here the bartenders and guests are having more fun than any establishment I’ve ever witnessed. There’s good reason this bar is consistently nominated as a “World’s 50 Best” Bar, James Beard and Tales of the Cocktail nominee. When you make it here get a punch bowl and share it with your four best friends like you did with a suicide Slurpee at 7-11 after grade school. Or get my favorite the Chartreuse Swizzle, a very creative and refreshingly simple cocktail.
Rumba – Seattle, WA
Rumba carries over 400 rums, 25 plus cocktails on their menu and an ambiance that is equivalent to a modern day drinking den of 1950’s Havana. When you’re there, ask for a Rum Map and explore the Caribbean through 60 rums of your choosing. When you accomplish the task of trying them all, you’ll be a part of their Rum Society.
320 Main – Seal Beach, CA
This restaurant is tucked away into the sleepiest little beach town, cozied up next to the port and marina City of Long Beach. It was a hot spot for the bootleggers of California who’d run down to Mexico for their own illegal contraband during Prohibition and — make no mistake — this Tales of the Cocktail-nominated bar makes cocktails as good as anywhere you’ll find in the country. Especially their tiki cocktails.
Jason Schiffer with the help of Matt ‘Rumdood’ Robold have perfected the classics and whip up cutting-edge cocktails for the past nine years. In the process, they have revolutionized cocktails in Orange County and Southern California. Go with friends on a Tuesday night when the restaurant transforms into a Tiki Lounge.
Papa Zouk Fish ’n’ Rum – St. John’s, Antigua
Papa Zouk had the greatest rum collection in the region before the fire that almost put them out business over a year ago. But, as a testament to the authenticity of Papa Zouk, people from all over the world began showing up with bottles of rum that the fire had destroyed and helped get Papa Zouk back to the level it was before the fire.
The fish is as good as you’ll find anywhere in the Caribbean. The regional Zouk music has the bar pumping every night. Go there and get a shot of the ‘Fire Rum’ — it’s a blend of all the rums that were salvaged in the fire, then order the Bouillabaisse for an unmatched Caribbean experience.