Rum—is there any other alcohol currently more maligned? I mean, sure, vodka doesn't really garner any respect from those in the know anymore, but no one will look askance if you order a vodka tonic at a bar. It'd be a boring order—and one without much of a taste—but not a tacky one. Whereas if you mention to someone, as I did recently, that you spent a pretty perfect Sunday afternoon downing daiquiris and drunkenly attempting the Times crossword, you will probably get laughed at and asked scornfully if you were on a cruise or somewhere similarly terrible. Which, really, is terribly unfair. Daiquiris and Mai Tais don't have to be the overly sweet frozen concoctions that are only imbibed in tropical locales and/or Dallas BBQs. A well-crafted rum drink is a thing of beauty—especially in the summertime. And if you have any doubts, just try out any one of the following ten drinks. There's no question about the fact that you'll become not only a rum convert, but a rum evangelist in no time at all.
So about that daiquiri-filled afternoon. I spent it in Achilles Heel, a new Greenpoint bar by the owners of Marlow & Sons and Diner, which also happens to be open every day from 8 in the morning till 2 at night. And while the well-balanced Hemingway daiquiri (it's the perfect blend of sweet rum and sour lime juice) can be enjoyed at any time of the day or night, I'd recommend that you visit during daylight hours. With the sun streaming in the huge windows and the slightest hint of sea air (in the form of an East River breeze) wafting under your nose, you can pretend you're on vacation right here in Brooklyn.
Achilles Heel; 180 West Street, Greenpoint
Described on Tooker Alley's menu as being "spicy, sassy, sexy, and sub-tropical," the Jala-Piña might seem to take on all the qualities that make serious drinkers shy away from rum-based beverages. But it would be a shame to skip this cocktail, which contains pineapple-infused rum and serrano-infused honey syrup, because it has the perfect kick to it (thanks to the serrano chiles) which prevents it from being at all cloying. All in all, it's the perfect variation on a Piña Colada, one that you should indulge in as soon as possible.
Tooker Alley; 793 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights
Kiwi's Big Adventure
Not that I would ever seriously suggest that you choose a drink based on its name, but if you were ever so inclined, well, this would be the drink. Consisting of kiwi-infused rum, lime juice, and tiki bitters, this cocktail tastes fresh and vibrant, but has a slightly bitter undercurrent which only heightens its compelling nature. This cocktail is perfect on its own, but treat yourself and pair it with the Clover Club's fava bean crostini. It makes for a very color-coordinated—and wildly delicious—little meal.
Clover Club; 210 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens
Better and Better
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you combined the sweetness of Jamaican rum with the smoky flavor of a good mezcal? No? Clearly you don't use your imagination in the right way. Over at Mayfield, you don't need to use your imagination, you just need to order the Better and Better and you'll find out that the blending of mezcal and rum really hits the sweet spot. If that is, the sweet spot is also a little smoky and makes you light-headed after not too long at all.
The Mayfield; 688 Franklin Avenue, Crown Heights
While the bartenders at Donna make a mean Cuba Libre (done the right way, with Mexican Coca-Cola), I'd recommend that you go for the more nuanced Antilles Rose. This cocktail has a hint of bitter grapefruit that perfectly complements the rum without overpowering it. So drink one of those and then, what the hell, get a Cuba Libre. It's summer. Go crazy.
Donna; 27 Broadway, Williamsburg
Now is the perfect time of year to visit Lavender Lake. The spacious backyard was made for summer weather, and there's no better way to christen the outdoor drinking season than with a Lake House in hand. This drink has an herbal, vaguely medicinal quality due to the addition of thyme syrup and St. Germain, which is a good thing, because "herbal" and "medicinal" are words that are synonymous with health, right? And since these drinks are so healthy, you should probably drink two. Or even three.
Lavender Lake; 383 Carroll Street, Gowanus
Bitter Mai Tai
Ah, the Mai Tai. Once, a long time ago, I went out to dinner at a pretty fancy French restaurant with my parents and a man I was dating, and even though we ordered a good bottle of wine for the table, my date decided he really wanted to start off with a Mai Tai. I thought the waiter would have a stroke. That's probably still the reaction you would get if you ordered a Mai Tai at any four-star dining spot, but screw that, because you're at Dram. And Dram makes a really good bitter Mai Tai, which might not pair well with foie gras, but what do you care? Dram doesn't serve foie gras. Drink your drink. Also, a quick note about that date I was on. Despite his questionable drink order (or perhaps because of its charming artlessness?) I ended up marrying the poor guy. So that's how that story ends.
Dram; 177 S 4th Street, Williamsburg
Dark and Stormy
I'd be remiss not to suggest that you go into a
good great neighborhood bar and order up a simple Dark and Stormy for a sweet, spicy alcoholic kick. And there's no better Brooklyn neighborhood bar than Sunny's, which is slowly beginning to reopen its doors after months of recovery from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. So do yourself—and Sunny's—a favor, and head over to Conover Street for a little rum and ginger beer, and help get this place firmly back on its feet.
Sunny's; 253 Conover Street, Red Hook
Rhubarb Ginger Daiquiri
The thing about rum drinks is that they very rarely pair well with food. The strong and sweet flavor of this particular hard liquor usually competes and clashes with whatever you might want to nibble on. The beauty of the Rhubarb Ginger Daiquiri at Colonie, though, is that its strong flavors are so well-balanced and self-contained that it is a pleasure to sip one of these drinks while also eating, I don't know, a plate of scallops with hazelnuts and sunchokes. You'll feel sated in every possible way.
Colonie; 127 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Heights
Dick & Jane's Bar is an elegant, tucked away spot in Fort Greene that has quickly become a favorite drinking spot for anyone who enjoys a good cocktail but wants to avoid too rowdy of a scene. So what better place to order the completely indulgent Zombie, which contains three kinds of rum, apricot brandy, and various tropical fruits? That's right. This is the perfect place to indulge in Spring Break-style alcohol, because when something feels this wrong, it just has to be right. That's really the point of drinking rum, anyway. It's an escape, a vacation in a glass. After a Zombie or two, you'll feel like you've left everything you've ever known behind.
Dick & Jane's Bar; 266 Adelphi Street, Fort Greene
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