Where To Drink Right Now

Where to drink right now: 6 Austin bars putting new twists on classic rum cocktails

Where to drink: 6 bars putting new twists on classic rum cocktails

Lamberts rum cocktail
Lamberts District Daquiri.  Photo courtesy of Lamberts
Drink.Well. rum cocktail
The Off Season at drink.well.  Courtesy of drink.well.
Whisler's rum cocktail
Whisler's Monkey Business.  Courtesy of Whisler's
Bar Congress Black Flag rum cocktail
Bar Congress' Black Flag Old Fashioned.  Courtesy of Bar Congress
TRIO Welcome to the Jungle Rum Cocktail
TRIO's Welcome To The Jungle.  Courtesy of TRIO
Lamberts rum cocktail
Drink.Well. rum cocktail
Whisler's rum cocktail
Bar Congress Black Flag rum cocktail
TRIO Welcome to the Jungle Rum Cocktail

In recent years, local bartenders and spirit fans have helped rum make a well-deserved comeback by throwing themed tiki nights and featuring classic and modern rum drinks on their summer menus.

Don't make the mistake of equating "rum cocktail" to "sweet and slushy"— fans of light, refreshing summer punches and boozy, dark cocktails will find something to love here. Rum's beauty lies in how different it can be. These are truly fun spirits to savor in late summer.

To help you celebrate National Rum Month, we've asked several professionals to share their favorite menu items that highlight one or more rums.

Drink.well.: The Off Season
Whiskey barrel-aged rum, pineau des charentes, Benedictine, cacao, orange bitters

Drink.well.'s latest rum drink veers in a new direction, says co-owner Jessica Sanders. "Too often, rum cocktails are relegated to fruity, tiki-style preparations. A well-made rum can have all of the complexity and depth that a great whiskey has and is just as wonderful in stirred, spirit-forward cocktails."

Sanders calls The Off Season a great "gateway cocktail" for Manhattan fans. "It’s full-bodied and has that bit of spice and oak that whiskey lovers gravitate toward." A Barbados rum provides the oaky accents, while the cocktail's complementary ingredients of Benedictine (an herbal liqueur) and Pineau des Charentes (a French fortified wine) keep the drink "bright and approachable." For those who shy away from rum drinks with citrus juices, this is an excellent avenue for exploration.

TRIO: Welcome To The Jungle
Cruzan Black Strap, Campari, lime juice, simple, pineapple juice, nutmeg, mint sprig, lime wheel

TRIO's mysterious Jungle may be named for the Guns N' Roses classic, but it's a riff on an old favorite. "There's a resurgence of tiki cocktails, and this has always been a lesser-known favorite of mine," says beverage director Mark Sayre. The magic lies in how extreme ingredients combine to balance each other. "I love the sweet molasses flavor of blackstrap rum," says Sayre. "It can be a bit cloying by itself, but is perfectly balanced when paired with the bitter edge of Campari." The acidic hit from the lime and the sugary, sour flavors of pineapple juice round out the tropical bonanza. 

Lamberts: District Daquiri 
El Dorado 12 year, lime juice, Bigallet China China, simple, lime wheel

We've included this cocktail for two reasons. First, El Dorado 12 is one of our favorite aged rums, and second, Lamberts is one of those spots that remains under the radar for cocktails. The long bar menu has cocktails for both newcomers and experts, plus, it's a great spot for a drink before a show at ACL Live or Austin Music Hall. Flavors in the cocktails veer toward the sweet and the spicy at times, which is sensible given that they're in a barbecue restaurant.

The District Daquiri is a bittersweet marriage of rich oaky rum, acidic lime and bitter orange. "I love the depth of flavor of the El Dorado 12 from Guyana. The natural sweetness of Demerara-based rum matches perfectly with the sweet smokiness of barbecue, while the Bigallet plays on the depth and richness but balances the drink with bitterness," says Beverage Director June Rodil. The resulting drink is dark and complex. As with many rum drinks, the fresh citrus is key here, balancing the richness of the rum and the bitter fruit of the Bigallet. The results are easy to love. 

Whisler's: Monkey Business
Mt. Gay Black Barrel, Giffard’s banana, lemon juice, Vanilla-Demerara syrup, lemon wheel

Adding banana flavor to anything can be polarizing at best. For fans of the fruit, though, salvation arrived last year in the form of Giffard's Banane du Brésil. The French liqueur is produced with slowly macerated Brazilian bananas and adds a splash of cognac to round out the spirit's body. The Giffard has been a fun new toy in the tiki world, giving bartenders a way to add banana flavor without getting artificial.
Whisler's describes the Monkey Business as a "citrusy, refreshing take on tiki." The toasted caramel notes of the Mount Gay Black Barrel combine with fresh lemon, vanilla and a dose of Giffard's. This drink order will also make you feel charitable, as the bar is donating $1 from every order to the Austin Music Foundation.

Bar Congress: Black Flag Old Fashioned

Smith + Cross Rum, Ron Zacapa 23 Year Rum, Cruzan Blackstrap Rum, Lyle’s Golden Cane, Gentleman Cannibal Bitters

Most cocktail fans associate the Old Fashioned with whiskey, but rum applications of the classic drink are not uncommon. "We wanted to show that an Old Fashioned need not be limited to whiskey," says Jason Stevens of Bar Congress. Stevens experimented to find a mix of three rums that both complement and contrast one another in this bold and boozy cocktail. "Our Black Flag Old Fashioned uses funky Jamaican rum, subtly smoky Trinidadian rum, and a touch of Blackstrap, along with citrus oils and island spice," he explains.

While not intended for the novice cocktail drinker, this combination will wow any fans of darker spirits. The complexity and flavor profile are both exciting and unusual.

Pleasant Storage Room: Make and Mend
Pusser's Royal Navy Rum, Suze, Kronan Swedish Punsch, lime, house guava jam, five spice bitters

Named after Naval slang for a day off, the Make and Mend marries some big, sweet and fruity flavors. The Pusser's overproof rum's notes of vanilla and toffee are counter-punched by the bittersweet floral flavors of Suze, a classic French apéritif. The drink also utilizes the decidedly tiki flavors of Kronan, an update of a century-old Swedish Punsch recipe that tastes of pirate's grog. The Kronan gives the drink a fruity, smoky mix of island flavors that somehow make it concurrently tropical and serious.

A mix of fresh lime juice, guava jam, and massively aromatic five spice bitters round out the cocktail, which is served up.