Where to sip on Columbus' rum renaissance
Think all rums pour clear and taste sugary-sweet? Think again. Bartenders are making the most of products new to Ohio because they're familiar to our whiskey-trained palates. Here are three styles that have bartenders across town talking.
Flavor profile: Diplomatico offers four labels, with 6-year-aged Blanco ($32) and 12-year-aged Reserva Exclusiva ($40) being most common in Columbus bars. "Blanco has a nice raw flavor to it, like you'd get from tequila," says Joshua Gandee, bar manager at Harvest Bar + Kitchen. "Lime juice and sugars work well with it. I like to use it in a classic daiquiri." Reserva Exclusiva, on the other hand, is smooth and creamy on the tongue with hints of smoke, coffee and candied fruit. "It's sweeter and more presentable to the palate for people not used to drinking these kinds of rum," says David Veitch, bar manager at Kraft House No. 5. "It's a very close relative to bourbon."
How to drink it: Try the Rum-Fashioned ($9) at Kraft House, made with Reserva Exclusiva, demerara sugar, maple syrup and Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Cocktail Bitters.
Flavor profile: This Navy-strength spirit (meaning it's boozy enough to ignite gunpowder) is distinguished by its unique Jamaican yeast strains. "Beyond the heavy caramel, spice and rum notes, you can pick up on something funky going on in there," says Adam Roelle of Cavalier Distributing. "That's the yeast." Its volatile nature makes Smith & Cross ($30) one of Veitch's favorite spirits for cocktail experiments. "Right off the nose, you get a lot of heat and pure alcohol," he says. "It can be a harsh spirit if you're not used to it, but that's what makes it so great to work with."
How to drink it: At Harvest, Gandee serves An Arm and a Leg ($12), tempering Smith & Cross with yellow chartreuse, Armagnac brandy, lemon juice and Clement Mahina Coco liqueur (made with coconut and agricole rum). It's served in a tiki mug and topped with 5 Rabbit Cerveceria's guava shandy.
Flavor profile: Instead of molasses, agricole rum is distilled from sugar cane juice. "Unless you've had agricole rum, you've never tasted anything like it," Roelle says. "It's a true agricultural, or agricole, product, which is why it's so funky and so different, dry, vegetal and grassy." J.M.'s Blanc label ($35) is best used in tiki drinks and punches, he says, whereas J.M.'s barrel-aged V.S.O.P. label ($62) is more similar to a stiff whiskey, with a smooth, woody flavor. "Four years in a barrel in humid Martinique is like 12 years in a barrel in Scotland," he says. "The depth and complexity is so unique."
How to drink it: Veitch pairs J.M. Blanc with Diplomatico's Reserva Exclusiva in Kraft House's Daiquiri ($10), which is available in plain or hickory-smoked versions. "J.M. Blanc is the main spirit and Exclusiva is the supporting character," he says of the drink. "And the smoke, if you want that, adds another layer of complexity."
Similar to French wines, production of rhum agricole is strictly regulated by the Appellation d'Origine Controlee, a French government initiative to ensure agricultural products are true to their terroir.