Properly made and balanced cocktails delight the senses and play a pivotal role wherever people come together in celebration and joy. And in many cases, what lies within the confines of a drinking glass can also open one’s eyes to the transportive elements at play. The base spirit and ingredients chosen unlock a portal into other lands, eras, and cultures and provide information as to how, what, when, and where people drink all around the world.
Rum is an ideal canvas up to the task of showing off such wide-ranging, native flavors. The now-global spirit is produced from India to Indiana and almost everywhere in between. The heart and soul of it, though, has always belonged to our tropical-inflected destination this month—the Caribbean Sea and its surrounding nations.
We’ve teamed up with bartenders from three countries—Cuba, Barbados, and Venezuela—who, with their cocktails, offer a welcoming, explorative tour of what makes their homelands special. While we can’t sample their grandmothers’ cooking, the next best thing to get a strong sense of history, flavor, and tradition is yours to discover in the Rums of Origin Box. Subscribe now through October 31st to get yours—it’ll ship the week of November 5th.
Our first stop is the island of Cuba, where the sounds of traditional trova music swirl on the breeze and rum and coffee flow in equal measure. Their drinking culture has deep roots and has been dutifully carried through generations by cantineros—highly skilled bartenders with dashes of Cuban cultural ambassadorship mixed in. Julio Cabrera is a proud leader of the movement in the US and his La Trova Old Fashioned thoroughly reflects the vibrant spirit of his homeland. The flavors of rum, espresso, and chocolate make for a bold and earthy combination offset by the uplifting aromas from orange oil and grated coffee bean.
Julio is known for his infectious personality and mouth-watering cocktails. He co-owns Cafe La Trova, a traditional 1950s-style Cuban bar and restaurant in Miami. He’s chosen to donate his proceeds from this box toward a fundraiser for the son of late Miami mixologist John Lermayer.
Next visit is Barbados, a 167-square-mile island veritably bursting at the seams with thousands of establishments called rum shops. These are small, casual bars where one can order non-fussy drinks, buy a whole bottle, nosh on prepared local delicacies, and in some cases even stock up on groceries; their abundance is evidence of a people who are very serious about their rum! As is Chef Paul Yellin, whose Bajan Kiss brings the spirit into sweet, salty, spiced territory. Accents of ginger and coconut play smoothly with falernum, lime, and rum before giving way to a lingering low hum of salinity and subtle heat from his scotch bonnet–sea salt syrup.
Paul is a Barbadian-raised rum drinker with a cooking problem. After working in kitchens for over 20 years, he opened Cane Rhum Bar in Charleston, a city rich in rum history and Barbadian connections.
When you step foot in Venezuela, our last stop on this tour, a swarm of umbrella-topped street carts wheeling around big jugs might catch your eye. It’s the trusty chicheros pushing their memorably delicious sweetened rice and milk soft drink called chicha. You’d be hard-pressed to find one that includes rum, so we’ve turned to Andres Chopite-Parra’s Tipo Chichero to do just that. Creamy coconut milk, rich condensed milk, and crushed ice make for a lush base on which the vanilla, cinnamon, and rum can perform their tasty, harmonious dance of the Venezuelan joropo.
Andres grew up in Venezuela and now lives in Austin, bartending at and managing several establishments, including Clive, The Townsend, Academia, and Antone’s. For some behind-the-scenes tidbits from Andres on his work, Venezuela, rum, and his cocktail (plus recommendations for food and music pairings!), check out our interview.
With the enticing aroma and flavor of rum as your guide, there’s no telling which fantastic locales you’ll end up in. This time there’s no packing or extensive booking required, as a Rums of Origin Box full of adventure will soon be on its journey right to you!
The Shaker & Spoon Team
*not vegan: condensed milk