National Rum Day couldn’t have come at a better time. As the summer draws to a close, we can’t think of a more ideal way to savor the season than with a colorful punch or strong Dark ‘n’ Stormy. And luckily, Charm City is chock-full of industry talent getting creative with rum varieties from near and far.
One of the city’s largest rum collections can be found behind the bar at pizza palace and live music venue Joe Squared in Station North. The origins of the bar’s inventory date back to 2005, when owner Joe Edwardsen first opened the spot and noticed a need for more rum destinations in the city. Since then, the offerings have grown to include more than 35 rum options from 15 different countries.
“It’s a very versatile beverage,” says general manager Okan Arabacioglu, who has tended bar at Joe Squared for nearly a decade. “The fermentation and the way it’s barreled and aged has a huge impact on how the rum develops into its own character.”
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Arabacioglu says that he enjoys introducing barflies to the different types of rum, mentioning bottles from as far as Guatemala and the West Indies. Among some of the bar’s most popular rum cocktails include a Campari punch, a spin on a traditional rum runner, and a ginger-basil mojito muddled with lime juice, basil leaves, and evaporated cane sugar. In honor of National Rum Day on Wednesday, August 16, the bar will be offering half-off all rum drinks all day long.
“There are a lot of rums that need to be explored,” Arabacioglu says. “Like whiskey, there are many varieties that are so smooth and beautiful, but not a lot of people know about. It’s very underappreciated.”
Along with Joe Squared, there are plenty of other local spots that boast stellar rum collections. Here are our picks for the best places to celebrate the spirit:
Alma Cocina Latina: The colorful cocktails at this Venezuelan restaurant in the Canton Can Company pair nicely with the dishes that come out of the kitchen looking like works of art. Making use of both foreign (think Papa’s Pilar and Brugal) and local Old Line Spirits rum, the bar menu lists many different coladas and island cocktails including the “Playa Desnuda,” with pineapple-infused rum, house pineapple kombucha, orange juice, and cardamom bitters. 2400 Boston St., 667-212-4273
Bar Vasquez: This Argentinian spot in Harbor East is taking advantage of high peach season by mixing up peach caipirinha cocktails throughout the month of August. The drinks are made with cachaça (a Brazilian cousin of rum), and muddled with lime, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Enjoy the summery sip for $5 during weekday happy hour from 5-7 p.m., along with other specials like an empanada duo and crispy green olives. 1425 Aliceanna St., 410-534-7296
Blackwater Distilling: Just in time for National Rum Day, this Kent Island-based distillery has completed its new solera-aged rum—an interval process that involves mixing ages in barrels. Though the first batch won’t be unveiled to the public until February, plenty of local bars offer Blackwater’s Picaroon rum to hold you over in the meantime. Among them are Bookmakers, Blue Pit BBQ, and Waterfront Kitchen. 184 Log Canoe Circle, Stevensville, 443-249-3123
Bluebird Cocktail Room: Head to this new literary-themed Hampden hangout to sip craft cocktails while browsing classic books. The bar menu features everything from an authentic Hemingway daiquiri over crushed ice to the “Pig Island Punch,” which mixes rum with pineapple and arrives garnished with bacon bits. 3600 Hickory Ave., 667-303-3263
Gunther & Co.: Along with a list of house libations (including a drink using lychee-infused Bayou Silver rum), this Brewers Hill bar features an entire menu of tiki cocktails. Head outside to its picturesque patio to sip the “Death of a Bachelor” (rum, sherry, Jägermeister, and beet-rhubarb syrup), as well as the “Albatross” mixed with Jamaican rum, Campari, lime, and pineapple. 3650 Toone St., 443-869-6874
Lobo: Spend happy hour sipping the fan-favorite rum punch at this Fells Point watering hole. From 5-7 p.m., the signature cocktail (Papa's Pilar, pineapple, cordial, lime, and grenadine) will run for $5. 1900 Aliceanna St., 410-327-0303
Little Havana: This South Baltimore staple stays true to its Cuban inspiration by featuring authentic eats and plenty of rum drinks at the bar. Aside from a traditional mojito, Dark ‘n’ Stormy, and rum runner, the spot also features a “Goombay Smash” with coconut rum, peach schnapps, pineapple, and orange juice. 1325 Key Highway, 410-837-9903
R. Bar: The centerpiece bar inside Remington food hall R. House will be celebrating Rum Day in style with its signature punch running for $5 during happy hour from 3-6 p.m. Beverage director Aaron Joseph has also crafted a few signature cocktails for the occasion, including the "Positive Libations" (light rum, grapefruit cordial, maraschino liqueur, pineapple gomme syrup, lime juice, and bitters) and the "Pina for Your Thoughts," mixing coconut rum, lemon juice, pineapple juice, and allspice syrup. 301 W. 29th St., 443-347-3570