I had a boozy epiphany the other day.
I was tasting through the rums of Barbados’ Foursquare Distillery with Ryan Rama, a legend in the Kansas City spirits world and a knowledgeable rum drinker and purveyor.
At the end of the tasting, Rama poured me a small sample of Foursquare’s 2005, a rum aged for 14 years in sherry casks and bourbon barrels. I was blown away.
Never have I tasted a rum with more complexity, elegance and opulence. It sent my mind racing. I needed to know more about rum — its origins, styles, and use in cocktails and beyond. This would be uncharted waters for me, but oh, what delicious waters they would be!
Experts agree that rum originated in the Caribbean in the 16th century — a product of sugar cane production, the molasses that the sugar cane produced, and the rum distilled from the sugar cane.
Beyond that, there is little experts, or novices for that matter, agree on when it comes to rum.
There are a myriad of laws and regulations covering rum production, and each rum-producing country has its own set. Trying to distill (pardon the pun) that seemed akin to heading down a rabbit warren, so I chose a different path — one focusing on some of its delicious applications.
I started my journey by chatting with a man who goes through quite a bit of rum and who’s getting ready to launch his own rum brand — Craig Adcock, owner of Jude’s Rum Cake and the soon-to-be commercially available Trademark Denied Rum.
“It’s going to be a pretty small production. Initial figures show us that’s it’s going to be about a thousand bottles, so I really don’t think we’re going to have a hard time selling it,” Adcock told me recently over a glass of wine. “I would like it to be sipped on neat in the right places.”
Adcock’s venture into the rum business began with his enterprise of producing and selling rum cakes.
Unsatisfied with the inconsistencies, price and unreliable availability of rum, Adcock teamed with a rum maker, and found a steady source of sugar cane and barrels in which the rum will age.
All that was left was a name.
“We got turned down on a couple of the names we submitted with the two simple words: Trademark Denied. I thought, ‘What the heck, let’s try that for a name.’ My lawyer said he’d never heard of anything like that. He thought it was genius, which it wasn’t. It was just frustration. Anyway, it was approved. So, there it is,” Adcock shared.
Though Adcock prefers his rum neat, there are many around town that are diving headfirst into rum cocktails. I reached out to my cocktail-drinking friends for some of the best rum-based cocktail creations in the metro. Two places, in particular, got a ton of mentions: Novel and TikiCat.
I’ll start at Novel in the Crossroads, with mixologist Jonathan Bush.
“There are so many different styles of rum, different flavors, dry and sweet. There are just so many different aspects of rum, which gives me a lot of creative leeway,” Bush told me.
Bush loves rum. So much so, in fact, that he and a partner are hoping to open the city’s first rum bar. Stay tuned for news on that front. For now, you can visit Bush at Novel for some incredibly tasty rum cocktails. He whipped up two for me.
First was The Remington, a drink that features 5-year-old rum, gin, smoked bitter, apple cordial and duck fat. Yes, I said duck fat.
“I’d heard people were using bacon fat in cocktails, so I thought I’d step it up a notch. I was working at The Rieger at the time, so we always had duck fat. We freeze the mixture so the fat rises to the top. You’re getting the flavor of the duck fat, but not the duck fat itself,” Bush said.
It might sound a little gross, but trust me, it’s pretty darned tasty.
The second rum cocktail was called Free Peanuts!, which has rum, vodka, milk, peanuts, cola, lime and a coffee cordial.
If you love coffee, you’ll love this creation, which is served with a side of peanuts. Bush recommends putting the nuts in the drink, though I chose to eat mine on the side.
Last, but not least, was TikiCat in Westport. I dropped in one night and had three drinks: a classic Mai Tai, daiquiri and a third cocktail called Painkiller, which has pineapple and orange juice, along with coconut cream.
The drinks were as delicious as they were potent. I can see why TikiCat puts a two-hour limit on visits!
TikiCat owner and founder Mark Sellers spared no expense to curate the perfect Tiki experience, bringing in woodworking experts and other Tiki artists to create an intimate space that overwhelms the senses with Polynesian art, a tropical water fountain, thatched roofs, bamboo on the bar, intimate Tiki “huts,” and nearly two dozen rum or rum-based Tiki cocktails.
“We also have a very extensive list of sipping rums, but we’re primarily known for our Tiki cocktails,” bar manager Mandy Murray said.
That and the Ohana spirit, which I heard frequently during my time at TikiCat. I knew from watching “Lilo and Stitch” with my kids that Ohana means family and no one left behind. That feeling is palpable at TikiCat, and so is the impact of those cocktails!
Dave Eckert is a longtime Kansas City food and beverage journalist. He was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons. Follow Dave’s eating and drinking experiences on Instagram at @eatsanddrinkswithdave.