In mid-May, The Breadfruit and Rum Bar debuted a new summer food and drink menu. As anyone who's even visited the downtown eatery knows, the bar is calm, steady, and refreshing — just like summer drinking — which makes it an ideal destination for exactly that. Inside, you'll find ice-cold classics, excellent daiquiris, decadent piña coladas, and many drinks completely new to the summer menu.
Of these new additions, the Mexican Hat Dance is a good place to start. In many ways, it could easily be compared to the margarita. But Allen sees the world through rum-colored glasses, so think again. The brainstorming began with rum, as Allen says it usually does. But here it’s the uniquely Brazilian spirit, cachaça — an un-aged version — that's distilled from sugarcane juice.
“That’s what we’re really showing off here: the cachaça,” Allen says. “But you do get a tequila-esque experience.”
The drink also includes Clement Créole Shrubb, an orange liqueur (one of the only liqueurs not made in-house) that's crafted with spices common to Martinique, an island where French culture swirls with that of the Caribbean. Orange and vanilla simple syrup is added to sweeten, while pimento wood-toasted, habanero-flavored salt added to the rim of a lowball lends a spiciness that lingers on the lips.
Aside from the lively Mexican Hat Dance, you could start with is the less piquant, though no less dazzling, 54 Forty Six.
“This is not a sipping cocktail,” Allen says. “This is a drinking cocktail … and this summer I’ll probably drink these more than anything else.”
Since the drink is rooted in a simple Appleton White Jamaica Rum, the intended star is Allen’s blackberry shrub, a mixture of tart berries macerated in white rum, puckery white balsamic, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaf and toffee-like demerara sugar. Built in a highball over rocks, the shrub and rum are mixed with pineapple juice and a house-made bitter-floral horehound tincture (think root beer). Dry and tart, while simultaneously fruit-forward and crisp from the blackberry shrub, the drink is harmonious and nearly perfect. And what about the name? “
"When I was working on the cocktail, Toots and the Maytals was playing,” Allen says, referring to the Jamaican band best known for the song "54-46 Was My Number." “It just felt right.”
A stiffer choice could be the new Tennessee Slinger. The base, of course, is rum. What makes it interesting it that this time it's rum from Tennessee. The Kelso city distiller, Prichard’s, is also known for bourbon mostly — notably their Double Barreled Bourbon.
“It’s my Christmas bourbon,” Allen says. “We don’t even share that with friends.” The rum, made from table-grade molasses and, according to Prichard’s, “the finest water in Tennessee,” is mixed with Lillet Blanc, wild cherry bark tincture, and garnished with an elegant marasca cherry. “It’s our response to a Manhattan.”
The menu also includes sections of “Light & Citrusy” and “Full-Flavored” drinks. In the first of the two sections, there's The Commonwealth, a drink containing soursop, a Caribbean fruit that's returning from last summer thanks to social-media demand.
“Soursop,” Allen says, before pausing. “How do you describe passionfruit? You really can’t. Soursop is kind of like that. It has some passionfruit flavors to it.”
In the full-flavored section, there's an entirely new drink called The Wiz Bang. “Guava has eluded our cocktail menu for years,” Allen says. “You will lose the flavor in an instant … Poof. It’s gone.” The key, Allen found, was to reduce the fruit juice and mix it with Plantation 3 Stars Silver Rum, then pair it with the right amount of lime juice, coconut, and horehound tincture. The Wiz Bang also benefits from a nutmeg garnish.
“You really have no idea how long that [Wiz Bang] recipe took,” bartender Sam Penton sighs with relief.
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It takes Rum Bar closer to half a year than a couple of months to dream up and execute each menu. Taking that into account, the winter menu isn’t too far away.