Friday, May 15, 2009
Rum Running in South Beach, Part 1
The first ever Miami Rum Renaissance: A Celebration of Cane Spirits in the New World popped the proverbial cap last night with a series of VIP parties in South Beach. My dear friend and rum connoisseur MKH, known for his long-standing blog Hidden City, joined me for the evening's festivities.
If you think rum is a frivolous, frou-frou spirit, or perhaps the stuff of projectile vomiting at college parties, think again. As MKH and I discussed on the ride over the Macarthur Causeway, the whole history of the Americas is tied up with sugar cane and one of its by-products, molasses, which in turn was used to make the spirit. Rum was probably just as much of a currency as the gold and silver imported from the New World.
Although I was in crutches, I managed to squeeze through the crowd and find a good spot to hold court at 8oz Burger Bar, a fabulous eatery on the fringe of crazy South Beach, but more on the food later. Our bartender, the energetic Paul Sevigny from Splash Cocktail, mixed away three different kinds of cocktails made with Atlantico rum from the Dominican Republic.
My favorite was the Rosa María: blackberry preserve, simple syrup, rum, burnt allspice and a garnish of rosemary, served over ice in a highball glass. I don't care for sweet girly drinks that drip heavy like treacle, so this was the perfect, light concoction -- the "just right" savory aperitif before a meal. The burnt allspice balanced the sweetness of the rum and transported me back to lying on a hammock somewhere under the stars by the Caribbean sea. Actually, the blackberry tasted more like guava -- so redolent and evocative of a homemade spiced punch I once had in Grenada.
My next favorite drink, because I like things spicy, was the Perfect Storm -- a lighter version of a Dark and Stormy, which is basically ginger beer and dark rum, also served over ice in a highball. Perfect Storm featured Atlantico rum, a little simple syrup, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur and was topped off by a hefty pour of Reed's Ginger Beer, followed by an aromatic garnish of fresh mint.
After 8oz, we headed over to the Mondrian just around the corner for a tasting of Castries Creme Rum from Saint Lucia, one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean. As the name of the beverage implies, it's very rich, blended with roasted peanuts, brown spices and vanilla. The drink served at the Mondrian, which remained nameless, also had cognac and nutmeg, and at this point I didn't want to sample anything resembling eggnog. I would recommended sipping Castries Creme on the rocks, plain and simple, to fully enjoy the creamy texture and complex flavors.
While at the Mondrian, we bumped into Soul of Miami and set out to laze and converse on the lounge chairs by the bay, which was quite pleasant. But good grief, the first thing I thought when I walked into the lobby was: "how fucking pretentious." The second thing I thought was: "this is the perfect setting for a Clockwork Orange rape scene," after being greeted by an animé style, doe-faced floating head on the wall. Plus, the fat, plastic-looking dildoesque columns and round chairs, combined with outdoor lamps that look giant albino portobello mushrooms is "fun" and "wow!" for about two seconds flat. This kind of gimmicky design will be so yesterday by tomorrow. The out-of-proportion style works well indoors at The Delano, because it's subtle.
(By the way, if you'd actually like to see the giant plastic phallus from the Stanley Kubrick film, head over to the World Erotic Art Museum on Washington Avenue.)
Anyway, I digress ...
At this point, MKH and I were starving, so we headed back to 8oz to try their famous burgers. Not all is eight ounces here, but no matter: the 6oz "Melrose" was divine, nay -- the best fucking burger I have EVER had. Fixings were arugula, caramelized red onions, roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes, coupled with Gruyere cheese, a sweet, toasted roll and a perfectly grilled medium patty. MKH had the actual 8oz offering, which he enjoyed. We shared a side of truffled potato skins, which were more like soft, twice-baked potatoes. They were delicious, but lacking on the promised truffle oil flavor. I'm glad I don't live on the beach anymore, because if I did, I'd probably gain a few pounds living near this gourmet burger joint!
Oh yeah, wasn't this post supposed to be about rum? Well fret not, MKH and I will be back on South Beach this Saturday for a grand tasting at the Shore Club. It's not too late for you to attend either, if you're curious to learn more about all things cane spirits, including
cachaça. Visit Rum Renaissance for more information.
Video below: tasting the aptly named Rosa María. (I hope my friend Ines from Miamism Mojito doesn't think this is blasphemy!)