If you love rum, perhaps a spirits-centric trip is in order. The Caribbean still dominates as rum making goes, but some artisanal upstarts are making their own craft brews in surprising places.
Sunday is International Rum Day. Here are places to check out, learn history and, of course, taste rum, which traces its origins to the Caribbean around 1650.
FOR THE RECORD
11:15 a.m.: An earlier version of this article stated that International Rum Day is Saturday. It is Sunday.
Argentine bartender Christian Delpech who lives and works in Las Vegas juggles rum bottles at Bar Floridita. (Adalberto Roque / AFP/Getty Images)
There are good reasons for rum lovers to visit Cuba -- and not just because of the recent thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations that's prompting Americans to visit the former off-limits island in droves.
First stop is Bar Floridita in Old Havana. The bar claims the title of having popularized the frozen daiquiri, a drink that relies heavily on rum. In late July, bartenders from around the world -- and for the first time a U.S. contender named John Lermayer of Miami -- competed for the title King of the Daiquiri. (He didn't win.)
Miami bartender John Lermayer sits at Bar Floradita with a statue of its most famous customer, Ernest Hemingway. (Adalberto Roque / AFP/Getty Images)
Other things make this rum-loving bar notable. Ernest Hemingway made it famous as one of his favorite Havana hangouts, and the daiquiri his favorite drink. And Bar Floridita's famed bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert is so beloved that mixologists go to his grave to pay tribute by shaking up cocktails.
The Havana Club Museum of Rum (Anagoria / Wikimedia Commons)
Next stop: The Havana Club Museum of Rum, which shows you the basics of rum making, from sugar cane stalks to a re-created distillery and the finished product.
Old San Juan (Wikimedia)
More than 70% of the rum consumed in the U.S. comes from Puerto Rico, and the largest rum factory in the world, the Bacardi Distillery, is here too.
The thing to do when visiting Old San Juan is to take a rum-tasting tour in one of the lovely colonial buildings or cocktail bars. Don Q, Bacardi, Caliche and others are the big brands here -- and they offer distillery tours too.
Hawaii and California
Rum in Hawaii? You bet. That makes sense when you consider that Hawaii used to be one of the world's leading sugar cane producers. Today, there is but one sugar cane plantation left and it's Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar, and it's on Maui, home to one of the distillers. Dark and gold rums are produced at Haleakala Distillers on a 19th century ranch. No tours are available yet, but recipes are on its website. Those include the Maui Kine Daquiri, Leilani's Tsunami and Polynesian Paralysis.
Pass the aspirin.
On Kauai, you'll find Koloa Rum Co. in Kalaheo, which is about seven miles northwest of Poipu, on the southern end of the island.
Part of the secret to its rum, the company says, is Kauai water, which it says gives its product--White, Dark, Gold and Spice--a distinctive flavor. There is a tasting room and company store.
In California, St. George Spirits in Alameda uses fresh sugar cane, which is key in making rum, to make what's called a California Agricole Rum.
"Intensely grassy, sultry, and robust, our unaged California Agricole Rum is not for the faint of heart—but for those who love it there is no substitute" is how the company's website describes it.
In that spirit, the Red Viper, whose recipe you can find on the website, calls for agave syrup, lime juice, cucumber and--here it comes--Balsamic vinegar. "Game of Thrones inspired" indeed. You can go for tastings ($15) or on a tour ($20) that will fill you in on the world of craft distillation. Indeed, St. George Spirits refers to itself as "America's original craft distillery."
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