Cienfuegos And My Neverending Search For Good Rum

I was in the Big Apple several months ago and I found myself quite satisfied with the sheer breadth and depth of options with which to entertain and occupy myself. Music. Food. Shopping. Girl watching. The city that never sleeps appeared to have everything I need to feed my inner insomniac. Except for rum.

At first glance it seemed that NYC, much like almost every place I’ve ever been outside of the Caribbean or my living room, didn’t really do rum. Vodka bars, whiskey bars, tequila bars, NYC and every big city I’ve visited has these in spades. But rum? For the most part bars and restaurants seem to think stocking Bacardi and/or Captain Morgan is sufficient.

I spent the better part of one afternoon wandering around SOHO and the Lower West Side, popping in and out of shops, restaurants and bars. I stopped at South Houston (which has since closed), a nice warm, modern spot with excellent bourbon and scotch selections. But I wasn’t in the mood for bourbon or scotch and had a Gin and Tonic instead.

I popped into Dos Caminos (in the Meatpacking district), which reminded me of a cross between the Drake Hotel and Reposado, two popular spots in Toronto’s west end. Predictably it had a great tequila and whiskey selections. I had a beer. I was beginning to believe that NYC was ultimately going to disappoint me on the rum front. I was prepared to tell anyone who would listen that rum doesn’t get any respect, how else can you explain an apparent lack of rum in such a world-class city.

Then I discovered Cienfuegos. A self-proclaimed “…technicolor Antillean retreat located in the heart of the East Village”, Cienfuegos is “home to everything Cuban and all things rum”. Apparently the sandwiches are very good. I wouldn’t know. I just cared about the rum. And in their cozy “Cocteleria”, Cienfuegos offers delicious rum punches (by the glass or bowl) and a wide range of rum flights. Guess which choice I made.

The flight I took was called “Les Agricoles”, and featured what I call French Speaking rums but are more accurately called rhum agricoles, which for those who don’t’ know is rum distilled in the French-speaking Caribbean islands from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice rather than from molasses.

My flight consisted of Depaz Blue, La Favourite Coeur de Rhum (both amber rums) and Saint-James Hors d’Age all from Martinique. My thoughts? Well, none of the three knocked my socks off and made me want to sprint to the nearest liquor store but they were pleasant enough.

The Depaz Blue had a strong medicinal smell and taste, the kind I usually associate with white rums. Its flavour was slightly burnt and woody was probably my least favourite of the three. Though I do imagine it would be a very interesting addition to a punch. And according to Depaz Blue’s website it is “the perfect cocktail rhum”.

Similarly, La Favourite Coeur de Rhum would be well placed in a punch or cocktail. It was sweeter than Depaz Blue and possessed a flavour I couldn’t quite place. Almond butter maybe?

The Saint-James Hors d’Age was my favourite of the three possessing as it did a little heat, sharp fruity flavours with a spicy or peppery aftertaste. It was a pleasure to sip and if I had to purchase just one of these rums, this would be it.

All things considered I wasn’t a huge fan of any of these rums but I would still find place for them in collection. For me though, Cienfuegos itself was the star of the show. Their commitment to providing patrons with a taste of old Havana and showcasing quality rum is admirable. Toronto could use a place like it.


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