This spring, rum is sweeping Chicago as the discerning tippler's spirit of choice.
Three Dots and a Dash’s eponymous cocktail blends aged rhum agricole and Guyanese rum.
Whisky isn’t the only brown liquor having a moment; these days, rum has taken over as Chicago’s trendiest spirit. “It’s really picking up momentum,” says Bill Terlato, CEO of Lake Bluff–based Terlato Wines, whose premium new Don Pancho Origenes rums are made from 100 percent estate-grown sugarcane molasses and are aged eight, 18, and 30 years. “Brown [spirits] have had a strong resurgence,” Terlato continues, “and people are interested in higher-quality products for sipping.”
“Rum is a rogue, pirate spirit—no rules,” says Erin Hayes of Logan Square tiki bar Lost Lake (3154 W. Diversey Ave., 773-293-6048). Beverage manager Paul McGee stocks 275 varieties of the spirit, divided by country of origin, from Martinique to Guyana and Trinidad. While the Logan Square oasis offers trios of rum tastings for imbibers to experience the spirit’s full range, Hayes and McGee recommend the Daiquiri of the Day, a changing cocktail made simply with lime, cane syrup, and a different highlighted rum.
Lost Lake’s Paul McGee mixes up a communal cocktail called Wave of Mutilation/A Fish Tank Needs Sharks.
The undisputed daddy of Chicago’s revitalized rum scene is Three Dots and a Dash (435 N. Clark St., 312-610-4220), which first reintroduced Chicago to the spirit via the Hawaiian-shirt-wearing and flower-covered movement that is tiki. “It’s a lifestyle,” says beverage director Diane Corcoran, “because it’s so much about having fun and almost taking people on vacation, even if it’s just for a cocktail.” Libations rely on layering rums to contrast housemade juices and syrups. The classic Three Dots and a Dash—adapted from a Don the Beachcomber recipe circa 1940—blends aged rhum agricole and Guyanese rum with honey, lime, falernum, allspice, and Angostura bitters.
Before banana dolphins and seven-ingredient cocktails, there was grog, a drink dating to 1655 that’s made by combining diluted rum with sugar and citrus. A modern version is available at Boystown’s Dive Bar (3445 N. Halsted St., 773-770-4618). Co-owner John Dalton is a bit choosier with the rum selection in his Navy Grog, though: “Rums can totally make or break a drink,” he reasons, opting for Bacardi Gold, Plantation Light, and Cruzan Black Strap to balance lime and grapefruit juice, Demerara, and honey syrup.