Rum was first produced as a working class liquor, made from the dregs of sugar cane and molasses on Caribbean plantations in the 17th century. Rum thus became an important drink with field workers and the working class of island nations, and quickly spread to the North American colonies as well.
Fast forward hundreds of years and rum has become more of a party drink, if not the party drink, with hurricanes, daiquiris, mai tais and mojitos becoming the ubiquitous rum drinks of those nights you don’t want to remember. These Minnesota bars, however, though far from the sandy beaches of the Caribbean, treat rum right and elevate it to delicious, fresh, must-try status in their cocktails. Leave your “scotch rocks” mentality at the door and check out the rum drinks at these watering holes.
The Torpedo Room
18 W. 26th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Eat Street Social’s Tiki-style addition is full of the colorful, wondrous drinks you’d want while on vacation in Barbados. But that’s only at first glance. Look closer and you’ll find the rum cocktails, like the Torpedo’s take on rum punch, the marama punch, made with two types of rum, orange liqueur, lime, orgeat and Mahalo bitters, or its highly original corn tiki, made with Plantation 5 year rum, sweet corn cream, mulled apple cider, cinnamon, nutmeg and bitters for a decidedly Minnesotan twist to an island classic. This means that there are no gut-rot beach drinks hiding under pink and teal paper umbrellas here.
Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque
423 Main St. S.
Stillwater, MN 55082
As a “pirate bar,” one would have to imagine that Smalley’s understands its island libations. And you won’t be disappointed. From completely original cocktails, like the dirty wench, made with passion fruit and mango sparkling rum, to original takes on classics, like the best dark and stormy anywhere, and various forms of rum punch and mojitos, this is the rum bar that all others should aspire to be. Don’t be dissuaded by the quaint, small town location of Smalley’s. Any sailor would be proud to throw back here.
1900 Marshall St. N.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55418
Rum, rum and more rum. Captain Jack Sparrow would be happy here, with rum cocktails big and small filling the drink list. You can order them from the “lightweight” cocktail menu if you’re looking for an evening less rowdy, or go straight pirate-style and order one of the lethal drinks from the “more powerful set of fine cocktails.” Even better are the three upstairs bars, each with its own theme, that also do right by rum. Sit back and relax with an island cocktail here and you just might hear the waves lapping along the beach. Or that might just be the Mississippi.
Related: Best Tiki Bars In Minnesota
The Strip Club
378 Maria Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55106
Another bar with an incredible craft cocktail list, The Strip Club makes room for rum and the cobra kai is at once spicy and sweet with Kilo Kai rum, house-made habanero bitters and house-made sour that will redefine the rum cocktail. The experienced staff behind the bar will make anything you need from mojitos to mai tais, a dark and stormy or any other rum drink to perfection. Be prepared to have this once considered “lowly” liquor transformed into the finest cocktails you’ve ever tasted.
50 N. 2nd Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55401
One might not expect Marvel Bar, home of the trendy, elegant drinks that helped revolutionize craft cocktails in Minneapolis, to treat rum as well as it does. But, as every liquor on the shelf at Marvel gets royal treatment, this would be the bar that could elevate the simple joy of rum to “classy” status. The golden age, for example, is everything the name implies, made with painstaking attention to detail that allows rum to shine alongside artichoke liqueur, Peychaud’s bitters, Licor 43 and sherry. Also choose from the selection of punch bowls (meant to be shared; if you’re solo just get a cup) that will make any night more fun.
Related: Best Cocktail Bars In Minnesota
Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.