First Impression: Rum Club
What: Rum Club
Where: 720 SE Sandy Blvd
When: Open at 4 pm, last call at 2 am Monday – Saturday?.
Why Someone once described this dapper hole-in-the wall as the “ultimate dad bar.” I think that means it has lots of wood and leather, a handsome interior and refined, quality cocktails that someone with discriminating taste can really appreciate. All of these things are true about Rum Club, but I’m still not completely convinced. After I walk in and order the Exes and Oh’s (Cruzan Blackstrap Rum, Cardamaro, root, vanilla, nutmeg) I realize that while this may not be the “ultimate dad bar,” it might be the “ultimate bar lover’s bar.” My drink is perfectly balanced, fresh, and spicy. It’s not surprising that the Rum Club was created by the guys behind Beaker & Flask. Actually, it’s right around the corner from its sister bar in the same stately building on Sandy.
Inside Candle flames flicker in textured red glass bowls and the horseshoe shaped, mahogany-topped bar compliments the warm amber glow of the rum in my glass. It looks like the sort of place the boys from Mad Men might hang out. I see it now; Don Draper sitting in the corner studying a Rum Club Daquri (Bacardi Aged Rum, lime, sugar, Maraschino, Angostura Bitters, Absinthe) as tendrils of smoke coil from his cigarette. (Obviously, there’s no smoking.) He swirls the glass and wrinkles his brow, orders a pickled egg and makes meaningful eye contact with an incredible looker seated at the bar.
In reality, a flanneled mixologist tinkers with ingredients behind the bar, and a slate-colored brick facade behind a row of wooden tables offsets vintage golden bird patterned wallpaper that recalls the darling sophistication of the 1950s and 60s. The bar radiates, thanks to the folks at Annen Design Industries who also imagined Beaker and Flask’s interior.
Drinks The cocktail list includes some creatively updated classics as well as inventively novel potions. most for around $8. Try the refreshing Sauracher (rye, campari, Italian vermouth, fresh lime, ginger beer). Feeling cold? Ask for the Weights and Measures, a hot toddy made from a combination of Spanish rum, French rum from Martinique, aromatized wine and honey. It’s sure to make you feel toasty and maybe a little giddy. Those seeking something more exotic should try the Burton Mercer (Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum, Aperol, coconut cream, and house orange syrup in a blender) or Strange Magic (Mt. Gay Black, Tuaca, amaro, lime, egg white, mulled wine grenadine, orange biters). Beers on the menu range from Tecate ($3) and Ranier ($2) to Caldera pale ale in a can ($5). Wine and bubbly are also on the menu.
Food Chef Ben Bittinger is returning to his roots at Paley’s Place, and his replacement is Jon "Bones" Anderson, a former sous chef at Le Pigeon. I know that Rum Club’s focus is drinks, and that the small plates of “American continental cocktail cuisine” are meant to support, not distract. That explains the menu, which includes a shrimp cocktail with spicy sauce and the picked eggs that I have been dying to try. At first glance my choices seem a bit stark (although gourmet chex mix with piménton does seem like it would go perfectly with with my drink!) The duck liver paté ($8) and pulled pork sandwich ($8) sound promising. Above the bar there is a specials board filled with heartier rotating dishes, and they sound delicious. The empanadas are tempting but I decide on the Cuban spiced boar ribs with orange ($9). Although there is no doubt that Rum Club’s forte is its cocktails, the two friends behind Rum Club, Kevin Ludwig and partner Mike Shea have proved that they know how to pair food and drink. The ribs are incredible—tender, spicy and rich. The savory pulled pork sandwich comes on a sub roll, and the wedge salad with bacon and blue cheese is as delightful as it sounds.
The Bottom Line The next time I am craving an exemplary rum cocktail and scintillating victuals, I will run straight to Rum Club: It’s not just for dads.