OTR Bar Longfellow's Other Room Helps Spearhead the Local Rum Resurgence

This much-maligned black-outable beach bar booze might be the next big spirit as these Cincy bars and bartenders celebrate its origins and versatility

click to enlarge Longfellow's French Mai Tai - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Longfellow's French Mai Tai

If you think bourbon is the original all-American spirit, think again. America was rum country long before bourbon appeared on the scene. The rum we know can be traced back to Christopher Columbus when he brought sugar cane to the West Indies. Its history spans centuries and is complex, diverse and, frankly, dark. 

A brief synopsis: The distillation technique was introduced in the Caribbean islands in the 17th century when it was discovered that the syrupy molasses by-product of sugar cane could be fermented to produce alcohol and distilled into rum. And, unfortunately, most of those sugar cane plantations were run on slave labor. Rum is the most geographically spread spirit in the world and was popular with sailors and America’s founders. There’s even an argument that American independence is directly linked to it (seriously people, Googling rum is a spiraling rabbit hole).

While bourbon is king — especially around these parts — and has undoubtedly reigned over the past decade, rum is popularly reappearing again as the next rumored rising spirit. Though it’s unlikely it will ever dethrone whiskey, rum distillers are making a resurgence and bartenders are finding innovative ways to revive the spirit. 

“I've never been into bourbon,” says Mike Stankovich, owner of Longfellow and its Other Room, a separate back bar tucked behind Longfellow that has 107 fluctuating rums — argued to be the largest rum collection in Ohio. “I like other whiskies, but herbaceous liquors, rum and gin have always impressed me. They aren't boring; they tell a story. Rum is a global spirit and everybody does it differently. I like that.”

The Other Room has the vibe of a 1950s basement bar “with the notion of a bar where Desi Arnez would perform but was managed by David Lynch,” Stankovich says. He was exposed to various kinds of rum while traveling (in life and in bands) and working as a bartender in Boston and New York City, giving him insight into the versatility of its cocktail potential. 

Rum is usually stigma ridden with some frustration that mainly comes from bad drunken experiences, or its ties to sugary frozen beach drinks at tourist destinations like Señor Frogs. But Josh Miller, rum curator and bartender at Other Room, finds pleasure in debunking people’s misconceptions. 

“Whenever someone comes in having sworn off rum because they threw up some fake flavored garbage in their dorm room 15 years ago — we all did — and we're able to find them a particular rum or style of rum that they end up loving, (it) keeps me a little bit more sane,” he says.

It’s difficult to predict the exact trajectory of rum in the future, but if there’s one thing people can agree on, it’s rum’s tropical association that makes it best for summer sipping. Despite being landlocked, Cincinnati has notable tiki bars and authentic cocktails proudly reintroducing drinkers to the joys and complexities of rum.

Other Room

click to enlarge Shiso Painkiller - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Shiso Painkiller

Shiso Painkiller

Stankovich originally created the Shiso Painkiller when working at a bar in NYC where he was asked to make drinks for a GQ Magazine article centered around cooking/drinking with marijuana. “The original Painkiller is an old drink created at a ‘swim up’ bar call the Soggy Dollar in the British Virgin Islands,” he says. “I knew that pot edibles often used coconut fat to release THC so I chose the Painkiller. For a PG version we decided to substitute the weed for Shiso (a Japanese herb).”

Ingredients:

• Pusser’s Navy-strength rum

• Fresh orange juice

• Pineapple juice (fresh or canned but not from concentrate)

• Coco Lopez cream of coconut

• Shiso leaf (available at Asian markets)

• Nutmeg

Instructions: Use the traditional 4-1-1-1 ratio of four parts pineapple juice, one part orange juice, one part cream of coconut and one part Pusser’s Rum. Blend in shiso and grate nutmeg on top (crucial!)

Out Adrift

“A slight riff on a classic Negroni using two different rums instead of gin. A complex but easy sipper; good over ice or up.”

Ingredients: 

• 1 oz. Plantation Xaymaca rum

• ½ oz. Plantation pineapple rum (rum infused with pineapple skins)

• ¾ oz. Campari or Martini & Rossi Bitter

• ¾ oz. Punt e Mes*

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, stir and strain into a glass.

*This recipe has been updated. The original version and the version in print incorrectly lists Batavia Arrack instead of Punt e Mes and 1 oz. of pineapple rum instead of ½ oz.

click to enlarge Dr. Jones - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Dr. Jones

Dr. Jones

“An awesome sweet-savory delight based off of the classic marinade ‘agua negra.’ ”

Ingredients:

• 2 oz. Appleton Estate rum

• ¾ oz. Pineapple juice

• ½ oz. Orgeat (almond syrup)

• 1 teaspoon soy sauce (good quality)

Instructions: Combine all ingredients, shake well and strain into a glass.

109 E. 13th St. and Brackett Alley, Over-the-Rhine, longfellowbar.com/other-room.

Japp's

Japp's Tiki Night cocktails - Photo: Lindsay McCarty
Photo: Lindsay McCarty
Japp's Tiki Night cocktails

Japp’s Tiki Night, held on the first Wednesday of every month, is a portal to a 1960s beach getaway where you can find authentic exotic cocktails served in tiki mugs (sometimes on fire); an eclectic mix of Island, Surf and International music; patrons dressed in Hawaiian shirts; and a couple of taxidermied reptiles.

“The inspiration for tiki night was to create an experience akin to going to a classic tiki bar like Don the Beachcomber or Trader Vic’s but in the limited scope of one night a month,” says Jeremy Harrison, the bar’s curator, who brings “the gospel of rum to bourbon country” through each month’s new menu of carefully concocted, modern takes on tiki classics.

Naga Sadhu

“This Indian-inspired cocktail is perfectly light and drinkable with just enough mystery to have you coming back for more.”

Ingredients: 

• 1oz Plantation pineapple rum

• ½ oz. Rhum J.M blanc

• 1 oz. Chai tea

•  ½ oz. Ginger simple syrup

• ½ oz. Lemon juice

Instructions: Measure and pour all ingredients into a mixing tin. Shake, pour and strain over pebble ice into glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

1134 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/japps1879.

Northside Yacht Club

click to enlarge Flaming Volcano Bowl - Photo: Jesse Fox
Photo: Jesse Fox
Flaming Volcano Bowl

The Northside Yacht Club has a playful cocktail program inspired by classics and tiki mainstays. They feature a traditional Painkiller with Pusser’s Rum in full tiki glassware as well as a Suffering Bastard and group cocktails like a Volcano Bowl lit on fire.

Pineapple Express

“This cocktail is a play on the classic Negroni but with a sweeter finish and tropical in overall character. All four ingredients contain alcohol, so boat with caution,” says co-owner Stuart MacKenzie.

Ingredients:

• 2 oz. Plantation pineapple rum

• 1 oz. Campari

• 1 oz. Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth

• 3 drops of Elemakule Tiki Bitters

Instructions: Build all ingredients into a mixing glass, stir and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a fresh pineapple slice, rind on!

4231 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, northsideyachtclub.com.

Cabana On the River

click to enlarge Cabana on the River - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Cabana on the River

A tropical getaway situated on the Ohio River, Cabana on the River has frozen and specialty rum cocktails, that maybe… just maybe…if you close your eyes long enough, you’ll forget you’re not next to an ocean.

Mango Carumba

“Our piña colada — the perfect combination of creamy coconut and pineapple juice — blended with white rum and swirled with mango purée gives this classic drink a tropical twist that will transport you to your favorite beach,” says owner/manager Nikki Henschen. 

Ingredients: 

• 1 ½ oz. White rum

• 1 ½ oz. Mango purОe

• 2 oz. Cream of coconut

• 2 oz. Pineapple juice

Instructions: Put rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice and ice in a blender until it reaches a smooth consistency; add mango purОe to a glass and pour the piЦa colada over top of it. 

7445 Forbes Road, Saylor Park, cabanaontheriver.com.

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