Innovative serves helping to keep category fresh in Scots bars
AS the base ingredient in drinks such as the Daiquiri, Mojito and Mai Tai, rum has been fairly prominent in the recent cocktail boom.
And despite the growing popularity of spirits such as gin, new ideas and serves are said to be keeping the rum category popular with consumers in Scottish bars.
Speaking to SLTN, bartenders in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen all said rum is selling well and being enjoyed in a variety of different serves.
Rachael Merritt of Bond No.9 in Leith – an outlet with around 50 rums on the back-bar – said the diversity of the category encourages experimentation.
“There’s so many different types of rum and there’s different variations from your cheap back-bar rum to really nice expensive rums,” she said.
“And you can play around with it a lot. A lot of people get stuck on this whole Tiki punch-style of drink.
“But you can do things like a rum Old Fashioned. I’d recommend that as a way to try rum.”
It’s not just bartenders who are open-minded about the spirit.
Michael Braun of Edinburgh bar Panda & Sons said a consumer willingness to try new flavours is encouraging operators to introduce new and unusual rum cocktails.
We like to set a little challenge for the customers to try something new.
“If you think of rum in general you’d always think Tiki, you’d think fruity, sunny, minty,” said Braun.
“But the rum world has developed in such a way that you can now make rum Old Fashioneds, rum Manhattans.
“People are trying to develop their tastebuds, which is why the cocktail scene has been growing.
“Who knows, we might be making rum Negroni slushies some day.”
The bar’s rum selection includes Ron Zacapa, Plantation, Bacardi and Angostura.
Braun said the key to finding the right rum for the right person is interaction between bar staff and the customer.
“You research your customer before you give them a drink,” he said.
“You sort of interrogate them a little bit, have a bit of banter. That’s usually the way we go about it. We like to set a little challenge for the customers to try something new and it usually turns out for the best.”
The fact the spirit appeals equally to men and women has also helped maintain its popularity, according to Milo Smith, general manager of Aberdeen venue Ninety-Nine Bar & Kitchen.
“It’s a pretty easily-accessible spirit,” he said.
“It has the strength of a whisky but not the burn of a whisky. It’s pretty versatile – you can have something like an Old Fashioned, a straight up old-style drink like that, or in a Daiquiri, a Zombie or a variety of different things.
“It just seems like it’s pretty mass-marketable. It’s got the sweetness, the strength, it’s not going to burn, and women drink it as much as men do.”
This versatility has led to a slightly unconventional cocktail becoming one of the bar’s most popular drinks.
It’s Raining Men is a cocktail that includes a homemade blend of Havana Club Especial, Havana Club 3, Wray & Nephew and Malibu, which is then infused with lemon, grapefruit and pineapple before adding The Kraken spiced rum.
The drink, said Smith, is now the bar’s biggest-selling rum cocktail.
“It’s totally ridiculous-looking but it’s amazing and it’s a big seller,” said Smith.
“We stick a little plastic man on the side of the glass, make it as ridiculous as possible with the garnish and people are loving it.”
An unusual serve is also proving popular with customers at Dundee bar and restaurant The Meat House.
The Sarsaparilla Rum Float combines Brugal rum with lime juice, ice cream and root beer.
It’s a pretty easily- accessible spirit. It has the strength of whisky but not the burn.
Duty manager Nick Gibson said there are currently 19 rums on the Meat House back-bar, including El Dorado and Ron Zacapa, and the venue is currently in the process of stocking up on some more premium-end products.
“Premium rums are just something we like to have, and when they sell they sell well,” he said.
But rum drinks don’t have to be experimental or unusual to prove popular with customers.
Simple serves, such as rum and apple juice, rum and pineapple juice or rum and ginger ale, are also helping attract more consumers to the spirit, said Ricky Chan, assistant manager of Aberdeen cocktail bar Dusk.
The bar runs a ‘sugarcane special’ offer on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights, where customers can buy a measure of Havana Club Especial and a mixer for £1.
“It brings a different crowd compared to the rest of the bars around that are doing £6.90 vodkas,” said Chan.
“It’s just to get them drinking something else, and you get people coming back in at the weekends and paying quadruple, but they’re wanting that rum and apple or rum and pineapple.
“It’s a nice little way to encourage people to try different things.”