By Perry Smith
Sunday Signal Editor
When I first heard Monday was National Rum Day, well, I definitely had questions.
I think initially, one of the most obvious was: Why Monday, Aug. 16?
If it seems like a day picked at random by rum distillers — much like Hallmark invented so many other gift card-infused holidays — that’s because it very well could be.
In my search for answers, one of the best I found — thanks to Difford’s Guide, a popular website “for discerning drinkers,” as they note online — was one of the least complicated: There’s no wrong way to commemorate decades of daiquiris, piña coladas and mojitos.
A trip to the official Rum Day website, rumday.com, would do little to dissuade any such skepticism. The site and its accompanying Facebook page are literally just filled with pictures of people enjoying rum in various drinks and circumstances.
So, after a brief bit of earnest effort at legitimate research for this holiday, I thought maybe I was missing the point altogether. I decided to throw reason to the wind and look for some of the best places locally for that classic rum concoction, the mai tai. Afterall, what better way to celebrate Rum Day?
As it turns out, living in Newhall, I didn’t have to go far. Frankie Gunn at Eighth & Rail makes a mean mai tai based on the original 1944 recipe, which its menu calls, “The Grand Poo-Bah of Tiki drinks! 2 types of rum, orange liquor, lime juice, and orgeat syrup … Simply delicious!”
Gunn noted that, despite the upcoming holiday, while rum isn’t the most popular cocktail at her bar and they no longer host a Tiki Night, they still proudly offer the Painkiller, the Trainwreck and the aforementioned classic Mai Tai — which is displayed in a Tiki glass at eighthandrailpub.com — as their main rum offerings.
A bit of advice for those thinking of stopping by though: While Gunn was very kind and generous with her time, I couldn’t help but feel she might have been holding back a hint of laughter at my expense when I asked about getting my piña colada blended. She made it clear this pub made their drinks stiff and, for those who asked, on the rocks.
“Well, we don’t even have a blender because blended drinks are … in my opinion, you go to Jamba Juice to get a blended drink, or like TGI Friday,” she explained, “for, you know, people that really kind of want to have a sweet, not very strong, drink.”
Heading down Main Street from Eighth & Rail, Old Town Junction is about a 2-minute walk away — maybe longer if it’s not your first Uber stop on National Rum Day.
Shane Bothwell, GM and bar manager for OTJ, created the drink menu with seasonal tastes, as well as complimenting the food menu, in mind. He also shared that rum wasn’t necessarily the trendiest alcohol du jour, OTJ’s Painkiller was also a popular option.
As is standard in the Painkiller, there are 2 ounces of rum, OTJ uses an 8-year aged El Dorado selection, to go with the fruit juices and as a special OTJ touch, the kitchen toasts a bit of coconut and adds nutmeg for the added flavor. While that’s one of the few featured rum drinks on the menu, if you’re in the mood for a Cuba Libre (the fancy term for a rum and Coke) or a mojito, the bar is happy to oblige, Bothwell added.
Fast facts about rum
While rum might not be the most popular beverage at the bar these days, it’s still popular and enjoyed regularly throughout the world.
A few other popular rum-based drinks include: the Blue Hawaiian; the Daiquiri; the Hurricane; the classic Long Island Iced Tea; and the Planter’s Punch.
Worldwide, there was about $1 billion in craft rum sales in 2019, according to data from grandviewresearch.com — with about $200 million of that sold in the good ole U. S. of A.
The two biggest retailers of rum in America, Bacardi and Captain Morgan, sell about as much rum as their next 15 leading competitors combined — more than 12.5 million 9-liter cases. That’s enough rum to fill about 45 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The Mai Tai (courtesy of Liquor.com)
1 oz. white rum (such as Denizen aged white rum)
1 oz. fresh lime juice, a squeezed lime half reserved
½ oz. curaçao or Grand Marnier
¼ oz. simple syrup
1 lime wedge
1 large mint sprig
Combine both rums, lime juice, curaçao, orgeat, simple syrup, and reserved lime half in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds. Strain into a glass filled to the brim with crushed ice. Garnish with lime wedge and mint sprig.
The Original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai (courtesy of MakeDrinks.org)
2 oz 17-year old J. Wray & Nephew Rum
1/2 oz Holland DeKuyper Orange Curaçao
1/4 oz Trader Vic’s Rock Candy Syrup
Juice from one fresh lime
1 cup cubed ice
1 cup shaved ice
Combine rum, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, rock candy syrup, lime juice, and cubed ice into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously (and we mean VIGOROUSLY, it truly makes the difference between a good Mai Tai and a great Mai Tai).
Strain into an old fashioned glass over shaved ice and garnish with a sprig of mint.