It has taken a week to catch up on sleep and readjust to Eastern Time, but the Rum Connection European Vacation was a blast. Here’s the rundown.
I’m still not quite sure how it all came together, but the stars aligned, I was blessed by the rum Gods and off I went on a 12 day cocktail-fueled journey to England and Germany; all in the name of rum research. First stop, Berlin.
After landing and unsuccessfully trying to locate my luggage (it showed up 24 hours later) I was whisked through the morning rush hour streets of Berlin directly to Dirk Becker’s Rum Club. Along with several of Germany’s top spirits experts, I was here to participate in a rum tasting competition. By day we sampled, scored and judged more than 80 rums and by night we studied the city’s bar scene, which is super-impressive by the way. I had one of the best Hemingway Daiquiris of my life at a bar named Galandar, explored and sipped from a mammoth rum collection at Lebensstern and drank a Zombie from a laboratory beaker at the intentionally creepy Zyankali Bar, all in the same exhausting night. Awesome!
As the weekend arrived, anticipation was high for the first ever German Rum Festival. Hundreds of brands set up at a giant event facility called Station Berlin and when the doors opened at noon on Saturday, the space quickly filled with a thirsty crowd of veteran and novice rum enthusiasts. A salsa band provided the perfect soundtrack as people mingled from one booth to another exploring the wide selection of rums from around the world.
Most of the mainstay premium brands were in attendance but the wonderful part of this event was being able to sample so many brand new rums. Some will become available in the US, but due to complicated state-by-state liquor laws, most will not. Keep an eye out for new booze from Rum Company, Wild Geese, Dos Maderas, Tiki Lovers, QRM, Rum Fire and New Grove. They’re all pushing the category to completely new heights and it’ll be interesting to see how each market responds.
After two days of Rum Fest and a few more evenings checking out local bars and pubs, I became more and more impressed with the Berlin cocktail scene. We met some wonderful bar owners and bartenders who take immense pride in providing their customers with great drinks made with only the best ingredients. Their scene rivals that of any major city in Europe or the US and I can’t wait to get back for more exploration.
A big shout out and thank you goes to my friend Dirk Becker, the visionary behind the German Rum Festival, as well as all of my new German drinking buddies. Your hospitality and graciousness was amazing and I look forward to the next time we can get together and have some laughs. Cheers.
Tune in tomorrow for a look at how the party continued in London.