Adam Kanter, our drinkin’ buddy and owner of the legendary Rum Bar in Philadelphia, sits down with us to talk shop. Here’s our interview.
How and when did you become interested in rum?
I suppose my first trip to the Caribbean had to be the start. On a family cruise, my mom booked me an excursion to the Bacardi tour in San Juan and the Malibu tour in Barbados. I was so excited to learn how it was made! I was just a 20 year old bartender at this point. When I got home, I immediately bought a water distillation unit, some molasses and yeast. After all, thats all I needed, according to the Malibu tour. Despite its epic failure, I was hooked!
How many rums are in your collection? (your personal collection and at the bar)
At Rum Bar, we have just surpassed 200 rums, with about 20-25 new rums expected in the next month. Personally I own 60 bottles give-or-take. I make sure to stock different rums at home than the bar. About 30 of these I will touch very rarely, as I’ve got an impossible-to-replace collection of Japanese rums. (Impossible because my brother broke up with my mule; his Japanese girlfriend, last year)
What is your favorite rum (or rums) in each category and why?
-Like asking Stan Lee his favorite comic book hero… I love rums from Trinidad, Guyana, and Venezuela. Their rums always have so much depth and personality. Like the Angostura for instance– so delicious! Any time I pour it for a guest, I need to pour myself one too. Diplomatico, Santa Teresa, El Dorado are great, so is Zacapa, Dos Maderas, and all of the Plantation Barbados offerings… My favorite light-bodied rum would probably be DonQ Gran Anejo. Despite a preference for heavier, sweeter rums, there is something about a rum with so much maturity and so much lightness and purity. It’s a unique rum!
Do you have a favorite rum bar? (silly question, I know)
I’ve only been to a handful of other real rum bars. Owning Rum Bar, you learn to differentiate between a rum bar and a bar with a good rum selection. Some places may have 50-60 rums, but if you see dust on the bottles or notice bottle labels or designs that haven’t existed in 8 years, perhaps they are not a rum bar. With this criteria, I have only been to one real rum bar, and that would be Cotton’s in the UK. They have so many rums and nowhere to put ’em. You might see a bottle of El Dorado 25 next to the Wray and Nephew. Places I’d like to check out include Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco and the Rum Bar at the Speakeasy Inn in Key West.
What is your regular cocktail?
-Not gonna lie, its a rum and diet coke. If I want to guzzle large amounts of rum, this is what I drink. Long nights at the bar lead me to this quite often! Now if I am at a bar with a good rum selection, bring on a daiquiri!
Where is the best place to buy rum in your area?
Definitely not in Pennsylvania. Being a controlled liquor state, the best they’ve got on their shelves is Zaya, Zacapa, Pyrat, Oronoco, and MGXO. Lucky for me, in my hometown of Sicklerville, NJ, I shop at King’s Liquors. The owner there will order me anything in his order book. Ive been able to add some odd rums to my collection this way.
Which rum would you travel to buy?
Tanduay is a tasty light rum I enjoy. My wife’s family is Philipino and travel there often. I try to have a bottle at home at all times (though I’m out now). I understand they finally got an importer for the US. Once this happens, then my answer becomes St. Nicholas Abbey. Worth the price!
Tell us about Rum Bar?
Rum Bar is a small little bar nestled in the swank Rittenhouse area of Philadelphia. Our drink menu (Rum Anthology as we call it) is 16 pages, chock full of 200+ rums, 40+ cocktails, recipes, and a glossary for rum and cocktail terms. While we are most known for our killer mojitos, it’s our Daiquiri menu I am most proud of. Nine different takes on the original. We just introduced our Tiki Cocktail menu, 10 Tiki drinks… some original, some re-makes, and some traditional cocktails.
What should we watch out for at Rum Bar in the coming year?
I organize Rum On The River, a rum festival featuring about 30 different rum brands, a mojito cocktail competition, live entertainment, and lots of attractions. This follow-up to last year’s inaugural event is going to be twice as big this year. Pay attention to RumConnection.com for details. Also, I am working on a top-secret mind-blowing project that I cannot say any more than I’ve already said. I’ll be able to disclose details as this project gets closer.
Words of wisdom….
Don’t come into Rum Bar and order a well vodka & water. We respect your drinking beliefs, whether it be tequila, scotch, or beer… but c’mon… Vodka? Well Vodka? Well Vodka with Water? You know who you are…