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People Profile: Mark Konkol

We’re thrilled to welcome Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Konkol to the RC team of contributors. Here’s his story.

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How and when did you become interested in rum?

Ol’ Captain Morgan was my gateway rum — mixed with Coke in a tall ice-packed cocktail glass. No straw. Lime slice on the rim, a caution taken to prevent scurvy. But over the last ten years or so, thanks to a cat named Rufus Canoon, I’ve learned to enjoy fine aged rum — the good stuff that you probably won’t find in Chicago taverns.

How many rums are in your collection?

I drink. I don’t collect. My “Rum cabinet” — if that’s what you call the bottom shelf of that Arts and Crafts era thing in my dining room where I keep my booze – is pretty sparse. There’s most of a bottle of Zacapa, a handle of Captain Morgan, fifth of Santa Teresa, a fifth of Sailor Jerry and bottle of Divine white rum distilled in Southwest Michigan from Round Barn. If you think that’s a travesty, go ahead smart guy, send me your favorite bottle. I’ll drink it.

What is your favorite rum (or rums) in each category and why?

After a recent night with Ol’ Rufus at Rum Bar on Duval Street, I’ve learned there’s nothing better than sipping a glass of Mount Gay Extra Old or Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva or Zacapa XO.

Also, you just can’t beat Don Q for fruity cocktails, especially frozen ones like the “Fruity Yum Rum,” — at least that’s what I’m calling it — blended up by Western Illinois University alumnus Kendra Coffield behind the pool bar at Southernmost House in Key West. She topped mine with Goslings. I like Goslings, too.

Also, Sailor Jerry is better than “Captain.” Always.

Do you have a favorite rum bar?

What I’m about to tell you comes with conditions. First, try to keep this quiet. If it isn’t the smallest bar in Chicago, it’s close. The joint is already too crowded. So, if you ever are on a stool at this place and you see me there, sipping rum while standing on one foot, crammed up against the wall by the toilet, do me a solid: Give me the seat. After all, I’m the dumb guy who is going to hate himself later for telling you The Matchbox in Chicago has an impressive rum selection. Solid. But seriously, don’t make me stand.

In Key West, The Rum Bar, of course. Shout out to the last true Southernmost Salty barkeep, Bahama Bob Leonard, King of the Painkillers.

What is your regular cocktail?

Santa Teresa 1796 over ice.

Where is the best place to buy rum in your area?

In Chicago, sadly, a good rum is hard to find … except at Binny’s.

Which rum would you travel to buy?

I’d pick up Havana Club if I could legally take it back with me from Cuba.

When did you launch @KonkolsKorner and what is your focus?

The Konkol’s Korner brand has been around since 1990 and it’s matured along with me. Originally, Konkol’s Korner was a high school humor column. Now, it’s my Twitter handle. Anyway, I write about Chicago. I try to introduce readers to people they otherwise wouldn’t meet and take them places they otherwise wouldn’t go, among other things.

What should we watch out for from @KonkolsKorner the coming year?

After eight years with the Chicago Sun-Times, I’m headed to DNAinfo.com, an online-only news site expanding to Chicago later this year. As Writer at Large, I’ll be doing what I do. Writing about Chicago, all of it. And having a lot of fun. I’m excited.

Words of wisdom…

One of my favorite contemporary writers, Esquire’s Mike Sager, recently gave me some great advice. I didn’t get him on tape, but he said something like this: Don’t waste your energy screaming back at the past. Every day is a chance to work toward the next great thing. Keep moving forward, man.

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Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Konkol doesn’t always drink rum, but when he does he drinks the good stuff. Konkol recently resigned from the Chicago Sun-Times and signed on as Writer at Large for DNAinfo.com in Chicago.  And we’re proud to announce Konkol will be contribunting travel stories to Rum Connection. Follow him on Twitter @Konkolskorner.