It’s always rum day in the land of eternal sunshine. After all, Florida is the gateway for all those molasses-made spirits streaming from the Caribbean. And while most look to faraway islands for theuir spirit of choice, there are plenty of fantastic rum being produced right here within the state.
Artisan spirits are nothing new—just take a hike along Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail—but the micro-distilling movement is just beginning to take hold here in Florida. Draconian Prohibition-era laws on the Florida books have made distilling rather difficult going, though things are changing. Earlier this year—May to be exact—Governor Rick Scott signed SB 186, which (finally) allows breweries to sell 64 oz. growlers of beer. While this is a boon for the exploding craft beer movement, the bill also had a portion that allows craft distilleries—of which there are ten professional outfits in the state—to up their direct sale of spirits to costumers. Under the antiquated “three-tier system,” distillers were required to sell their products through distributors for retail sale, making the final consumer price much more inflated. In 2013, distilleries got the go-ahead to sell two bottles per year to costumers visiting the distillery for tours and tastings—a number that is awfully small considering the distillery can make four to five times the profit by selling direct, while still making it cheaper for the consumer. Now, SB 186 allows distillers to sell two bottles of each brand of liquor to a customer per year—if they only make one brand, they can sell up to four—so if a distiller makes up to five labels, a costumer can walk out of the distillery with ten bottles. It still pales in comparison to how much customers would like to buy, especially when considering Florida wineries and breweries can sell direct to customers without volume limits. But the distributor system is entrenched with Florida lawmakers, easily out-lobbying Florida’s fledgling distillery industry. Things are slowly changing, which is opening the door for a whole new realm of possibilities when it comes to Florida sipping, and for that, we are thankful. Here’s a look at some of the rum distilleries making the sweet stuff in the Sunshine State, with recipes of course.
Wicked Dolphin Rum | Cape Coral
The folks at Wicked Dolphin have made rum an art form. Opening the stills in 2012, the Cape Coral distillery uses 100 percent Florida sugar in the production of its rums, which include standard bearers Florida Silver and Spiced, as well as flavored concoctions like a tasty coconut rum and a line of Rumshine, a high-proof spirit jarred with fresh fruits (strawberry, blueberry, and apple pie—70 proof—are currently up for grabs). While the family-run distillery is still a young upstart when compared to longtime rum distilleries like Bacardi (founded in 1862), Wicked Dolphin has already earned its fair share of accolades, including multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals from the Miami Rum Festival, the American Distilling Institute, and Sam Francisco World Spirits competition to name but a few. For the traditionalist, Wicked Dolphin’s Florida Spiced is a real treat, with notes of orange and honey giving it a sweet, complex flavor. Enjoyed neat, or mixed in the time-honored Cuba Libre—known as “Wicked Coke” in the Cape Coral parts—Florida Spiced is worth the price of admission ($26.99 for 750ml at Total Wine).
- If you’re in the Cape Coral neighborhood, stop in on the Wicked Dolphin crew for a distillery tour and tasting. Free and open to anyone interested in rum, guests will take a 45 to 60-minute walk through the distillation process, followed by a tasting of the spirits. Tours run on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and some Saturdays (August 22, September 5 and 19). Reservations are strongly recommended, call 239 242-5244 or make your reservation online here. Available at Total Wine.
Bottle Nose Rum-A-Rita
- 1½ oz. Wicked Dolphin Silver
- ½ oz. Cointreau
- ¼ oz. simple syrup
- Juice from a half lime
- Splash of orange juice
In a cocktail tin, add the first four ingredients over ice. Shake. Strain over a collins glass filled with ice. Top with orange juice and garnish with a salted lime.
Siesta Key Rum | Sarasota
One of Florida’s first rum craft distillers, Sarasota’s Drum Circle Distilling have been making Siesta Key Rums since 2007. What started as a passion project of two locals, Troy Roberts, distiller, and Tom Clarke, operations man, the distilling fun turned business, creating some of the best small-batch, handcrafted rums in the area. From the initial copper pot stills, Drum Circle’s first rum forays, were a silver rum with a smooth, naturally sweet flavor, and a gold rum that, after the oak barrel aging process, took on a more complex, smoky flavor. Now, the distillery has grown to a portfolio of six, including a Distiller’s Reserve Spiced (which received a whopping 94 points by Wine Enthusiast) and a special limited edition run of Beer Barrel Finish Spiced rum. The newest rum in the stable, Siesta Key Toasted Coconut is something not miss. Using real shredded coconut in the aging process, this coconut rum actually tastes like coconut, which speaks to one of the distillery’s greater sticking points: using real ingredients (the spiced rum utilizes actual ground-up spices and honey), with Florida sourced molasses to make this truly Florida made—from ground to bottle.
- Drum Circle Distilling is open for tours for those interested in the distilling process—it is actually pretty interesting science. Tours are free, with tastings following the 40-minute walk through—get a $2 Siesta Key Rum shot glass for $2 to savor the rum, and memories. Distillery tour dates are sporadic, with most falling on Tuesday and Saturday. Click here and check the calendar for dates. Available at Total Wine.
So what are we drinking? The silver rum makes an ideal add to the mojito. Here’s our go-to mojito recipe. For a true taste of Florida, make that lime a Key lime.
- Juice from 1 Key lime
- 1 tsp. fine sugar
- 6 mint leaves plus one sprig for garnish
- 2 oz. white rum
- Club soda
In a Collins glass, squeeze lime juice, then add sugar and mint leaves; gently muddle. Fill glass with crushed ice, add rum, and stir. Top with club soda and garnish with a sprig of mint.
For more Florida rums and recipes, go to page 2
Chef Distilled | Key West
Key West has had a long, storied past with rum. From those heady rum-running days of Prohibition to Ernest Hemingway and his well worn seat at Sloppy Joe’s, the spirit of Key West is often much rosier when seen through the bottom of a rum bottle. Key West is much different now—stores like Banana Republic and Coach line Duval Street (Papa would be ashamed)—yet there are still a few pirates making their way on the sunbaked streets. Case in point, Paul Menta, “Head Chef” at Chef Distilled, a.k.a. Key West’s First Legal Rum Distillery. A trained chef, head distiller, and kiteboarding legend—he and a team of kiteboarders set the Guinness World Record for fastest kite board crossing from Key West to Cuba in 2001 [a rather amazing account of the crossing can be read here]—Menta has earned his stripes as a Key West character. Located on Simonton Street in what once was a Coca-Cola bottling facility, the distillery produces a number of boutique rums, including a true sipper, the Aged Key West Raw & Unfiltered Rum, a classic silver in the Key West First Legal Rum, and a line of flavored rums dubbed the Chef’s Rum Lines that includes flavors like Real Key Lime, Vanilla Brûlée Dark, and Mojito Mint. For a real Key West experience, the Chef’s Line Real Key Lime rum uses real Key limes in the mix, making it a true Key West original.
- Key West’s First Legal Rum Distillery is open for tours and tastings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 3-3:30 p.m., with all other times and days set for self-guided fun—feel free to ask questions, the distillers are a friendly and accommodating lot. Chef Distilled rums are currently available for purchase at the distillery.
Seeing that this is a rum-heavy type of article, and Chef Distilled rum hails from the Florida Keys, the original recipe for the Rum Runner is a must. As the story goes, the Rum Runner was created at the Holiday Isle Tiki Bar in Islamorada in the 1950s (now known as the Postcard Inn Beach Resort and Marina at Holiday Isle), a result of extra rum and liqueurs that needed to be used to make room for new inventory. The result, a boozy tropical sip that will whisk you away to island time.
The Original Rum Runner
- 7/8 oz. blackberry brandy
- 7/8 oz. banana liqueur
- 1/2 oz. Aged Key West Raw & Unfiltered Rum
- 1/2 oz. 151 proof rum
- 5/8 oz. grenadine
- 1 oz. lime juice
Fill hurricane glass with ice. Add all ingredients but 151; stir. Garnish with an orange slice and float 151 on top.
Black Coral Rum | Riviera Beach
Photo courtesy of Black Coral Rum
While rum is often equated with swash-buckling pirates or sultry salsa dancing in Old San Juan, Palm Beach County’s Black Coral Rum is hoping to flip that script. Located in an industrial warehouse in Riviera Beach, the small distillery is a family-run affair, with Ben Etheridge and his father Clint running everything from production, ingredient sourcing, bottling and labeling, marketing, even construction—Etheridge made quite a bit of the distillery equipment, down to the still itself. Palm Beach County’s only rum distillery, Black Coral Rums use Florida-grown sugar cane molasses (sourced from Clewiston), keeping things local, while all other ingredients are 100 percent natural, meaning no artificial ingredients (no added sugar, thickening agents, color, and is totally GMO-free). As for the rum itself, this is small-batch operation, with each run receiving copious amounts of attention. The single-batch distillation process of Black Coral gives Etheridge more control over the final product, blending each batch to perfection. The majority of the clear rum in each batch is aged in charred white oak barrels, while a smaller portion is separated into different proprietary flavoring barrels, all of which are then blended for a truly unique spirit. The result, a smooth, buttery rum that is perfect for sipping, or mixed with a splash of soda water.
- Black Coral Rum can be found at PGI Liquors in Punta Gorda.
Black Coral Rum’s smooth, buttery flavor is the perfect fit for the sweet spice of ginger beer. If you don’t prefer your rum neat, try this recipe for a tropical twist on the classic Dark and Stormy, the Tropical Storm.
- 2 oz. Black Coral Rum
- 1/3 cup pineapple juice
- 1/3 cup ginger beer
- 1 lime
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Fill a tall Collins glass with ice; add rum, juice and ginger beer. Give a quick stir, top with freshly squeezed lime juice and a few dashes of bitters. Cheers!