Unless you’ve been living your life under a rock or trapped inside a cheesy 90s-era beach resort, you’re probably already clued into the fact that rum, as a category, is well on its way to shedding its frozen strawberry daiquiri image. Thanks to a growing lot of industry devotees, the storied spirit is finally breaking free from its saccharine past and popping up on respected backbars across the country, from funky tiki spots to refined cocktail lounges. Yet, as is so often the case in the land of plenty, navigating rum’s vast and complicated waters is a much tougher feat than it used to be.
That’s where Kevin Beary comes in. The decorated barkeep has spent the last few years as the beverage director for Chicago’s Three Dots and a Dash, one of the Midwest’s top tiki destinations, where he cultivated his rum fixation on a steady diet of expertly crafted cocktails and excursions to tropical distilleries. In February, Beary ratcheted things up a notch by opening the Bamboo Room, a specialty rum bar inside Three Dots that showcases hundreds of bottles spanning just about every make and model out there. Column-distilled, pot-distilled, Agricole, long-aged, or high ester Jamaican, this guy definitely knows his way around a proper Mai Tai.
You might not be in a position to cop one of Beary’s limited-release 20-year-aged Trinidadian rarities, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to plastic jugs and cartoon pirates. Here are nine expert-approved rums perfect for stocking your home bar without maxing out your MasterCard.