Tiki is hot. Maybe it’s nostalgia, or the timeless idea of a boozy, tropical escape. Whatever the reason, the resurgence of tiki bars serving fruity rum drinks across the country is becoming a major trend.
One of its fueling factors is the growing popularity of spiced rum. Brands like Sailor Jerry, Cruzan, Kraken and Chairman’s Reserve have transcended simple mix-with-Coke status and risen to prominence in mixology. “The national popularity of tiki bars has helped spiced rum go from beachside party drink on vacation to the cocktail world,” says Ashley Marsh, San Diego-based brand ambassador for Sailor Jerry. “Every cool bar has a great spiced rum cocktail now. Spiced rum is coming up as one of the cool kids.”
The spiced rum flavor profile—brown sugar, cloves, citrus, allspice, and cinnamon that might invoke visions of baked goods—is better armed for creative cocktailing than white rum, and the spirit’s flavors are getting tweaked and twisted. Old New Orleans Cajun Spice rum gets savory and kicked-up with cayenne pepper.
Marsh, who travels all over the West between Hawaii and Colorado, says Las Vegas is a national leader in setting such booze trends. “Vegas has always been one of the top markets for [Sailor Jerry], and not even so much on the Strip but off-Strip and Downtown and [in] other cool bars like Herbs & Rye. Vegas has always been the benchmark when you’re talking about originality,” she says. “I’m bringing up Vegas constantly with tiki bars, telling people if you want to do a tiki menu you should go to Vegas and check out Frankie’s [Tiki Room].”
Beyond tiki, Vegas’ superior mixology scene can be educational for anyone looking to amp up their spiced-rum cocktail game. “There [is still] a resurgence in classic cocktails, and we see a lot of bars doing a spiced-rum Old Fashioned now,” Marsh says. “A lot of bars in Vegas are doing Sailor Jerry Negronis, and there are only a few cities in the U.S. that have grabbed on to that. Rum is so sweet and the Negroni is so bitter, people don’t think to do it. But I just had two of best Negronis in my life at Atomic Liquors, with barrel-aged Sailor Jerry, and it was really interesting.”