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World’s Best Rum Bars: Hale Pele

February 17, 2014

Nestled in a neighborhood of Northeast Portland, OR is a little piece of rum history.  Hale Pele has only been open for a few years but has quickly become Portland’s premiere purveyor of Tiki culture and a nationally recognized temple of rum housing an extensive collection of rums from all corners of the globe.


Hale Pele’s back bar: An altar built to the Gods of Rum


Their current bottle count is around 240, but it fluctuates as rare bottles drain and new bottles are put on the shelf.  The bar features a program for its regular customers called the Loyal Order of Fire Drinkers, where patrons quaff 50 rums hand-selected by none other than bar owner and Tiki culture stalwart Blair Reynolds.

Upon finishing a tasting through the entire list, graduates receive a custom-engraved medallion and a discount on Sunday evenings. “Through our Fire Drinkers program, the occasional tasting class, and the depth of knowledge of Hale Pele’s bartenders, our guests are always welcome to learn more and more about rum as they make their way through the custom made wooden binder of this encyclopedia of rum” says Reynolds.  “I started Hale Pele not as a rum bar, but as a place for the ultimate made like the old days tropical cocktails of Donn Beach, Trader Vic and other Tiki drink legends.”  Naturally this lent itself to curating a collection of rums from around the world and really digging into the category for Blair.  “I feel like rum is the underdog of the spirits world, the last spirit left that hasn’t been some sort of inner-circle bartender handshake. There are the experts and incredible rum bars out there, but not in every city. It makes rum a bit less expensive of a spirit, in most instances, and I’m happy that you can still get some great rums for sipping or mixing for well under even $30 a bottle.”   When asked about rum’s place in the world today, Blair says that “rum’s time in the big trend spotlight is due, and soon, but in the meantime I’m happy to mix and learn everyday with this incredible, versatile spirit.”

We asked Blair to expound on blended rums and their traditional use in classic cocktails…”Donn Beach used to make his “rhum rhapsodies” using every assortment of rum he could get his hands on, with Jamaican rum for its funky kick, Puerto Rican rum for its dryness, Guyanese rum for smokiness and body, and Martinique rhum for its unique grassy finish.  At Hale Pele, while some drinks only call for one rum, most call for 2-3 different bottles of the spirit, making unique and wonderful flavor combinations that wouldn’t normally be in a single bottle. There are plenty of great blended rums available though now, such as Denizen, that bring a depth of flavor from a sort of pre-batched blend. We’re happy to use Denizen Rum, particularly in our Missionary’s Downfall.  It brings a richness and complexity that other white rums might not bring to the table.”






                10 mint leaves

                1 pineapple ring

                 ½  oz fresh lime juice

                 ½  oz Creme de Peche de Vigne

                 ½  oz honey mix

  (1:1 orange blossom honey and warm water)

                 1½  oz Denizen Aged White Rum

  Instructions: Mix ingredients with 3 oz crushed ice in a blender for 20 seconds then let sit. Pour slowly into a coupe glass, using a spoon to separate out the foam. Top with foam, an edible orchid, and mint sprig.

*Missionary’s Downfall made it’s appearance as one of the original lineup of drinks on the Don the Beachcomber menu in Long Beach, California circa 1946.

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