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World’s Best Rum Bars: Rum Club Portland

June 2, 2012

  “Situated philosophically and geographically somewhere in between The Slammer and Beaker and Flask” 

 

The phrase as it reads on the menu at Rum Club in southeast Portland is a manifesto of sorts.  Rum Club is, ostensibly, right there in-between one of Portland’s bastions of haute cuisine and cocktails, Beaker and Flask, and one of the city’s most beloved dive bars, The Slammer. The Club strives to maintain a pretense free approach to its clients and the craft, while keeping a high standard for the product that is being offered up, thereby walking the philosophical in-between as well.

The Club manages to work this into its service doctrine by serving intricately made housemade syrups and house rum blends echoing those of the Titans of Tiki like Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber.  Fresh fruit juice and premium spirits are the rule and not the exception in a serious array of rotating classics crafted by its pro staff.

photo credit: Jesse Champlin

“I’ ve always wanted Rum Club to ride the line between (Beaker & Slammer). A bar that is a bar. Cocktail? Yup. Shot and a beer? Yup. Shotski? Yup.”

                                                                                -Owner, Michael Shea

 

If you ask him outright, owner Michael Shea might even tell you that Rum Club isn’t a cocktail bar, and if its vibe is the indicator, it doesn’t feel like it. It’s a warm and inviting space with a varied and well-curated attention to its ambiance through ambient elements like music and lighting.

It’s reputation with it’s clients and the media might disagree with Shea, however, as Rum Club has often been featured in national booze industry publications like Imbibe Magazine  and was recently named the Reader’s Choice Best Cocktail Bar in Portland Monthly. As Shea puts it, “I’ ve always wanted Rum Club to ride the line between (Beaker & Slammer). A bar that is a bar. Cocktail? Yup. Shot and a beer? Yup. Shotski? Yup.”

Photo Credit: Jesse Champlin

 

This ability to sit “somewhere in between” is what has come to define the charm of Rum Club and is echoed by its ability to get the best of both worlds. There is a vibe of genuine hospitality right down to the smallest details like the menagerie of mis-matching antique glassware and hummingbird-print wallpaper. On the right night, in the glow of the lava lamp, you may just be charmed into feeling that you are in an idealized other place and time altogether.

 

As for those classic cocktails and their offspring, Shea says, “I’ve always wanted the menu to showcase what rum can do. I think that many people only think of rum as that crappy well rum and coke that they had in college, or they think of it as the corn syrupy blender drinks that are available at resorts. Because of that, many people come in the door thinking that they hate rum. I would like to try and change that. When I’m asked, what should I have, I most often recommend the Rum Club Daiquiri. Often the reaction is, “Is it blended? Isn’t that a sweet drink?” I want to try and change those perceptions that it can’t be in an “adult” cocktail. Don’t get me wrong, I love a blended drink, but rum is so much more versatile than just tiki inspired drinks”

 

Photo Credit Jesse Champlin

“… Don’t get me wrong, I love a blended drink, but rum is so much more versatile than just tiki inspired drinks”

-Owner, Michael Shea

While the name on the door mandates a dram of rum (try something new to you) at some point in your visit, the food is not to be missed while you are at The Club, either. Simple and delicious, the menu has frequent changes and staples of American cocktailing executed by a seasoned staff from some of Portland’s best restaurants.

So next time you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest and thirsty for a great bar-going experience, stop by and say hello to our friends at Rum Club. Denizen and yours truly have been lucky enough to make an appearance behind the bar at The Club, and if you ask nicely, Shea might just whip you up something with our beloved juice.

See here for more info, press, and menus at Rum Club PDX 

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