• The Cocktail Snob

2019 NY Rum Fest Recap

NY Rum Fest 2019

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of attending New York Rum Fest, a true and authentic celebration of premium rums from around the globe. Joined by rum aficionados from near and far, I sampled more than my fair share of rums offered by more than 40 of the world’s top rum purveyors. The festival, developed by Rum Lab, was hosted on the first floor of the Metropolitan West, a grand event space on the west side of Manhattan.

New York Rum Fest, founded by Federico Hernandez 3 years ago, is an opportunity for rum aficionados to come together to learn from expert panelists and rum advocates from all over the world. Festival goers first wet their whistles on Friday at the Rum Congress, a series of symposiums and seminars. The two-day event concluded with Saturday’s Grand Tasting, which I attended as a Rum Lab special guest.

Entering the venue, one could be overwhelmed by all the chatter and brands represented. But after spending just five minutes inside, I quickly learned how thrilled the brand representatives were to speak with each guest about what made their rum special and how eager they were to let everyone have a taste. Not only were they all knowledgeable about their rum’s history, the aging and distillation processes, and ingredients, they also had some great recommendations for what combinations of flavors their rums paired best with.

As if sampling all of those rums wasn’t enough, one of the most memorable moments was a mixologist showcase that reminded me of an episode of Food Network’s Chopped. Each expert mixologist was given a basket of “mystery” ingredients that they were instructed to incorporate into a rum-based cocktail that would later be judged by a panel of experts. In the first round, mixology skills were seriously put to the test with a basket containing, among other things, beef paste and red pepper. The result was a cocktail named the Spiced Monkey that incorporated both spiced and white rums, pineapple juice, lime juice, banana syrup, and a banana leaf and slice of banana for garnish. Each round, mixologist after mixologist flexed their best impromptu muscles to concoct a unique, signature creation. It was a joy to watch!

I also sampled an amazing syrup mixer from Reål. Their infused syrups are made from cane sugar, contain 40% fruit, and can be found at most major wine stores in the U.S. They have every flavor you can think from blueberry to coconut and even kiwi. I can’t wait to mix this up in a cocktail soon.

My day at NY Rum Fest was time well spent. Not only did I taste more rum than I ever thought possible, I also had a chance to connect with spirit industry professionals, a truly rare opportunity. I think it goes without saying that I’ll be back for year 4 in 2020.