We recently visited the Rhone Rum Bar, partially because we were invited to, but also because we had never been there before. It’s a new venture of Paul and Wendy Hamilton, whom also opened Vin de Set and 1111 Mississippi. The Hamiltons love the Virgin Islands and wanted to open a new place that reflected their love for the food & drink you would find at a bar in that area.
Now, like the title of this article says, Rhone Rum Bar is not a tiki bar, but that’s okay because it is not supposed to be one; It’s a rum bar, which is a completely different thing.
When people hear of rum based drinks they often get the image of something in a ceramic glass that’s shaped like a deity, layered flavors ranging from sweet to savory, and it may or may not be on fire. That is a tiki cocktail, and cuisine related to tiki culture is often Polynesian, though, it must be noted, Tiki culture is a purely American invention.
A rum bar, on the other hand, is Caribbean and is not about crazy, over the top drink combinations: it’s more refined, more subtle, and the drinks are more refreshing than potent. Think Cuba, the Virgin Islands, pirates, colonialism, and maritime conflicts in the Atlantic. The drinks at a rum bar are more the indirect result of colonialism & war in the Caribbean than something purposely manufactured.
Originally the drink was served in a tall glass packed with cracked ice. A teaspoon of sugar was poured over the ice and the juice of one or two limes was squeezed over the sugar. Two or three ounces of white rum completed the mixture. The glass was then frosted by stirring with a long-handled spoon — wikipedia
The word “daiquiri” is Taíno origin, and the drink itself was invented, again according to wikipedia, by an American mining engineer in Cuba during the Spanish-American war. The drink itself is roughly similar to grog, which was used to wade off scurvy and provide sailors with fresh water kept safe to drink via the addition of rum (plus citrus and potentially sugar to make it more palatable).
The Mojito has a contested history. Some sources say it was Sir Francis Drake (who was either a maritime war hero or a blood-thirsty pirate based upon who you ask) and some sources say the drink originated from African slaves in Cuba. Again, the drink is somewhat similar to grog but quite more elevated:
When preparing a mojito, fresh lime juice is added to sugar (or to simple syrup) and mint leaves. The mixture is then gently mashed with a muddler. The mint leaves should only be bruised to release the essential oils and should not be shredded. Then rum is added and the mixture is briefly stirred to dissolve the sugar and to lift the mint leaves up from the bottom for better presentation. Finally, the drink is topped with crushed ice and sparkling soda water. Mint leaves and lime wedges are used to garnish the glass. — wikipedia
Being a highball there is a lot of room for variation, though we generally prefer just a standard but perfectly made mojito, especially on hot Summer days.
Conch Fritters are a delicacy from The Bahamas, but they can also be found all around the Caribbean. These were very nice and filling, with the actual conch meat having almost the taste and texture of calamari. These also come with a really nice key lime remoulade that helps cool down the spiciness of the fritters.
Grilled Shrimp Skewers
You can get these hot or cold (we got them hot) and they come with a chile-mango sauce & toasted coconut. These were nice and simple and still packed a lot of great flavor.
Jerk Chicken Wings
This was Charlie’s favorite thing he had when we visited. The chicken was juicy and crispy, the jerk seasoning had the perfect amount of heat and flavor, and the tamarind dipping sauce added a nice touch of sweet & tangy when wanted.
Jerk-style cooking & seasoning is quite famously from Jamaica, but it can be found all around the Caribbean as well. Often jerk-chicken will mean just the seasonings, meaning all-spice and scotch-bonnet peppers, but original jerk-style meat preparation was meant to preserve meat for long travel (thus jerky). Modern techniques generally just include a rub of the seasonings and a long smoking process in a “jerk-pan” to produce the spicy, juicy meat.
You can get these with pulled-pork instead, but either way for the price you’re getting a good portion of meat, nachos, black beans, scotch bonnet cheese sauce, and habanero-pineapple salsa. These are indeed delicious and really filling. The scotch bonnet cheese sauce would go perfect on about anything, quite frankly.
These were Christine’s favorite of the evening; we’ll definitely order these again next time.
Caribbean Fish Pot
This is a special you can only get on Fridays and it was another one of Charlie’s favorites. It’s a simple, flavorful bowl of seafood that will please just about anyone, and the sausage included was nice and hearty.
Caribbean comfort food? Not sure if this is an authentic dish in the area, but it’s good and if you happen to be there on a Friday we can highly recommend it.
Conch & Seafood Ceviche w/ Taro Chips
The dish ceviche, raw fish cured in citrus and served with peppers, spices, and herbs, originated in Peru during colonial times. There supposedly was a dish already that was similar to ceviche in the area, but the conquering Europeans brought with them citrus, which is not native to the Americas.
Ceviche quickly spread around the world, including the Bahamas, which has a popular variant called a “conch salad”. The dish pictured above is a sort of combination of the two, including both conch and other seafood found in other ceviches.
Regardless of what you call it, this was Christine’s favorite of the evening. Charlie liked it a lot too, especially the taro chips served with it.
Key Lime Pie Frozen Cocktail
Blended ice cocktails are panned by many but loved by probably even more. The very idea of blended drinks often summon up images of pasty tourists in flowered shirts or suburban soccer-mommies at a Tex-Mex restaurant chain.
Admittedly, blended drinks are often made with way too much sugar and are a pain to make at a busy bar that isn’t set up to make them on the regular.
This does not mean they cannot be good. The Piña Colada, for example, has quite a bit of history and is the national drink of Puerto Rico. The Rum Rhone Bar serves piña coladas plus several more traditional and un-traditional blended cocktails.
The one pictured above is their key lime pie frozen cocktail. It features:
- Blue Chair Key Lime Rum
- Absolut Citron
- Ice Cream
- Whipped cream
We liked it a lot. Not too sweet, not cloying with the lime flavor, and it goes nice on the Rhone Rum Bar back patio on a hot day:
As we stated earlier, we were personally invited out to visit the Rhone Rum Bar. We had heard very little about the place and didn’t know what to expect, but after visiting we think its a very nice addition to the city.
It is very much exactly what it set out to be: unpretentious, fun, and an homage to the types of places you would find in the Caribbean. It is not the best new place in the city, but it is a place that is unique in character and without a doubt worth a visit.
Oh yeah! And they have 101 types of rum, if that strikes your fancy. We plan to go back and try some of them straight, especially the Blue Chair key lime rum
Thanks for having us over, Paul and Wendy! Best wishes on your new venture! And thanks everyone for reading! #stllove