Fitzroy’s Cuban cocktail bar Los Barbudos specialises in rum, stocking more than 100 varieties of the classic sugarcane spirit.
Co-owner and cocktail guru Tom Ambroz is a big fan of Cuba’s classic cocktails (think Mojito, El Presidente and Daiquiri), but also loves to create new flavours for his customers.
“Rum is such a versatile cocktail ingredient that if you like trying new things, it is well worth asking your bartender for their favourite rum drink, you will often be pleasantly surprised,” Tom says. “These five cocktails (below) have been tried and tested over and over again, rum being my choice of tipple ever since my first bottle at a teenager on New Year’s Eve in Tasmania, where we didn’t have much in the way of variety. My first was Bundy, I sigh.
“Following my move to Melbourne, I happened across a bottle of Havana Club Rum, the classic Cuban drink. So began my journey deep into the cane fields, and now I prefer nothing more than a nice aged rum, sipped with some form of tobacciana on a warm evening.
A predictable choice, but for good reason. The Old Fashioned (right) is one of the best ways to enjoy a good spirit. Stirred with a little sugar and bitters, this cocktail made well will always heighten and compliment the flavour of a rum. Depending on the mood, my favourite is usually a Matusalem Solera 23 with whichever interesting bitters the bar may have.
2. Classic Daiquiri
I have had the pleasure of tasting a classic Daiquiri from one of the most famous bars in Cuba – El Floridita in Habana Vieja. There they use blenders and whip up the rum, lime and sugar into a frosty delicious cocktail. At Los Barbudos we prefer to shake it the classic way, but either is delicious. With the right balance it can really hit the spot (see right).
3. El Presidente
This is another Cuban classic – a throwback from the prohibition era when American bartenders would flock to Cuba to drink and create new cocktails. It’s a drink similar in format to a Manhattan, with rum, vermouth (sweet or dry), dry curaçao and grenadine (right).
4. Misc Rum Sour
One of my favourite things to do is go to one of my favourite bars in Melbourne (Black Pearl, Rum Diary, Lily Blacks… the list goes far on) and order a rum sour. Most of the time it will be a Pussers British Navy rum sour with lime and falernum, which is a spice liqueur or syrup. Rum works with so many flavours though that you can substitute anything with this style, like rum and apricot brandy, or Amaro Montenegro.
5. Dark & Stormy
This is a simple and great drink. It is always one of my go to drinks for a person who really doesn’t know what they want to order. It is just rum, ginger beer and lime, but is so damn tasty. There is a trend in Melbourne bars for people to make their own ginger beer, so many times you will go somewhere for a dark and stormy, and get something super spicy and original, which I love.
To give Tom’s cocktails a try, head to Los Barbudos – 95 Smith St, Fitzroy, 9416 0079.