While watching the news last month, I wondered if our newfound friendliness with Cuba had inspired any local bartenders. After 50 years, we now have a U.S. Embassy in Havana, Carnival Cruises will voyage there in May, and President Obama just caught a baseball game. I think it's time for a cocktail. In my search, however, I found I was the only one with this genius idea.
Me: The chains are broken, people! Bust out the Cuba Libres! Everyone else: *crickets*
Fine, I thought, I'll make my own fun. Sure, my taste for Cuban delicacies can be quenched at a number of spots around town, such as Andrés on Morena Boulevard, the Havana Grill in Clairemont or Azucar for some baked goods in Ocean Beach, but I'm looking for a drink. So instead, I indulged in one of the things Cuba does best: rum. A rum cocktail made by cocktail experts sounded just right. So here are three I found, in case you're looking to celebrate with spirits.
(789 W. Harbor Drive, downtown; 1026 Wall St., La Jolla)
Lucien Conner is Puesto's drink guru and can whip up a mean cocktail. Famous for his Perfect Margarita, Conner also created the simple Mojito Classico ($10). Made with Matusalem rum—a white rum founded in Cuba and now produced in the Dominican Republic—it's infused with fresh mint for 24 hours before mixed with bruised mint, fresh lime and cane sugar. Conner's relationship with Puesto began three years ago as a consultant and now as Jefe in charge of both Puesto locations, as well as its upcoming venue in Irvine. His previous experience includes work with Searsucker, Gaijin, and as a consultant to various bars and restaurants. Pick his brain about any kind of cocktail information and he'll impress you.
(795 J St., East Village)
What conjures up visions of Havana nights more than Ernest Hemingway's fave drink? Located on Rare Form's rooftop in East Village, Fairweather's Daiquiri ($10) is a classic blend of Denizum rum, fresh lime and a touch of sugar. It was created by CH Project beverage director Anthony Schmidt, who concocted Fairweather's tropical-themed cocktail menu. Schmidt is a master of his craft, honing his skills at each CH venue, including Noble Experiment and his first foray, El Dorado Cocktail Lounge.
Trust Restaurant's Rum Manhattan
(3752 Park Blvd., Hillcrest)
This rum-based Manhattan ($10) can be found at Hillcrest's newest restaurant, Trust. Made with Diplomatico Exclusiva Rum—a high-quality, Venezuelan rum—and Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth, it is the brainchild of bar manager Juan Sanchez. Beginning his cocktail career in 2003 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, Sanchez has since helped open the Addison in Del Mar, Seven Grand in North Park and managed the bar for seven years at Tower 23 in Pacific Beach, before becoming the opening general manager at hit liquor den Kettner Exchange in Little Italy. Now he's slinging his best at Trust, which includes standout cocktails like the Penicillin, made with tequila, ginger, honey and lemon.