Just in time to warm bar-goers during the winter chill, Williamsburg’s Caracas Arepa Bar has stocked its shelves with the latest brown spirit to win over mixologists–aged rum.
After securing its liquor license this fall, the Brooklyn outpost of the popular East Village Venezuelan restaurant turned to Apotheke’s Orson Salicetti to create a rum-heavy cocktail menu, as well as gather more than 30 premium rums from the Caribbean Islands, Central, and South America. As a result, the bar is officially a roneria–Spanish for rum bar. Roneria Caracas is the latest in NYC’s new Latin spirits-specific cocktail dens, following tequila/mezcal havens Mayahuel and Los Feliz.
On a recent evening, Roneria Caracas, which resembles a plywood shanty, was abuzz with imbibers sipping rum concoctions such as mojitos with gold rum and absinthe. Bartender Herman Ponce shook up Manhattans made with Santa Teresa anejo rum instead of rye whiskey or bourbon. The cocktail also includes Antica Formula sweet vermouth, blueberries marinated in port wine, orange zest, homemade bitters, and bay leaves.
Roneria Caracas also offers rum tasting flights for those looking to learn more about the sugarcane-distilled spirit formerly known as “devil water.” Long associated with pirates, little umbrellas, and spring break-type “wooing,” rum (the amber kind that’s aged in bourbon barrels, not the clear “white” rum) is having a bit of a moment among spirits connoisseurs. On the West Coast, cocktailians are anticipating next week’s opening of Smuggler’s Cove tiki bar in San Francisco, and Audrey Saunder’s Tar Pit, opening in Los Angeles later this month, will also be rum- and tiki-oriented.
It seems fitting that rum would be the next trend on the heels of Prohibition-era cocktails, considering that in the ’30s and ’40s, Americans flocked to the Caribbean in greater numbers, returning with a taste for Mai Tais, Planters Punch, Pina Coladas, and other tropical rum drinks. For now, New York has a minimal tiki scene, with bartender Joe Swifka making tiki drinks on weekends at Flatiron Lounge, apparently the only place other than Otto’s Shrunken Head to get a decent Zombie.
Roneria Caracas, 291 Grand Street, Williamsburg, 718-218-6050