From the lovingly displayed 250-ish brands of rum and rhum behind the bar, it’s immediately evident that owner Travis Rosenthal and manager Kate Perry (both of Tango restaurant, Rumba’s next-door neighbor) want the spot to be a shrine to these sun-infused spirits. If you aren’t familiar with it, rhum is distilled from fresh sugar cane juice, whereas rum usually has a molasses base. Unaged rhum tends to have a fresher taste than comparable rums, and aged rhum has a Cognac-like sensibility—but lots of the taste depends on the type and the brand. A perfect sipper to launch your Rumba island adventure is one of the three ’Ti punches ($10–$14). Each features a different variety of rhum mixed with just a little cane syrup and lime. It’s a powerful drink, but one that entices you to let the flavors roll over your tongue unadulterated. Get a small glass of shaved ice to keep alongside, and you can mellow it if it’s a bit strong.
Caribbean Vibe, Circa 1938
A mounted marlin, turquoise chairs, yellow walls and a dark wood bar feel like a classic Cuban lounge. You half expect to see gangster/actor George Raft (star of the 1935 movie Rumba), seated at the bar’s far curve, ordering a daiquiri ($6 during happy hour) and the delicious veggie empanadas spiked with raisins ($3.50 at happy hour), and chatting up friendly and knowledgeable bartenders Connor O’Brien and Jana Howard.
Capitol Hill, 1112 Pike St.; 206.583.7177; rumbaonpike.com