Cafe Brazil isn't a trend-follower. The owners have had a good ride for close to twenty years without jumping on any passing bandwagons, and it's worked just fine. But last year, as cocktail culture amped up, Marla, Tony and Mauricio opened the Rum Room to give the Front Range a place to sip 75 varieties of the liquor made from sugar cane.
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The best education comes in rum flights, lineups that showcase four of the spot's offerings. For an understanding of what aging does to alcohol, try the Flor de Cana flight, which gives a side-by-side comparison of the same Nicaraguan rum aged four, five, seven and twelve years. Or experience the disparity in how four different countries make rum with the South American flight, which proffers selections from Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. My personal favorite is the Anejo flight, four heady samples of stuff aged at least 21 years, basking in their vanilla-caramel glory and so smooth you could be sipping nice bourbon. If you'd rather a larger pour of one variety, make sure to ask about special offerings not on the list. I got a taste of Ron Zacapa XO, a smooth, award-winning Guatemalan rum that isn't mentioned on the menu but sits on the shelf for interested patrons.
And if you're not ready to sip your rum neat, Cafe Brazil makes great versions of Caribbean cocktails, including the Brazilian Caipirinha, a sexy sweet mojito, and batidas, icy fruit juice disguising the spirit so well it's almost impossible not to suck down the drink much too fast. Bartenders will gladly mix cocktails up for you, too, recommending rums that might better complement your drink of choice than the well.
As a bonus, the Rum Room offers what might be the best happy-hour deal in town (available from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 p.m. to close on Friday and Saturday). With your first discounted drink (or flight), you get a free tapa, traditional Spanish bar snacks that include a quivering slab of cheesy-eggy tortilla Espanola or a few thick slices of cured sausage. If your group is large enough, sharing all the small plates could make for a light dinner. If not, you're welcome to supplement Cafe Brazil's generosity with the Rum Room-exclusive appetizer list as well as the full menu.
While vodka, gin and whiskey have all had their moments in the spotlight, the time seems right for the rise of rum. Welcome this brave, new world at Cafe Brazil.