There's an unofficial activity at Disney's Epcot known as “drinking around the world” — a marathon where those who are up to the challenge get themed drinks that are unique to or correspond with the eleven countries in the attraction’s World Showcase. While New York City isn't exactly Epcot, the mix of vibrant cultures that make up the city offer a similar experience day-to-day. Within a few well spent (happy) hours, anyone can become acquainted with the throbbing heartbeat of influences that pulses throughout the city.
With their complementary, velvety flavor profiles, rums are an excellent way to channel the nicer climates of our more southern neighbors during the fickle New York City autumn. If the epicenters of Spanish and Latin American culture are further uptown and in the Bronx, the Caribbean equivalent flourishes in Brooklyn; as such, the middle ground — specifically, from Midtown to the Lower East Side — offers a wealth of options and fusions, with drinks to match. The city never sleeps, even when the temperatures begin to plummet, and the bars around some of the more trafficked areas offer a good way to create that warm fuzzy feeling — whether with company or solo.
For those who are forced to fight through the crowds around Times Square in order to get to work, the cozy Cuban restaurant and lounge Victor’s is a calm spot to unwind after a long day in the otherwise bustling Theatre District. The bar area, with its hues of orange-red and photos lining the walls, is immediately welcoming. The El Fuerte cocktail — a combination of Bacardi Gran Reserva Diez, elderflower, lime, simple syrup and bitters and garnished with sugar cane — is an original creation of the bartender, and it is perfection. Served over crushed ice and in a copper mug, the drink matches well with the Cuban quesadilla appetizer, forming a nice combination of light and refreshing sour with the heavier savory flavors. It’s impossible not to order two.
Venture a bit further downtown and just around the corner from the city’s newest attraction, the acorn-shaped Vessel in Hudson Yards, is Mercado Little Spain. A market-restaurant hybrid (think Eataly) recently opened by the famed Chef José Andrés to honor the colorful culture of Spain, the spot’s filled with multiple stations each highlighting a type of cuisine, offering something for every palate including cocktail connoisseurs. Bar Celona offered original concoctions like the Cuba Libre, a souped-up rum and coke enhanced by aged Bacardi rum, Mexican Coca-Cola, bitters and nutmeg. It tastes like a remarkably well-done take on a well-worn classic, but try to go back to just the regular version and one realizes just how superior this one is — a subtle touch which the bartender says was intentional.
New York City evenings very quickly spill into New York City nights, and Las’ Lap is the best place to conclude any outing. The ambiance at this trendy haunt can range from relaxed and low-key to packed and alive, with Black Panther star and co-owner Michael B. Jordan known to make random appearances. The bar specializes in rum, but it’s fully stocked from the kitchen to the bottles to offer whatever one may need en route to the house, whether that means more hair of the dog or some late night eats to help stave off the hangover. After an post-work rum mini-marathon, there's no need to switch things up, and the Don Papa cocktail—a blend of Bacardi Cuatro, grapefruit juice, Luxardo Maraschino, lime and honey—pairs well with the spicy tang of their always glorious chili-glazed wings. By far the sweetest of the bunch, this dish and drink makes for a delicious end to a refreshing night of sampling the not-so-hidden flavors of the Big Apple.