I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I love rum. I mean, I really love rum. I also love Tiki. Not as much as some of the tiki nuts out there, but I do enjoy my tiki a lot. I love the kitsch, the toys, the crazy glassware, the funky clothes, and the crazy over the top drinks. On top of all of that, is the reliance and enthusiasm for rum that comes with it. One of the latest temples of rum and tiki opened in the last year in San Francisco. Smuggler’s Cove is a wonderful dark cave of rum and libations, tucked behind an unassuming door, walking in the door is like stepping into some wild idealization of a fevered rum dream, and rum there is.
Martin Cate has built himself a most impressive collection of rum and the menu is full of classic tiki concoctions with a serious kick. In order to access the harder to find rums though, you must first become a Disciple of the Cove. To do this you must become an initiate of the Rumbustion Society. The first level of the Society is reached by sampling 20 different sugar spirits, and then being given a very friendly quiz afterwards. Normally, you go to the Cove, announce your intention to join the Society and you are given a punch card with the 20 spirits to taste. Over the course of a number of visits you make your way through the list getting each spirit punched on the card. When you are done, you submit your card, take your quiz, are given your Society membership card are entered into the rolls and are given access to the reserve list of rums.
That is the normal course of events. I’m sure you know by now, I do not necessarily do things the normal way. After all, where’s the fun in that? I had limited time in San Francisco and so I set out to become an initiate in one fell swoop. (Disclaimer – I do not encourage drinking to excess in others. Just because I sometimes do it does not mean that you should too. However, if you should choose to, call me.) I arrived at the door right as Smuggler’s Cove opened for business. There were already a few rum loving types within, making such important decisions as what to drink and how much. I made my way to the bar, sat down and announced my intentions.
Faces turned towards me and I was warned that none had accomplished the feat before, the stoutest soul to date having made it to 16 before being judged too intoxicated to continue their quest. I was still determined to try though a moment of doubt flew through my head, after all, these were no Friday night amateurs, but seasoned, impassioned, lovers of rum. I quickly squelched the thought and embarked upon my task. Two flights in, much excellent conversation, and a warning from Martin that no matter what, if he judged I could not continue, then that would be it. I was informed by my fellow denizens that there was a convenience store around the corner where such necessities as Fernet Branca, salty snacks, and corndogs could be had!
I quickly decamped from my stool, went to the store, got some supplies, and resumed my mission. At this point my friend Tony showed up and decided to join me on my quest for the duration of the time he would be there, and the always darling Humuhumu showed up to partake of tiki libations and watch the progress. Two more flights later, my coach and enabler, the beautiful Lindsey Johnson showed up to measure my progress and to make sure I was still on track. Pacing myself so that I did not drink too quickly, lots of water, and the aforementioned salty snacks kept me to my course.
Hours passed, still more rum, and a growing feeling that I just might make it came over me. Tony tapped out, having to be responsible and re-join the working world the next morning, he would tell me the next day upon exiting his cab and looking at his card realising just how much rum he had drank and that he never wanted to repeat the experience when needed to be coherent the next morning. Humuhumu also had to leave and be somewhat responsible. That left me and my coach and two more flights. Midnight came, and upon the witching hour, the final flight was delivered.
I restrained myself from downing them, sticking to my plan. Within the hour victory was mine! My quiz was passed, my card signed, a glimpse of the wonders of the Vault was seen, and my initiation announced. Martin would have the last laugh though. He asked if I wanted to sample a tiki concoction, there was no turning back and a Rum Barrel appeared before me and the end descended, but not before refuelling on some late night Chinese.
Visit the Cove, drink some rum, have a great drink or two, and have fun. I dare you not to.