There’s something about summer that makes the thought of drinking Scotch, my preferred amber tonic, feel inherently wrong. Not that it’s criminal. (Colin Field, the longtime keeper of the Ritz Paris’ Bar Hemingway, once told me that there’s no use convincing real whisky drinkers to have a go at something else.)

But of course, to each his own.

In my mind, though, everything that comes with summer extravaganzas pair infinitely better with rum: pools, quiet oceanfront villas, grills laden with well-seasoned meat and crustaceans, freshly shucked corn. And there’s no going wrong, either. You can do as you please: rum on the rocks, a rum punch, some kind of explosive cocktail, or even a generous pour enjoyed neat with a Cuban cigarillo. (These days, I’m partial to the Cohiba Club White.)

Tiki Bar

So I reached out to Kevin Beary, the award-winning beverage director of Chicago’s Three Dots and a Dash, to come up with several recommendations. And let me tell you, there’s no better guy to talk to…because you can always learn (and discover) something new from guys like him. Three Dots and a Dash is an incredible tiki bar that has around 270 rums on the menu. And there are some wicked cocktails too—such as Pandan Painkiller, Jet Pilot, and Tropical Itch being three of the most popular ones.

Here, Beary talks about some of his top picks.

Bartender at his bar


“Rhum agricole is distilled from fermented fresh cane juice. By fermenting cane juice as opposed to molasses this highly-regulated category of rum has a very specific flavor profile,” Beary says. “Rhum Agricole has French AOC designation and must be produced in Martinique. This white rum is grassy and bright with a powerful aroma. It’s is great in ti’ punch—a traditional Martinique cocktail consisting of rhum, lime, and a touch of cane sugar. At 50% ABV and sold in a one-liter format, this bottle represents an exceptional value for quality of the rhum.”


“Like the Neisson described above, this is a Martinique agricole. JM is a very well respected producer in Martinique with a long history of rhum production,” Bear says. “This particular rhum is designated as an ‘éléve sous bois’ agricole, which designates that it be aged in oak for 12 continuous months. The time in oak adds an additional layer of flavor and aroma to an already complex distillate. The trademark grassy note of rhum agricole is more refined with flavors of oak and honey.”


“This blended long-aged Jamaican rum is my secret weapon for tiki cocktails,” Beary says. “Paired with a rhum agricole, this rum makes a fierce mai tai. It can be a bit pricey but offers a little extra proof and plenty of oak and character.”


“This is the wild child of Jamaican rums, it is a high-ester funk bomb that delivers 126 proof of punch to a cocktail. I often use it blended with other rums and a half ounce goes a long way.”


“This rum is spicy and hot,” Beary says. “It is exactly what you want for your overproof rum needs. Ed Hamilton [of Ministry of Rum fame] is an independent bottler who sources rum from distilleries around the world and bottles Stateside. This particular rum is produced in Guyana and is legitimately flammable.”


“If you can sneak a bottle back from vacation, this a great rum to fill your suitcase with. At three years old, it’s young but smooth and true to the Cuban style.”


“This rum is a great introduction to demerara rum,” Beary says.  “At 45% ABV, it’s a powerful pot still rum distilled from fermented cane syrup. It’s funky and rich, and would be a great rum for a seasoned whiskey drinker to experiment with bolder rum styles.”


“Richard Seale the master distiller from Foursquare has a commitment to quality and transparency that is a model in the rum category.  This is the rum I reach for first for cocktails that traditionally call for Barbados rum, however this rum can (and should) be enjoyed on its own.”


“This is my spirit animal of rum. While not easy to find, the [limited-edition] independent bottling of Hampden rums are some of my all-time favorites,” Beary says. “Bottled at full cask strength, a few drops of spring water really opens up this rum. It’s layered and complex with plenty of banana subtle oak on the nose and palate. This one is not for beginners and should be enjoyed neat not mixed into cocktails.”


“This a very solid rum from Panama. It’s produced from fermented molasses in column stills and is therefore is a lighter style of rum. Eight years in ex-bourbon casks results in a deep oak profile with a dry finish. This rum is a great base of shaken daiquiris and simple rum cocktails.”