Rhumba on Over

September 15, 2016
By Arran Tubbs

Last Thursday, September 8th I had the incredible opportunity to sit and chat with the lovely Tamara Thomson at Seattle’s premier rum bar aptly named “Rumba”. Nestled between Stussy and the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in the southern end of the Pike/Pine corridor, Rumba is a little slice of Caribbean islands inspired paradise.

img_2038Rumba’s a great place to sit and unwind. Every Wednesday night is Tiki Night. If you’re feeling something a little quieter stop in and enjoy some rum while flipping through one of Hemingway’s books available at the bar.

The ambiance is definitely Capitol Hill: Mid-Century chic mixed with just a tinge of Key West octogenarian whimsy, complete with mounted blue Marlin in display in the dining room. The tropical postcards and rows of sugar-cane spirits framing the walls makes Rumba feel like it’s straight out of grandpa’s liquor cabinet.

img_2036Some of the 400+ varieties of rum and our amazing servers!

As a first-timer at Rumba I ordered the Mai Tai: made with a mix of Jamaican and agricole rum, Curaçao, orgeat, and lime. Agricole rum is obtained from freshly squeezed sugarcane juice rather than molasses like most traditional rums. The result is a flavor that has sweet grassy notes as opposed to the Jamaican rum’s rich vanilla profile.

img_2044Rumba’s Mai Tai has the perfect balance of citrus and sweet. The agricole rum has a milder, more vegetal flavor which compliments the Curaçao’s natural bitterness nicely.

My partner in crime Tamara went with the “Batida of the Gods,” a Brazilian cocktail served over crushed ice. The main alcoholic ingredient of a batida is cachaça, Brazil’s national alcoholic beverage. Once again, cachaça is made from sugarcane juice making it more similar in flavor to agricole rum than traditional molasses rum. After a long day at work we were both relieved to find out Rumba does not mess around when it comes to the potency of their drinks.

img_2043Cachaça readily absorbs any sort of flavor mixed with it, making it a great base for the Ancho Reyes chili liqueur. The coconut cream blended with crushed ice cuts through the spice while the passion fruit and cherry liqueur gives this batida the tang it needs.

Of course no afterwork happy hour would be complete without food. Tamara and I gossiped and shared our origin stories over chips and salsa. Rumba offers 3 different salsas, each with their own distinct flavor and spice level. The spicy-sweet medium grilled pineapple salsa was my favorite. Tamara’s favorite was the chile de arbol topped with a light sprinkling of cotija.

img_2045Chips and salsa. From top to bottom: Cilantro Tomatillo Salsa (Mild), Grilled Pineapple (Medium), Chile de Arbol & Cotija (Hot).

Last but far from least, the empanadas were definitely the highlight of the night. Tamara and I enjoyed all three of them: chorizo, chicken, and vegetable. Each kind of empanada had a distinct flavor all its own but was baked in the same kind of buttery, flakey crust. The chorizo empanada, with its melted cheese and cilantro, is the ideal comfort food for a balmy late-summer night.

img_2046Crispy goodness! Empanads served with a side of mixed greens and citrus vinaigrette.

We ended the night with two of Rumba’s best punches: the Fishhouse punch and the Pineapple punch. Both were delicious and refreshing, and the nutmeg sprinkled over ice was a unique treat. Rumba’s a great neighborhood spot to eat, drink, and catch up with friends. We even saw a few of our residents there already. Happy hour is from 4-6pm every night and Tiki Night is weekly on Wednesday.  Also be sure to check out their rum maps. Once you complete Rumba’s tour of 60 distinct Caribbean rums you’re initiated into their “Rum Society,” meaning you not only get to expand your palette for sugar-cane distilled spirits but you also get to brag about it.

Not pictured: delicious punches and your two favorite concierges after a long night.

With over 400+ varieties of rum to choose from you can bet Tamara and I will be back, and we hope to see some of y’all there.