In some bizarro spin on reality, I came to know the greatness of this Mexican-made rum after having a few (too many) whiskey sours at a tequila bar on St. Patrick’s Day. Don’t ask. The drink was called “Oaxacan A.F.” and the bartender, quietly smug and clad in the tattoos bartenders are clad with, said it was the drink to try.
At first, I thought it was the whiskey leeching me of what little smell and taste I had at my disposal — there was no way this rum, which smells almost exactly like an open jar of briny pickles, was this good. I went home thinking about it and found a place I could get a bottle to try sans-tequila. It remained stellar, like a twisted mashup of rum and gin. I sipped it neat. I made a rum martini with it. I used it in place of Pisco in a sour. And naturally, I mixed it with mezcal, lime and soda water. In every incarnation, it held its own.
Full disclosure, though: it’s not actually rum — it’s rhum, made with sugar cane in place of molasses. That sugar comes from a farm high in the Sierra Mazateca (like, very high), where a family named Carerra has been churning out sugar cane destined to become rhum for hundreds of years at least. It’s grown without the use of fertilizers or otherwise artificial products, then fermented in a pinewood vat, where it’s introduced boiled mesquite bark and a healthy serving of wild yeast. The result is the full-blooded taste of an esteemed foodie region inside an affordable bottle of booze.