Appetites: Sweetening up to Minnesota Rum

Rum and whiskey aging in barrels
Five-gallon barrels filled with a variety of rums and whiskeys lined the wall at Eleven Wells Tuesday, June 16, 2015 in St. Paul.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News

Rum — it's a beverage distilled from sugar and a must-have in cocktail favorites like mojitos, daiquiris and piña coladas. Most commonly associated with tropical places like Cuba and Puerto Rico, production of the sweet liquor has started to spread north — Minnesota north.

"We're in the middle of a full-fledged rum boom," said food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl. Microdistillers are experimenting with making the beverage that's usually linked to warmer locales.

Before you partake, here's what you need to know about Minnesota's delve into the spirit:

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

1. The makers

Three of the biggest producers in the state so far are Far North, a Hallock, MN-based distillery that features the Alander (pronunced OH-lan-der) spiced rum; St. Paul's Eleven Wells distillery, with its Boiler Room and Maelstrom varieties; and Norseman of Minneapolis, which produces an organic rum aged in a bourbon barrel.

Checking the proof
Distiller Seth Reid collected rum from the still to check its proof at Eleven Wells Spirits in St. Paul.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News

2. The ingredients

Distillers must stick with traditional sugar cane sources: This means no Minnesota sugarbeets allowed!

Ingredients like unfiltered sugar or molasses are fine to use. When sugarbeets are used, Grumdahl said, the product is not rum — U.S. law considers it vodka. According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, rum has to originate from sugar cane or a sugar cane product.

3. The innovation

Spiced isn't the only way Minnesota distillers are making their rums. Eleven Wells uses a rich, triple-boiled molasses known as blackstrap in its Boiler Room rum, and dehydrated cane juice in its "Minnesota Agricole" Maelstrom. These different sugar cane products have roles in creating rums with different colors and flavor properties.

"[Eleven Wells is] kind of making a name as the most experimental of the different distillers in town," Grumdahl said. The distillery will soon be releasing aged rum.

Rumtini cocktail
A "rumtini" made with rum from Eleven Wells, elderflower liqueur and dry vermouth. The distillery will be opening a cocktail room this fall.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News

Cocktail Recipe: Rumtini

From Eleven Wells:

2 oz. Boiler Room or Maelstrom Rum
0.5 oz. Elderflower liqueur
0.5 oz. dry vermouth
*You can swap the flderflower for violet or lavender liqueur for a different floral flavor.

Start by chilling a martini or coup glass. Combine all ingredients and stir over ice. Strain into chilled glass and add a lemon twist for garnish.