Given the recent opening of the city's first rum-centric bar, Roneria Caracas in Williamsburg, rum may very well be the next premium spirit to win over NYC's cocktail crowd. So it was good timing that Brandon Lieb, the Miami-based co-founder of Ron Atlantico, recently made an extended visit here to share his sipping rum and get to know the NYC cocktail scene.
"I'm not here to sell anything," said Brandon, who launched Atlantico in Miami over a year ago. "I want to let people make up their minds about it."
Brandon, who formerly worked for Bacardi, founded Atlantico with Aleco Azqueta, whose family owns the Casa de Campo resort in the Dominican Republic. There, they found a third-generation master blender to produce Atlantico from small-batch, aged rums that are blended and then aged in bourbon casks. Composed of rums between 15 and 25 years old, the additional aging process uses the solera method (typically used for sherry), which allows the flavors to mellow and marry. A true dark rum, Atlantico has gentle vanilla and toffee flavors without the overpowering sweetness of a spiced rum. It's lusciously complex with a smooth finish, and is best sipped neat, on the rocks, or mixed in a daiquiri.
When he first arrived in New York a few months ago, Brandon introduced Atlantico to the Dominican neighborhoods in the Bronx and Washington Heights before hitting Manhattan hotspots such as Rose Bar, Le Cirque, and Philippe. He said the Latin communities of New York and Miami have embraced Atlantico, preferring to sip it neat, although in Miami the daiquiri is approaching the cult status of the mojito.
Today, Brandon is headed back to Miami, just in time to skip the winter chill in NYC. Meanwhile, he'll be watching from afar to see how Atlantico and other sipping rums fare during the dark spirits season here, where rye, scotch, and bourbon are popular methods for keeping warm. He hopes imbibers will notice Atlantico's cigar-inspired label as bars increase their stock of premium rums.
"We're not trying to be the biggest rum, but we're trying to be one that people appreciate," said Brandon.