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Yo, ho, ho! Here’s where to celebrate National Rum Day (USA Today)


If you want an excuse to have a cocktail, then you’ll be eager to celebrate National Rum Day on Aug. 16. The liquor, made from sugar cane or molasses, is finding new fans who are honing their tastes at specialty bars, says Wayne Curtis, author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails (Random House, $14.95). “You don’t have to have an educated palate as with scotch and bourbon. It’s easier to go down, and offers more value,” he says. The author shares some of his favorite rum bars with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

Rumba
Seattle
You’ll find a great collection of rum — much available by the shot — at this downtown-area spot that feels somewhere between a neighborhood bar and a cocktail lounge. “It’s always my first stop when I get to Seattle,” Curtis says. The menu includes Caribbean-inspired dishes like empanadas, jerk chicken and bananas foster. 206-583-7177; rumbaonpike.com

Cane & Table
New Orleans
Head to this self-described proto-tiki bar to try rum drinks popular in the Caribbean decades ago. “What they do with rums is really quite impressive,” says Curtis, who lives in New Orleans. “You can go in and tell them what you like and they’ll make something for you.” 504-581-1112; caneandtablenola.com

Ipswich, Mass.
A coastal town famous for its clams also knows its way around rum, says Curtis, who recently visited this friendly bar. Along with seafood, the menu features dozens of craft and local spirits, including Privateer, an excellent rum made in town. 978-356-0002;saltkitchenandrumbar.com

Caña Rum Bar
Los Angeles
This rum-centric downtown spot plays up the spirit, stocking about 150 varieties and labels. “It makes for a good destination for anyone hoping to taste that broad array of what rum can be,” Curtis says. Run as a private club, memberships in the Rum Society run $20 annually, but are free for those visiting during Friday happy hour from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Membership also includes popular monthly tastings and special events. 213-745-7090; 213nightlife.com/canarumbar

Rum House
New York
Times Square isn’t just for tourists. Step into the Edison Hotel and find a rum oasis that feels like a Prohibition-era speakeasy. It’s a place where the bartenders are serious about the spirit, but aren’t stuffy, Curtis says. With its Theater District location, Broadway actors and directors have been known to wander in too. The bar even made an appearance in last year’s Academy Award-winning film, Birdman. 646-490-6924;therumhousenyc.com

Isla
Austin
While the atmosphere is classic tiki, this new Warehouse District bar is serious about its rum, with a wide selection of labels and well-executed drinks. Curtis visited a few months ago and was impressed with the Blue Hawaii. “It shows this drink doesn’t have to be a punch line,” he says. 512-322-9921; islaaustin.com

Cuba Ocho
Miami
A combination art gallery, cultural center and rum bar, Cuba Ocho showcases antiques and the work of contemporary artists — and still serves a great mojito. The Little Havana bar stocks an impressively large collection of rums, so tipplers can sip their way through various styles and approaches to the spirit, discovering labels they wouldn’t find at home, Curtis says. 305-285-5880; cubaocho.com/bar.php

Rum Club
Portland, Ore.
Portland may be known for its craft beer, but this spacious bar makes some wonderful rum drinks, Curtis says. Customers can opt for classics like daiquiris or a rum old-fashioned, or can try more elaborate concoctions like the Faster Pussycat, made with two different types of rums, curacao, Campari and sparkling wine. 503-265-8807;rumclubpdx.com

Cuba Libre
Philadelphia
One of the first bars to focus on rum offers drinkers a relaxed Cuban vibe in the City of Brotherly Love. The popular downtown restaurant has a quieter upstairs bar, where you’ll be able to chat with the bartender and learn more about the spirit. Cuba Libre is part of a small East Coast chain with other locations in Atlantic City, Washington and Orlando. 215-627-0666; cubalibrerestaurant.com

Smuggler’s Cove
San Francisco
Curtis calls this three-story bar a rum wonderland with one of the most impressive collections in the country. While the atmosphere feels like a tiki bar, many of the cocktails are classic, and well prepared. “They have incredibly complex rum drinks and amazing bartenders who can knock this stuff out. It just has a great feel to it.” 415-869-1900; smugglerscovesf.com