Upstairs Rare Rum Bar, Kaibo, Cayman Kai, Grand Cayman.
I love working at such a unique bar in Cayman, and it has been noticeably busier since reaching the top position on Trip Advisor. There’s something special about the space, a complete sense of peace and relaxation, even if the Beach Bar is busy below. Walking by on the beach front, you wouldn’t even know Upstairs was here, like a secret gem, hidden away above the bustle of the better known Beach Bar. It’s not as old as it might appear. The Upstairs Bar was created from a humble shack in 1999 when the building was converted into a 2 storey restaurant, with beach bar below, and marina to dock the boat. There is plenty history here. Some of the books in the display cabinets are very old, a couple are first edition Hemmingways. We have some vintage pieces of furniture in the Rare Rum Lounge.
We might not be a happening bar with flames and flair, but that doesn’t mean we ‘stagnate’. - we’re just not that type of bar. We’re always going to be classic cocktails and old style drinks with a modern edge, and of course there is the rare rum in our cabinet. Wine plays a huge part, champagne too, and that won’t change. But what makes working here distinct is the relationship you build up with guests. There are regulars we recognise by name, we give them their favourite table, we most likely know what they are having and you get to know each other over time - about what they do, what business they are in, why they are travelling, about their families, and they ask about my kids too. That personal relationship is the reward.
It’s the rare rums that distinguish us from other bars. We are lucky to have someone based in London who knows all the producers and visits small suppliers to identify rare bottlings. It’s a privilege to be able to go to Caribbean destinations a few times a year myself - to meet the owners of the rum companies- and to be able to spend hundreds on just a few bottles. At auctions you take a gamble as you can’t always taste before you buy, so it’s by reputation and trust that you make a purchase. We just bought a bottle of Maximo from Havana, Cuba, which we’ll sell for $150 a shot. Each purchase gets the customer a brass plaque inside the rum cabinet; it looks impressive, and it is fun to discover run of this calibre.
Spirits that cost this much don’t sell themselves. That’s another skill we have that sets us apart. It’s about the ability to tell a story, selling the experience, engaging with the guest. If you push it too much you’ll lose them forever, and that’s understandable. I like to give an education on the rare rums, many have such interesting stories. The ‘Rare Rum Flight’ for $25 is my favourite way to introduce 3 very different select rums. And you can’t fake it: with a collection like this you really have to know what you are talking about. My bartenders need a solid cocktail background and a good knowledge of spirits, but wine is very important too, so it’s also a more rounded discipline. Much of the training we do is not necessarily about cocktails - I assume bartenders know cocktails already , and I don’t want to teach my team how to make a Cosmopolitan.
I train the bartenders how to make the signature cocktails. The Smoking Gun is the most fun and challenging, because you have to make and bottle the bourbon wood chip smoke. I teach how to make homemade cola, natural bitters, & syrups, and speciality ice cubes.
Since I started as a bartender, bars have definitely changed. They’re far more relaxed these days, there’s less formality and etiquette and people are more approachable. It’s more entertaining in general, but sometimes I think things might have lightened up a little too much - we should still strive to preserve a fine atmosphere, that’s what makes us different Upstairs.
The ultimate expression of ATLANTICO, this rare rum was carefully created to reflect the heritage and craftsmanship of centuries of rum masters. Winner of countless awards and widely considered one of the finest rums in the world, it is a blend of small batched rums aged up to 25 years. Simply pour it into glass and experience it on its own.
Tasting Notes: Initial notes of toffee, caramel and oak are warm and soothing, followed by hints of berries and maple.
Daniel’s comments: smooth on the tongue, and easy on the wallet, this is one of our best sellers from the Rare Rum cabinet.