Walking through the north end of the financial district amid major construction on Richmond Street just east of Bay you’ll find a new hidden gem. The Rum Exchange, nestled between a Subway sandwich shop and all the construction at 67 Richmond St. West, might just be a Dark N’ Stormy (black rum [the dark] and ginger beer [the stormy] served over ice and garnished with a slice of lime) made glamorously into a lounge. It is excessively dark with a few scattered tables made of large rum barrels, with various chandeliers and candles throughout. The black walls accented in gold are beautiful, but it is really tough to see in there. I can’t imagine what might happen at the end of the night once the “ugly lights” come up.
In advance of the grand opening we were treated to a rum tasting hosted by Jeremy J. Parsons (Founder at Cocktails: The Fluid Experience) and Rumen Dimitrov (Founder of Pravda). The hour-long tasting took us through tastings of a few room-temperature sips of the spirit straight up (very small sips – you don’t spit out rum because you want to evaluate heat rather than burn) before we were taught how to make a proper Cuba Libre (not your average Rum & Coke) and how to muddle the perfect Mojito (be sure to slap that last mint spring garnish before dropping it in the glass). We finished the experience by learning about their signature drink containing Angostura rum, condensed milk, cinnamon, and nutmeg with a Guinness punch which tasted like Christmas on the beach – perfection!
In between educational nibbles (were you aware that Rum aged 5 years is comparable to the aging of a 15 year old scotch?) Dimitrov spoke about his foray into the Rum scene. The man must vacation a ton (we’re insanely envious) and taught us about his personal preferences when it comes to rum and food. He mentioned that the palate for rum and its food pairings would be much like that of wine pairings. Guests at The Rum Exchange can expect to be served bits and bites by local Caribbean caterers with whom they plan on partnering, but “don’t put us in a food column”; with 55 different varieties of Rum the food would be designed strictly to compliment the craft cocktails. He mused that Vodka bars were a dime a dozen (hear that, Pravda?), that he would never open a tequila bar (it’s so passé), but believes that rum will become the new “It Drink”. “There has yet to be a bar opened in Toronto with the extensive rum collection that we will have, and people are looking for a dose of something fresh, said Dimitrov. “Not only going to broaden your horizons in rum tasting, we’re also going to provide you with an authentically good time.” With the crowd that ambushed the bar once the doors officially opened at 5, I’m inclined to agree!