Picking a Fight in Curacao Over Green Rum

At Uncommon Caribbean, we’re never ones to pick a fight. Well, not on purpose anyway. Occasionally, though, our thirst for knowledge, adventure and authentic West Indian experiences can rub some folks the wrong way. You have to ask a lot of questions, though, to get at the unique sort of information we share. This can sometimes create conflict, especially when you come across a disputed origin story like the one surrounding Curacao Green Rum.

What is Curacao Green Rum?

One of the more curious libations found anywhere in the Caribbean, Green Rum is a staple libation among the men in Curacao. The concoction is 100% home-grown in Curacao, and proudly so. By all accounts relayed to me during my stay on the island, Green Rum is only found there.

The exact “there,” though, is disputed. I found two different “there’s” that claim to be the originators of the green stuff: Netto Bar and Cafe Santa Rosa.

Green Rum at Netto Bar, Curacao/SBPR

I had never heard of either place before arriving in Curacao. (I mean, I’d never even heard of Green Rum!) My taxi driver from the airport, though, told me that I couldn’t leave Curacao without a taste. The number one place to do so, according to him, was Netto Bar.

Legendary Netto Bar, Curacao

Located amidst the gritty urban sprawl of the Otrobanda in Willemstad, Netto Bar is a small, hole-in-the-wall place. The flare here: decidedly local.

Netto Bar in the heart of the Otrobanda, Curacao/SBPR

Netto Bar has been serving up Green Rum (and an assortment of beers and other stiff drinks) for locals and tourists beginning at 8am (noon on Sundays) every day since 1954. The place stays open until 9pm. Operating hours, though, are extended when the place is busy.

Like Charlie’s in Aruba, Netto Bar is decked-out in an assortment of surrendered odds and ends. Graffiti shares wall space with stickers, framed art, and photos. An assortment of flags, banners, license plates, lights, and more photos dangle from the ceiling.

I’d like to tell you more about Netto Bar, but the guy behind the bar wasn’t much for conversatin’ with me. I can’t be certain, but I think it’s because I walked in with this bottle pictured…

Green Rum from Cafe Santa Rosa, Curacao/SBPR

The ‘Other’ Green Rum

This is also Green Rum, though obviously it’s not from Netto Bar. Hell, it’s not even green!

This Green Rum is poured at Cafe Santa Rosa, a small neighborhood bar located in the town of Santa Rosa, essentially a suburb of Willemstad. It was right on the way from the airport to my hotel, though. So, when my airport taxi driver remembered hearing that they served a “Green Rum,” we stopped.

At first glance, my driver was confused. To him, Green Rum was always green. The bartender explained away the color conundrum, though, with a question…

When you drink green tea, it’s not always green, is it?

Touché. Even better, he spoke with the type of friendly smile you’d expect at a small neighborhood bar.

Less Legendary Cafe Santa Rosa

The decor inside Cafe Santa Rosa was decidedly more low-key than that at Netto Bar. The vibe, though, was a lot more friendly and inviting. For me, it was like visiting a friend’s bar, or a place you used to frequent, but haven’t checked out in a long time.

It was near closing time when I arrived, but no one was in a hurry to leave. The few simple tables were all filled with locals, all of them taking turns at laughing and carrying on across the room. Lively, jovial, warm, and welcoming, Cafe Santa Rosa was my kind of place!

Closing Time at Cafe Santa Rosa, Curacao/SBPR

Which Green Rum Came First?

But, what about the different Green Rums? Which came first, and how does one compare to the other?

Well, Cafe Santa Rosa is the older of the two establishments. A photo of the Cafe’s original owner hangs behind the bar. “They” say he invented the original Green Rum, though no one could say when.

Back at Netto Bar, our grumpy barkeep had no time for such suppositions. He barely gave a glance at the bottle of Santa Rosa Green Rum I brought with me to compare. He turned up his nose as I placed it on the bar as if it was something I just fished out of the toilet.

To him, and most everyone else I talked to in Curacao, Netto’s is the one and only original home of Curacao Green Rum. Period.

Netto Bar sign/SBPR

The real answer may never be revealed. For me, though, Cafe Santa Rosa is the place that better suits my tastes…and not just in vibe and temperament either.

Curacao Green Rum Taste Test

The Netto Bar Green Rum carries an “interesting” flavor. It reminds me of my recent strikeouts with French Caribbean sodas. Indeed, it tastes like medicine. Specifically, it tastes almost exactly like Nyquil. The original kind.

You know, the green one.

Cafe Santa Rosa’s Green Rum also has an “interesting” flavor, though it’s more like a sweet Bush Rum. Clean and neat, yet powerful.

At Netto Bar, most people enjoy their Green Rum in a shot, or mixed with a glass of fresh coconut water. I tried both, with the shot giving me visions of flu-ridden nights gone by. Adding the coconut water worked to remove much of the harsh medicine flavor, but it was still a drink I could live without.

If you’re at Cafe Santa Rosa, you’re likely drinking Green Rum in a shot. They don’t do the coconut water thing there. Just straight and natural Green Rum…and some smiles.

So, next time you’re in Curacao, I encourage you to seek out both spots. Try both Green Rums and draw your own conclusions.

Just don’t ask too many questions and keep offending bottles out of view…


Last updated by Steve Bennett on .

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