Home to the 2019 New York Rum Festival | Credit: Flickr user hectorlo

New York Rum Festival 2019 Preview

New York is my favorite city in the world, but it’s not my favorite place. I lived there for four years after college, the stint serving as a de facto graduate school of life informing my slowly forming adult self of my true likes and dislikes.

Among the dislikes: city living. All that concrete, hustle, bustle, and confusion just never jived for this island boy. Things got worse in the summertime when the city’s searing heat, well surpassing temps back home in St. Croix, made the usual stresses of the city all the more unbearable.

I’m heading back to New York this weekend, though. Very happily too. A good rum fest has a way of making me love just about anywhere…

2019 New York Rum Festival

The third edition of the New York Rum Festival goes down this weekend. A two-day celebration of the very best of the noble spirit, the festival is the brainchild of Federico Hernández. He’s originally from Puerto Rico, and like most of us island boys, Federico came to love rum early on.

Rum is our national spirit in Puerto Rico. As a teenager, one of our favorite drinks back then was called Limoncillo… That was our day-to-day drink.

This initial love for a standard local rum cocktail eventually expanded to an appreciation for Puerto Rico’s more celebrated rums, like Ron del Barrilito, and a career.

I opened the first rum bar in Puerto Rico called Caña. I had this opportunity to partner with three restaurants. We were looking for a concept for one of the restaurants and I realized that Puerto Rico did not have a rum bar, neither had a rum festival. So, I started both at the same time.

Federico's rum bar, Caña, was based in Hotel El Convento in Old San Juan | SBPR
Federico’s rum bar, Caña, was based in Hotel El Convento in Old San Juan | SBPR

The Rum Lab is Born

It was there at Caña that Federico and his brother sowed the seeds of The Rum Lab, a program designed to teach people about the essence and history of rum through rum flight experiences.

It was me and my brother at the restaurant. We called ourselves Rummerliers. You’d have the experience of sitting down with two kind of rum nerds.

It wasn’t long before Federico’s unique educational rum experience gained more structure and polish. In turn, The Rum Lab’s status within the spirits world also grew. Rum Lab seminars soon became a must for connoisseurs, the curious, and titans of the rum industry.

Puerto Rico's Ron del Barrilito helped fuel Federico's passion for fine rum
Puerto Rico’s Ron del Barrilito helped fuel Federico’s passion for fine rum

From Caña, The Rum Lab seminars, and Puerto Rico’s first rum festival (A Taste of Rum), Federico developed a series of rum festivals set in major U.S. cities. Over the past five years, rum lovers in Chicago, San Franciso, Miami, and New York have all come to learn about and appreciate fine rums though Federico’s festivals.

Emphasis on Education

As with those early days at Caña, Federico’s rum festivals are big on education.

We’re really focused all about education and premiumization.

Federico Hernández (left), New York Rum Festival founder, spreading rum joy from Puerto Rico across America
Federico Hernández (left) spreading rum joy from Puerto Rico across America

In this way, Federico attracts many of the finest rum brands to participate, showcasing their products while also providing insight as to their production.

Rums On Our Radar

Among the rums Federico counseled me to look out for this weekend are new rum expressions from Chairman’s Reserve (St. Lucia), Pedro Mandinga, a craft distiller from Panama, and anything from our friends at Foursquare and Mount Gay. He’s also excited about new blends from Tanduay (Philippines) and Maggie’s Farm (Pittsburgh).

As for me, I’m excited about all of it! Yes, even the location…

If you’re in New York, I hope to see you this Saturday, June 15, 2019, for the New York Rum Festival and some rum and fun in the big city. Look for me on the show floor so we can raise a toast together and talk rum.

General admission starts around $50. Visit the New York Rum Festival online to purchase tickets and more information.


*Lead photo credit: Flickr user hectorlo.



Last updated by Steve Bennett on .

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