Repour (Miami) Bev. Director / Real McCoy Rums – Florida’s Brand Advocate
1) Who is Brian Sassen?
Brian Sassen is a curious, patient, confident man. He blends living in the moment while preparing for the future. More concretely, he has been working in the bar/restaurant scene since 2000 in NYC, and is completely astonished by the remarkable growth and evolution of his beloved industry.
He lives in Miami now, where the support system in place for the industry’s continuing growth is as strong as any backbone he has come across. When he moved to South Florida 7 years ago from New York City, he would remark constantly about how far ahead NYC was in terms of creativity and originality. That gap has shrunk, and continues to do so, while Miami as a whole strives to be great and separate itself from the Miami of the 80s and 90s.
It’s hard to talk in terms of achievements, but rather I would say it is more about acknowledgements. Rum was a foreign category for me until recently, and the more I learn, the more I love, thus the more I can educate and ideally extricate the majority of the population’s misnomers when it comes to this fantastic, fascinating spirit.
3) What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
It definitely started about 3 years ago at a Rhum Agricole seminar hosted by Clement where this novice tongue had the opportunity to taste upwards of 20 agricole from white and unaged to XOs with luxurious finishes. It was a palate changer. Since then, the understanding intertwined with the different distillation methods and the different styles depending on where the rum originates continues to make a difference in my life, and my jobs.
4) What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry?
Well, I now love rum. I went through my whisky phase, my gin phase, my agave phase. And while I still love all aspects of the industry and the spirits within each category, my passion for rum has trumped all others, with Scotch a close second. I still love Scotch. Rum brings to the table a history like no other, as well as a modern revolution with an impetus on knowledge and truth. It is by far the most versatile spirit, and for me the most complex and most flavorful. Getting to work with a brand, such as The Real McCoy and learn from Richard Seale and see how he operates, repeatedly piques my interest in the category.
5) Favorite Rum Drink + Recipe?
I love the classics. Daiquiris, rum Old fashioneds, or just plain sippers. My favorite is one that I made last year. It was a take on the classic 80s drink The Brass Monkey.
Time to Get Ill
1 oz The Real McCoy 5yr
1 oz Absolut Mandarin
1 oz Orange Juice Reduction
4 drops Bitterman’s Tiki Bitters
Stirred and poured over 1 large ice cube. Garnish with an orange peel.
“It’s like Tang on Crack”
6) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?
Today, the rum industry, at least in the U.S., has a long way to go. Constant education and a commitment to brands have to expand beyond the behemoths that saturate the market with their spending and marketing lending to a naïve consumer base. There is a lot of great rums out there and a lot of great supporters of the industry, but at this juncture it remains somewhat underground in most markets. Open mindedness and understanding of rum’s versatility will go a long way toward opening doors and consumers minds to the world of rum. Basically, constant education.
I am hoping that in 5 years, I will be able to casually walk into most establishments and be able to discuss rum with whomever is behind the bar. The category will continue to grow. We have to be proactive in its growth. The bar that I run, Repour Homemade Cocktails in South Beach, has over 70 different rums, from locally distilled to the Islands to Central and South America. Most of these rums need our support, and most of them deserve it.
7) Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have help you.
For me it all starts with Gary (Gaz) Regan. When I was only 22, I got to spend a weekend with him learning all about the beauty of cocktails and balance. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but he instilled in me life lessons. Additionally, he published a cocktail of mine, unbeknownst to me at the time, in his book, The Joy of Mixology. Look for it. He named my drink the Sassentini.
Lately, I have had the pleasure of learning from John Lermayer and Isaac Grillo. John’s passion for rum and all things alcoholic is contagious. The man knows as much about rum as just about anyone I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with. Isaac, the owner of Repour, opened my eyes to the limitlessness of making cocktails and working behind the bar. Essentially, if you can think it, you can do it.
8) What 3-5 things do you have in your bucket list for the next 12 months?
- See the World.
- Open another bar with Isaac.
- Drive rally cars and learn drifting
- Elope in Vegas
9) Any last words?
Have fun in life. Don’t take things too seriously, save for the things that matter to you. Take what you know and instill it in younger generations. Knowledge dies with lack of communication. Be passionate in everything you do, and do what you love. Don’t do what you “should” do. Do what you “must.”
BrianSassen on Facebook.
See me @Repourbar