Rum Connoisseur interview of the week:
Bartender, Spirits Educator, Consultant, a fantastic human being and a bold-encouraging lover of rum!
1) Who is Rob Crabtree?
Rob Crabtree is a lover of life and libations; a Florida native; Surfer; and former: Coastal Engineer, Wave Pool Executive, and Beverage Director. Rob is currently a Bartender, F&B Consultant, and soon-to-be Bar Owner. I enjoy tequila/mezcal neat, and rum in (almost) every possible form that will fit into a glass, coconut or bottle.
2) What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
Growing up in North Florida, I was surrounded by rum from an early age – my dad lived on a boat in a marina filled with salty old characters, so it became my drink of choice throughout high school, college and grad school both in South Florida and Hawaii. However, I fell madly in love with rum after college when I was regularly traveling to the Caribbean as a Coastal Engineer. I was living in Miami in 2005, working at a Coastal Engineering firm and traveling to various islands throughout the Caribbean designing private islands, beaches, marinas and cruise ports. During each trip, I would drink and purchase rums that I could not find in the States. I began to collect rums during these travels and share them with my friends. While rum had always been in my life, other spirits, namely tequila, and mezcal, began to capture my attention after I traded the engineering career for one in food and beverage. It was there that I developed a taste for Mexican spirits. However, I fell back in love with rum, particularly Agricole rum, on a trip to Martinique to compete in the 2016 Tí Punch Cup. This rekindled love of rum has taken on a lot of the attributes that I seek in agave spirits; namely un-aged, naturally fermented, full flavored, and minimally processed.
3) The biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplished for the rum industry.
Ha! I’m a nobody in the rum industry. A big rum achievement for me is getting a guest across the bar to try a new rum or cocktail. If I can change their perspective on an unknown-to-them cocktail or brand, then they will typically become the most vocal proponent of said cocktail/rum to their friends.
4) What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry?
99% of all boat drinks and beach drinks have a rum base. My two favorite places to be are on boats and at beaches.
5) Favorite Drink + Recipe
Make both the Piña Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri at the same time if you have two blenders, or blend one and put in freezer while blending the other.
Layer both cocktails (horizontally or vertically) in a Hurricane glass or Solo cup
Garnish with a pool, beach and/or boat
Serves 2 (or 1)
1.5 oz Rum Fire
2 oz Coconut Syrup (Coco Lopez, Coconut Milk & Simple)
1 oz Pineapple Juice (Dole)
.5 oz Lime Juice
– Blend w/ 2 cups of ice
2 oz Rhum J.M. Agricole Blanc 50%
1 oz Lime Juice
1.25 oz Strawberry Syrup (Strawberries, Rich Simple Syrup)
pinch sea salt
– Blend with 1.5 cups of ice
6) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?
I see a growing contingent in today’s rum industry pushing for increased transparency and overall education. Consumers are also starting to develop a greater appreciation and understanding of the complexities of rum. I believe the next 5 years will be a period of growth for the rum industry as bartenders and consumers begin to ask more transparency from brands.
7) Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have helped you.
Kiowa Bryan (Spiribam) – Anyone with the title of Agricole Princess is a good person to know. Kiowa convinced me to sign up for the Tí Punch Cup, and it is still one of the greatest competitions I have been a part of – Team USA!
Nick Feris (Rum Fire / The Rum Collective) – Nick is a wealth of knowledge, and his passion for rum is contagious. His introduction of Rum Fire to the US market has reawakened interest in the overproof rum market.
Sasha Petraske – Sasha taught me how to bartend, despite what I thought I knew. He taught me how to balance flavors and tailor each cocktail to the flavor profile and ABV of each spirit. More importantly, he taught me how to make a Daiquiri that highlighted the rum – it all started with a perfect Daiquiri.
8) What 3-5 things do you have on your bucket list for the next 12 month?
- Open a rum-heavy bar with Whitney Hobbs in historic St. Augustine, FL.
- Visit Jamaica to tour Hampden Estate and eat beef patties.
- Take a road-trip dive bar tour of the entire coast of Florida.
9) Any final thoughts?
One can hide a wealth of sins in a barrel. Start with a good base.
10) How can people learn more about you? Website? Social Media Page?