Montanya Distillers Monthly Bartender Series
Social Fort Collins
1 Old Town Square #7, Fort Collins, CO 80524
About five hours to the northeast of Montanya Distillers is Fort Collins, Colorado, a town well known for its beers. Several famous craft breweries call the city home, but it’s also a great place for craft cocktails. Social, a downtown speakeasy cocktail bar is one of our favorites there. The bar specializes in craft cocktails and charcuterie. The staff has incredible rum knowledge and has become a fan of Montanya rum over the years.
In our latest bartender feature, we catch up with Nathan Robertson, bartender at Social, Jen Beshore, general manager, and Raffi Jergerian, bar manager. Together they share why they enjoy making rum cocktails, a favorite Montanya recipe, and what makes Social such a unique cocktail destination.
**As we highlight bartenders and restaurants we have come to love, we’d also like to hear from you. If you have a bartender or bar/restaurant you’d like to recommend for future consideration, please click here to learn more. To see more installments from the Montanya Mixology Series, visit Butcher’s Bistro, Snooze AM Eatery, The Farmhouse at Jessup Farm, T-Zero Lounge, or The Kitchen Denver.**
Nathan Robertson, Bartender
Jen Beshore, General Manager
Raffi Jergerian, Bar Manager
What do you wish more people knew about rum?
How versatile and varied it can be.
For every class of spirit, from vodka to gin to brandy to single malt scotch, there is a rum that is comparable. From funky, earthy, bitter distillations to bright and citrusy flavors, to rich and woody, there is a rum for every style of cocktail and every palate. Because there aren't as many A.O.C.’s (Appellation d'origine contrôlée) for rum as say whiskies and brandies, and because the geographical region in which it can be distilled is essentially unlimited, rum distillers can play around with the spirit all they want, which makes every bottle a unique adventure.
How mixable it is.
Rum mixes well with a ton of other spirits, sugars, juices, nogs, spices, etc. The same rum can be the base for strong, heady sippers or bright, tart and refreshing drinks, and work equally well. In fact, amongst all categories of spirits, I can’t think of any that are as versatile and contribute as much as rum.
The fascinating history of the spirit.
In the early days of our country’s history, rum was one of the most commonly distilled spirits with nearly 200 different distilleries operating along the Atlantic seaboard. After the revolutionary war, British-controlled molasses shipments declined as did the prominence and quality of rum in the US. After prohibition ended, the funky rich flavors of aged rums weren't as popular and the spirit devolved into a nearly tasteless, vodka-like beverage.
Only in the past ten to fifteen years have we seen a real resurgence of bold rums, fueled by both incredible distillers like Montanya as well as by consumers eager for more flavorful options; people who don’t consider “smoothness” to, necessarily, be a positive attribute in a spirit.
As a result, we have many more great rums available to us and we are starting to see bartenders and imbibers getting more adventurous with how they use it.
How high the quality can be.
Good rums can rival fine cognacs and single malt scotches in quality and sipping pleasure but because rum doesn’t have the air of exclusivity and hype of these other spirits, the cost of fine rum can be much lower.
How does Social use rum?
Our Rum/Rhum/Cachaça selection at Social is ever evolving and expanding. As ambitious bartenders, we continuously experiment and learn how to mingle this spirit with an array of different flavor expressions, usually inspired by classic recipes and techniques. Whether presenting a sharp and refreshing cocktail or a smooth sipper, the goal is for the rum be the highlight of the cocktail and to strike balance amongst all of the components.
One of the rum drinks that has become a staple on our menu at Social is the classic Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. When it comes to clean and refreshing without muddling up the beauty of the rum being used, this drink is hard to beat.
Another recipe that is one of our own is the Shipwreck. Like a comforting blanket of molasses, spice and smoke, this drink has to be experienced to fully understand the beauty of balance in a cocktail.
What sets Social’s bar program apart from others?
One of the best things is our huge selection of spirits. Raffi has expanded our back bar to include around 550 different, exceptional, spirits (the actual amount changes weekly) and we have developed a knowledgeable bar staff that is familiar with each of them. All this product knowledge and product availability allow our bartenders to come up with amazing combinations for balanced drinks that are simple, beautiful, and above all, delicious.
The other thing about Social is the constant emphasis the entire staff (from the owners to the management, to the barbacks) puts on hospitality. It’s a high volume place; the service well bartender normally makes more than 400 drinks on a busy night and we make sure each one is crafted to perfection, but it doesn’t start or stop with great drinks. We strive to make every aspect of the guest’s time at Social exceptional.
It’s both humbling and inspiring to work with such a hospitality-oriented staff. Although a true focus on hospitality is certainly not unique within the craft cocktail world, it’s more rare than it should be, and we’re proud to be part of a bar that takes it seriously.
Favorite rum drink?
There is a bit of a trope within the bartending world right now that you can test your bartender’s mettle by ordering a daiquiri. Many cliches are born of truth, however, and this is probably one of them. I love a classic, aged rum daiquiri. A good, tart daiquiri is a thing of beauty and it’s the perfect vehicle to discover how different spirit brands can affect a drink’s flavor. Tasting one from a bartender you’ve just met is a pretty reliable way of determining if you’re going to like the rest of the drinks he or she makes.
Social’s Trader Vic’s Mai Tai
How do you use Montanya Rum in Social’s bar program?
While all three expressions of Montanya rum are magnificent, we chose to bring on the longer aged ‘Exclusiva’ for our back bar. First off, we just love showing off such a wonderful product made in our state, with pure sugar cane from Louisiana and all aged in barrels from Stranahan’s, which by now, is recognized and loved by most Coloradoans and whiskey drinkers abroad.
Often times with curious rum drinkers we like to present even a small taste of the spirit by itself, even if we plan on making a cocktail with it. When it comes to making a Montanya Exclusiva cocktail we usually keep it simple, seasonal, relating to what the guest enjoys, balanced and inspired or even directly modeled after a classic. We often like to make a classic old fashioned with the Exclusiva for whiskey drinkers that need a new hobby.
Favorite thing about using Colorado craft spirits?
It is in the nature of Coloradans to treat quality and craftsmanship as a top priority. At Social, we are confident that a great amount of hand selected ingredients, effort, and heart went into creating most of Colorado’s spirits. And it is evident in the products that continue to be presented to us. We get a lot of out of state visitors at our bar and it’s so nice having a huge array of excellent local options to offer when guests inquire about what’s good in Colorado.