Myers’s Rum Tasting with Martin Cate

Time machines do exist, if you know where to find them. That was the takeaway from Martin Cate‘s seminar and happy hour at California Gold in San Rafael on Sunday. Cate is a part owner of the saloon in downtown San Rafael, a bar with a great reputation for excellent cocktails and quite a fine selection of spirits.

We were welcomed with a formidable Planter’s Punch made with Myers’s new Single Barrel Select release, finished in Sazerac Rye casks. We then made it into the back portion of the venue for a little history lesson about punch, rum, and Fred L. Myers who founded the Myers’s rum company. Cate weaved the historical details along with his own experience as a curator of rum at Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. More Planter’s Punches were provided as well.

The star of the show wasn’t Cate, though. It was the vintage bottle of 1960s era Myers’s Planters’ Punch rum. At 97 proof this was really different from the Myers’s of today – but also unlike anything currently on the market. The rum was designed to go into the Planter’s Punch, a Jamaican cocktail featuring rum, lime, sugar, and water/ice. And maybe a little spice to make it extra nice. The punchy flavor of the vintage Myers’s is bold with burnt caramel flavors and not a ton of the high ester funk you often find in Jamaica rum today.

I’ve tasted a 1950s version of this rum and the 1960s version tasted essentially similar. So good, if you can find a place selling it. Rums like this are time machines to different distilleries, extinct expressions, or the flavors of another generation.

We then tried a taste of Myers’s Single Barrel Select release, a more refined and slightly boozier expression than the standard Original Dark Myers’s that’s so pervasive across so many bars. Indeed this is a nice sipper with a hint of Rye Whiskey from the finish. It comes in a nice bottle and California Gold was selling it for a bit of a discount.

Many of us lingered at the bar discussing rums of all kinds (but mostly Jamaican) and enjoying the good cheer.

Amazing Craft Cocktails at California Gold in San Rafael

We had a great experience last time at California Gold so we made time for some after-dinner drinks last weekend. The place was busy but not too much so and we got a nice booth right by the front of the bar. Our service was informed and friendly, and very prompt.

The reputation for excellent craft cocktails at California Gold is stellar and our experience this time only reinforced that belief. We tried four cocktails and all were really outstanding. We also noticed they had an extensive spirits collection, including a Caroni rum for only $45 per pour.

Indian Defense – I liked this more than Mrs. Mai Tai. Beefeater, Calvados, Amontillado Sherry, and Saffron Honey. Very spirit forward for those who like that style of stirred cocktails.

Flying Cloud – this was our favorite, so delicate and balanced. Pisco, Dark Rum, Grenadine, Lime, Absinthe.

Coco de Agua – I really dug this wonderful blend of savory flavors and would definitely order again. Cacacha, Coconut-washed Apricot Brandy, Pineapple Gum, Lime, Aromatic Peach Bitters.

Polo Cup – We were asked whether we wanted Gin or Vodka and we made the only correct choice. Super light and refreshing, depth was pretty good for this elevated “Gin Highball.” Gin, Elderflower, Mint, Basil, Cucumber, Lemon, Soda.

California Gold: Cocktails in San Rafael

Finally made it out to California Gold, a beer and cocktail bar in downtown San Rafael. Located in a historic building, there are tons of retro accoutrements and nods to California history.

We arrived at opening on Saturday for a couple rounds and thank goodness since it was quite packed by the time we left. Service was pretty decent and the cocktails were quite good. I loved the grog style Voodoo Western with bourbon, rum, passionfruit, cinnamon, grapefruit, lime, falernum, and voodoo secrets. Mrs. Mai Tai had the Carousel Park Swizzle, a nod the Queen’s Park Swizzle. All great.

This seems like a great place for cocktails in San Rafael’s cute downtown.