Wember Castillo, the bartender at RumBa at the InterContinental Hotel, Boston, has 100 rums at his disposal, plus liqueurs, juices and a startling array of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. He can provide pretty much anything a customer asks for.
“I ask my guests, what do you like? What are your taste buds telling me?” He says that young bartenders often make the mistake of mixing to their own palates exclusively.
“If you have a great rum, it’s perfect for sipping. You don’t really need to mix it,” he says, adding that, in general, the higher the alcohol, the more difficult it is to mix. The darker rums, more suitable for enjoying straight up, exhibit vivid molasses notes. As they lighten, they go more to caramel and spice.
The InterContinental is located on Boston’s harbor at the Fort Point Channel—it adjoins the exact spot where the Boston Tea Party took place. The hotel chose a rum-themed bar due to Boston’s long dependence on seafaring for its economy, and rum’s historic importance.“We are bound to rum, it was so important to this area,” Castillo says. (The name RumBa does not refer to the dance, but rather the way a Boston native would pronounce “rum bar.”)
Castillo was born and raised in San Salvador. He came to the United States when he was 16, following his mother and sister to Boston. He began his restaurant career in 1996 as a bartender’s assistant at the Hilton Hotel at Logan Airport. A year later, he was a bartender at the Boston Harbor Hotel, where he stayed for 10 years. He opened RumBa in 2006, and has seen its collection of rums (from the classic cane-growing countries as well as Austria, India and elsewhere) grow to 100.