A Desert Twist on Caribbean Cocktails & Cuisine

September 3, 2013 |

by Emily Gindlesparger, photos by Andrew Brown

Stepping across the threshold of Saint House is like entering a private club in the heydays of Havana. The lighting is low, the booths are plush and the rum list – 40 labels strong – seems straight from a private collection. Decorating the high walls above the bar is a local stamp on this otherwise Caribbean locale. Artist Gonzalo Morales has painted a mural in three pieces, swirling figures that get more fascinating after every drink.

“If you spend time looking at it you’re going to discover the different shapes and forms,” Morales explains of the work. “On the second or third drink, just look at the art. It’s there to entertain the people who come.”

Against the dark walls of the rum house, Morales’ bright canvas colorfully pops in the light with yellow, magenta, green and purple hues. In a unique artistic twist, the mural is done in watercolor, a medium normally reserved for fine paper, but in Saint House, Morales has splashed it across his gesso-primed board.

“I was thinking of the Caribbean Sea, the colors and the jungle; I was thinking of Miami, and I made bright colors to match the restaurant. What inspired me was the Caribbean, and when you see the design on the wall you’ll see the waves.”

The signature drink here, even in the midst of a creative palate, is the simple daiquiri: rum, sugar and lime. And each spirit poured into this simple cocktail creates a wildly different experience.

“We carry a lot of rum because rum is the most diverse spirit in the world, and in some ways the most misunderstood,” explains Nicole Flowers and Travis Reese, co-owners who began their downtown ventures with 47 Scott and Scott & Co.

Rum is constantly pegged as sweet and syrupy – not surprising with its foundation in sugarcane – but as Saint House proves, there are styles and flavors from all over the world to be explored. On every table sits a little yellow chapbook titled The Book of Rum, and in it 17 countries are represented: from Brazil to Java with many islands in between.

Each environment and distillation produces a different signature. The Mount Gay Eclipse Gold from Barbados is fruity and bright, with an aftertaste of sucking on a chip of coconut, whereas the Rhum Clement Agricole from Martinique is described as “grassy and wild” in the restaurant’s Book of Rum, and it’s both spunky and distinguished. Those two terms could describe so much about the experience of Saint House, which has such clean-cut styling that’s still faintly reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, with snappy servers and hostesses who coordinate the party.

Woven into this tropical diversity is a little taste of Sonora. From the Vicious Virgin #3, based on Bacanora and grapefruit, to the shrimp ceviche styled with pico and clamato and Caribbean-inspired tacos, local ties thread through this restaurant right where it belongs, Downtown on the corner of Congress Street and Arizona Avenue.

Saint House is located at 256 E. Congress St. Call 207-7757 or visit SaintHouseRumBar.com for hours, menus and more details.