There has been a transformation on the corner of 118th Street and Lenox Avenue. One of the original Harlem staple eateries boldly shuttered its doors for a trip around the world, and what they brought back was no mere T-shirt from the airport. What they brought back to Harlem is a new experience with a diaspora of rums—47 to be exact!
Owner Brian Washington-Palmer decided that after 15-plus years of service to the Harlem community with Native, he would take a bold, modern approach at reimagining what a run to the corner bodega could be. Still convenient and social, Washington-Palmer’s new bodega now adds whimsical to its credits with the birth of La Bodega 47 (@labodega47, 161 Lenox Ave., 212-280-4700, www.labodega47.com).
While I mourn the loss of one of my favorite Harlem dishes from Native (the Moroccan chicken), an invitation to join Washington-Palmer for a rum tasting was an awesome consolation. There are not many singular-spirit-focused bars in the city. We are fortunate to have a rum bar in Harlem.
The renovated space, while more closed off from the outside with walls in place of windows, is more open inside and bar-focused. The decor nods at a modern 1950s tiki lounge/boom boom room and winks at all that can be found at the corner bodega with labeled empty food cans acting as pendant lights and a wall of cereal boxes camouflaging a bathroom.
I sat down to a specialty cocktail list of both rum and non-rum drinks. So have no fear, gin, vodka and tequila drinkers, there is something for everyone—just a little more for the rum connoisseurs. The Banana Boat immediately caught my eye. In it: Santa Teresa 1796, Brazilian banana, allspice, vanilla cream, flamed orange and sea salt. I had to get it. Like an adult banana milkshake, it was complex and unique—a meal really!
Two other cocktails caught my attention, Storm Warning and Spice Trade. The first cauht my eye because it’s a reinvented Dark and Stormy with Goslings Rum, Laird’s Applejack, ginger, lemon, fresh thyme and soda. So refreshing! That fresh thyme really plays with your nose as you sip, giving you a full sensory experience. The second was made up of Old Overholt Rye, garam masala, sage, Creole bitters and pressed lemon—all of their juices are made fresh daily. It had my mouth begging for that Moroccan chicken—truly a unique cocktail.
One of the best parts of the tasting was the flights—a progression of different types of rum created by the knowledgeable staff. I have had both beer and wine flights before, but this experience exposed my palate to notes and flavors in a new way.
The first flight focused on the complexity of rum, starting with something considered easy and sweeter. The amber color and caramel taste of Don Julio Diplomatico was rich. Then came Don Q Gran Anejo and a less sweet progression to Cacao Prieto, a more floral and complex rum.
The second flight took me on a journey through the West Indies and their oak casks. We started in Haiti with Barbencourt, a drier rum. We moved on to Jamaica to try Blackwell, where the rum, ironically, sees less sunlight for a depth in color and taste. The last stop was a smooth and easy ride to Trinidad for Ron Zacapa.
There is something for everyone at La Bodega 47. They invite you over for a unique experience to share with friends. The food menu is on its way, and I am sure it will be filled with as much fun and fancy as the cocktail list.
Congratulations, Washington-Palmer and La Bodega 47! A run to the corner bodega will never be the same again.
Happy drinking and eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl, on Facebook or chat with her on Instant Messenger at AskSCHOP, Monday-Friday, 6-8 p.m. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.