Centuries ago, rum was filthy stuff. The vats of molasses by-product that bubbled across the Caribbean sometimes refused to ferment, a problem amateur spirits producers solved by tossing dead sheep in the still. And if the rum was coming along nicely, a distiller might empty a chamber pot into the drink to discourage enslaved Africans from sampling it.
Bacardi and mojitos have since made rum so respectable that the Seattle-based Tommy Bahama is now offering $50,000, a new wardrobe, and a rum ambassadorship to "a person with a vast knowledge of all things related to rum." By which the company no doubt means cocktails, not carcasses. (For more on rum's barbarous history, check out Wayne Curtis' And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the World in Ten Cocktails. I gushed so heartily over the book when I finally met Curtis that he spent the better part of a Tales of the Cocktail conference fleeing further encounters with me.)
"We realized we had the need for an expert to navigate our 200-plus rums," says Tommy Bahama's senior vice president of marketing Rob Goldberg.
The winning "rumologist" will launch rum programs at the chain's 13 restaurants, keep a rum blog, develop rum cocktails, and lead rum demonstrations in tropical locales. "It's really a dream job," Goldberg says.
Tommy Bahama could have plucked its spokesperson from the ranks of known bartenders and rum aficionados, but Goldberg says "we wanted to leave no stone turned." Anybody interested in the position can upload a short application video to a dedicated Facebook page.
A contestant's ability to mix a proper Cuba Libre doesn't matter as much as personality, Goldberg says. "We have a different kind of corporate culture, so it has to be someone who can fit into our joie de vivre," Goldberg says. "They just have to love rum."
The ambassador will participate in the opening of Tommy Bahama's flagship restaurant in New York City, the first in a series of new locations. "We'll probably open two next year, but we're not a big chain," Goldberg says.
The planned locations don't include Seattle, although Goldberg says the company's looking for the right venue here.
"We haven't found it yet," says Goldberg. "But all of us want to be able to go to a Tommy Bahama."