Reason to Rum

Three of Strong Spirits in Portland transports visitors to a summer state of mind with its classic and inventive rum cocktails

A barstool at Three of Strong Spirits is not quite a beach chair in the tropics, but if you close your eyes it might feel pretty close. Warm rays stream in through the big windows facing Diamond Street in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood as tasting room manager Crystal Pomerleau shakes up daiquiris, painkillers, and the daily punch, as well as less familiar rum drinks.

Launched by Dave McConnell and Sam Pierce in July 2019, Three of Strong Spirits is named for the Caribbean formula for rum punch: “one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, and four of weak.” Because McConnell and Pierce couldn’t start distilling rum until they were up and running, they traveled to Casa Santana in Barranquilla, Colombia, to source Parchando, a rich, caramel-hued rum aged for 12 years in bourbon barrels. “We are the only United States distillery to work with them, and we had to convince them we weren’t going to ruin the rum,” McConnell says.

Three of Strong rums all start with organic evaporated cane juice and organic molasses. Master distiller Graham Hamblett, a veteran of Dogfish Head Distilling in Delaware and a former winemaker, uses wine yeasts in the distillation process, which “ferment cooler and slower to preserve more of the floral and vegetal flavors,” says McConnell. Their first product, Brightwater, is smoother than most white rums, with a clean, fresh flavor that works as well on its own as in a cocktail. It shines in a classic daiquiri, mixed by Pomerleau with just the right proportion of tart to sweet. Well shaken and chilled, the refreshing, pale green cocktail is a reminder that beach days are indeed ahead.

The Brightwater Daiquiri

  • 2 ounces Three of Strong Spirits Brightwater rum
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

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