By Ashley Strehle Hartman / World-Herald correspondent
Published in the Omaha World-Herald, November 30, 2017
Laka Lono Rum Club
Where: 1204 Howard St.
Hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Info: 402-502-2220 or www.lakalono.com
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With Thanksgiving behind us, we’re officially in the holiday season. Our schedules are about to get hectic and the weather is about to get chilly.
But, never fear, you can find some tropical solitude right here in Omaha. Laka Lono Rum Club, in the basement at 1204 Howard St., offers the perfect escape.
Laka Lono has about 16 individual cocktails, evenly divided between classic and Laka Lono originals, and four group cocktails designed for sharing.
The classic cocktails include tropical standbys like hurricanes, painkillers, mai tais and a smoked rum old-fashioned. Most cost $10 to $15.
Of these, I tried the hurricane, which was $9 and is made with Puerto Rican rum, dark rum, fassionola, orange and lime. I had to look up fassionola. It’s a tropical fruit syrup made with strawberries, pineapple, mango, passion fruit, hibiscus and lime.
I also tried the painkiller which cost $12 and includes navy rum, pineapple, mango and coconut.
Of the two, I preferred the painkiller. It made for easier drinking, and its pineapple flavor was more noticeable, yet not overpowering.
The eight Laka Lono originals are priced similarly to the classics, but are more creative, both in name and ingredients.
For example, Wilson’s Last Resort (named after Wilson from the movie “Cast Away”) includes Nicaraguan rum, mezcal, pineapple, cinnamon, lime, lapsang souchong and coconut. Mezcal is an alcohol made from agave plants and lapsang souchong is a type of black tea.
My favorite Laka Lono original was the Rock of Brazil. It was $12 and includes Amburana-aged cachaça, dry curacao, guava, lemongrass and aquafaba.
Amburana is a wood found only in the forests of Latin America. Cachaça is a spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice. Aquafaba is the water in which legume seeds, such as chickpeas, have been cooked. When you describe aquafaba like that, it doesn’t sound appetizing. But, trust me, aquafaba must taste good because the Rock of Brazil is delicious.
All of the drinks at Laka Lono are a step above the tropical drinks you’d get at most area bars. You won’t get bland margaritas made with bottled mixes here. All the drinks are expertly crafted and prepared in front of you.
That means two things — you have to wait a bit longer for your drinks and you’ll pay more for them when they arrive.
These drinks are meant to be sipped and savored. At Laka Lono you’ll be happy to take your time.
From the outside, Laka Lono doesn’t look like much. You go down a staircase and you’re met with plain black door and a simple blue sign with a pair of mermaids sitting on a rum barrel.
Inside, though, things are different. There are large tiki statues, faux stone enclaves, hula-grass-covered tiki bars, brushed concrete floors, hanging rope chairs and wooden tables engraved with seahorses. There are intricate wooden designs installed on the ceiling, unique light fixtures and plenty of cozy, red leather booths.
Faint tropical music plays in the background, and the colored lights are kept low so everything has a warm, pink glow.
With just a little bit of imagination and the right cocktail, you can almost forget you’re in the middle of Nebraska in the middle of winter.
Laka Lono is the little piece of paradise you need this holiday season.