cocktail recipe

9 rums you should be drinking

 

Our previous update “9 things you should know about rum” proved to be surprisingly popular, in fact at one point the b&t website crashed because it couldn’t handle all the visits, ‘likes’ and ‘shares’. So since the sun has continued to shine (up until today!) and I have rum on my mind, I thought I’d use this excuse to follow up with a look at some of the rums I’m particularly enjoying at the moment and maybe even throw in a few rum cocktails while I’m at it. Well it gives me an excuse to spend the some time sipping cocktails as ‘research and development’ for this blog.

This post could easily be titled ’39 rums you should be drinking’ but that might be a little impractical honestly, after all, developing nine new cocktails kept me pretty busy. So if you don’t see your favourite rum below, that doesn’t mean I don’t like it, I simply wanted to tell you about a few that I’m particularly enjoying at the moment. I’ve included a new cocktail recipe for each, as well as a few of my thoughts, which I hope will inspire you to grab a bottle of good rum, a few fresh ingredients, and a shaker.

Marching to the beat of a different RUM

 

I love it when the doorbell rings and there’s a booze related package waiting to be signed for. I especially love it when it’s a new product that I haven’t tasted before and know almost nothing about. There’s something wonderful about the anticipation of seeing a bottle for the first time and wonder if it will be a new favourite or simply a bottle that will be pushed to the back of the b&t drinks cabinet to gather dust.

 

So when a bottle of the new spiced product from Bacardi, ‘Oakheart’ arrived on my doorstep I was eager to see where it would fit in the b&t drinking room. And now that I’ve tried it?… I’m still not sure!

 

The mysterious magic of bitters

It’s a familiar scene; you're sat at the bar watching your drink be made, the ingredients go in one by one, then the bartender reaches for a tiny bottle and dashes of few drops of bitters in before shaking or stirring it to perfection. Before I was in the drinks industry I remember being slightly mystified by these few drops of liquid and to be honest I wondered what so small an amount of anything could possibly add to my drink. Was this just for show or part of the magic of making cocktails?
 
 
Now more than ever bars have huge selections of bitters, often in unmarked bottles or with homemade labels on them. They have become one of the biggest fads in the drinks industry and more varieties are coming onto the market all the time. A few years back it was’nt uncommon to find that a bar had maybe two or three varieties of bitters, almost certainly Angostura, maybe Peychaud’s and maybe even an orange bitters. Now a bar isn’t complete without whiskey barrel aged bitters, celery, lemon, cardamom, liquorice, mole, peach, pineapple, and a selection of freshly brewed homemade flavours. So what is it about these mysterious liquids that make them so indispensible to the modern bartender and why do we use them in cocktails anyway?
 
 
I touched on the subject of bitters in a recent blog update and mentioned their origins as tonics for your health and in fact many early cocktails were designed to help the drinker deal with any number of different maladies. But over the years their health giving properties have become less of a focus however what they add to a drink is still indispensible. Ask any good bartender about bitters and they’re likely to tell you they are ‘seasoning for cocktails’ in just the way that salt and pepper are for food.
 

Classic winter warmers

Well Christmas and New Year have come and gone, but judging by the temperature and weather outside, we’re still in the throws of winter! It seems that in every bar I walk into at these days someone is sipping either a mulled drink or some incarnation of a Hot Toddy. On a cold winters’ day there are few things more rewarding than a well-made, hot alcoholic drink.
 
 
It seems that few bartenders actually know what a Hot Toddy is, and when asked for one, serve something that’s a cross between a Blazer and a Skin, but that’s just fine with me as long as they get the balance of ingredients right. You see the Toddy is the simplest of drinks, comprising hot water, your alcohol of choice and sugar; a Skin is similar but with the addition of citrus peel, and a Blazer is in essence a Skin that has been ignited and thrown from one cup to another.
 

Belvedere dream job?...

The drinks industry is a pretty amazing one to work in. The pay isn’t usually great, the hours can be pretty rough and you do have to put up with being looked down on by ‘real professionals’’, but on the upside we eat and drink like rock stars, get to travel to far flung countries to visit distilleries and get to do the jobs that we love. Admittedly the burnout rate is pretty high as most people can only take being broke and over-worked for a few years before they want something more from life. The question is what to do when you’re tired of tending bar?
 
 
These days there are more options than ever, with people opening bar schools, starting consultancies or opening their own dream bar once they decide to step out from behind the one they're working at. But more and more bartenders seem to be turning to the spirit brands looking for a job as a Brand Ambassador to pay the bills and keep them in the industry they love. While these jobs are more common than they used to be, they are still few and far between, so when one comes up for grabs there is usually pretty fierce competition.

Maybe I'll be a distiller for a month... or maybe you will?!

I have a pretty good job; but if there is one thing I have always wanted to do it’s to work as a distiller. I love the craft that goes into making spirits, especially those that are aged and blended. There is a real art form to it and while I am sure the actual work is hard, the reward of being able to taste and enjoy your finished product and seeing other people enjoy it must be amazing!
 
 
Well as chance would have it, the guys at Spook Media who look after PR for Bushmills Whiskey dropped me a line to let me know that they are running a competition for someone to win exactly that opportunity! Not being fully familiar with the Bushmills range I asked them to fill the gaps for me, and after a weekend spent enjoying and experimenting with a drop or two of their fine Irish nectar I thought it would be rude not to share my findings with you.
 
 
But first a word about this competition. It’s not often that you’re presented the chance to work in a distillery, let alone spend 30 days in Ireland, all expenses paid with £5000 spending money and at the end of it have the chance to produce your own blend of whiskey! To a drinks geek such as myself that really does sound like the next best thing to actually being a master distiller!
 

Drinking Chocolate

Well it’s Easter again, which of course means I have every excuse to over-indulge on chocolate, with almost no guilt whatsoever. This year though, I am not going to be having an Easter egg. No sir! I’ll be getting my chocolate fix in liquid form instead.
 
The idea of using chocolate in drinks is of course nothing new, and at this time of year especially there are plenty of drinks being posted on cocktail blogs and websites that are absolutely loaded with chocolaty goodness. But I thought it might be time for something a bit different; so grabbing all the chocolate I could find in the house, I set about making drinks that subtly celebrate cocoa in all its glory.
 
You see, when you add chocolate to a drink it can get pretty rich and sickly, and frankly I’d rather enjoy lots of chocolate drinks (responsibly of course!) than have one or two and then feel sick. So this Easter at b&t HQ we’ll be enjoying a few well-balanced drinks with just enough chocolate to tease the taste buds, but not so much that there’ll be a need to diet once Easter is over.
 

For your eyes only

I was looking back through some drink recipes the other day and I noticed a pattern. It seems like over the years I have tended to use the same ingredients repeatedly. I noticed that I went through a phase of using Jager in cocktails, after that I was using noilly amber a lot, then I moved on to Lillet Blanc and recently it has been merlet’s crème de poire. I seem to get caught up on what a certain ingredient bring to a drink and find myself adding it to all sorts of creations almost without realising it.
 
I guess it makes sense really. I wander into a bar and the bartender says ‘have you tried the new such-and-such from so-and-so?’ I have a taste and think ‘wow that would really work in a ….’. Next thing you know I have bought a bottle and it is worked into my drinks repertoire until the next new thing comes along.
 
When I thought about it a bit more I realised that I even associate certain ingredients with certain bartenders. Some are obvious connections. Jager will always make me think of Gregor and I can’t see Galliano in a drink without thinking of Ago from The Connaught bar. Some are less obvious though, Noilly Ambre for example makes me think of Pete Jeary who first introduced me to it and still swears by it as his secret weapon when making cocktails.
 
A quick phone around to a few bartender friends confirmed my suspicions; we all have our secret go to ingredients. It confirmed another thing too… some bartenders will put the damnedest things together in the name of using their secret ingredients, but somehow they usually pull it off!
 
This phenomenon certainly deserved further investigation (any excuse for a night out!) so I called in on Victor from LAB and he listed a few things that he is using a lot at the moment including Wray and Nephew and pimento dram. When he told me that he had a great drink up his sleeves using yellow chartreuse and cardamom bitters I decided to dodge the overproof rum bullet and try that instead.

Leave out the limes!

There’s only so much citric acid a man can take! Don’t get me wrong, I love a well-made daiquiri (with Havana Club 3yo please…) as much as the next guy, and on a sunny day it’s hard to beat a Tommy’s margarita. But after years of drinking caipirinhas, margaritas, daiquiris and aviations I have to say that my love affair with citrus fruit is over!
 
I am always a little disappointed when ordering my first cocktail in a bar when the conversation goes something like this:
 
Bartender: what do you fancy Dan?
Me: I’m not sure, but I’m in the mood for some rum or tequila
Bartender: how about a margarita?
Me: hmmmmm
Bartender: or maybe a daiquiri?
 
It sometimes seems like I am being presented with the most obvious choices not to mention drinks that are easy to make (3 ingredients, shaken and up…). I understand the reason for this, they are popular drinks and generally require little conversation and not a lot of time to make. That’s fine, but it also means that far too many drinkers are missing a chance to taste these fantastic spirits in ways that would perhaps hide their character less.
 

some things are just better homemade

 
We posted a blog about homemade syrups a while back http://www.bittersandtwisted.com/content/ahhhhh-how-sweet and had a few people contact us looking for recipes that any bartender could use to get started. You know the sorts of syrups that are essential to certain drinks but that the commercial ones available leave a bit to be desired. So as we are always keen to please, we contacted a few friends who make their own to get their best recipes.
 
 
We started with a couple of syrups essential to tiki drinks (but also called for in many classic cocktail books). Orgeat and grenadine are two syrups that can transform a drink, but after a syrups tasting I did for Imbibe magazine last year, I was left thinking that the shop bought ones were pretty poor. Paul bases his recipes on a 50/50 sugar syrup (controversial, but having tasted the results who are we to argue?) which he makes in bulk, taking equal parts sugar and water and boiling them gently for about 20 minutes with crème de tartar (1/4 teaspoon will do 6 litres)
 
 
So here are a couple of recipes that Paul Bradley gave us that really hit the mark: