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.
I’ve based the cocktails in this update around fresh fruit and tropical flavours as both are a natural starting point when it comes to rum. However creating all these drinks has served to remind me how versatile rum really is; as a category it offers so much scope for every style of drink, and just smelling and tasting the rums below reinforced what a wide range of aromas and flavours they offer.
Here’s an old favourite rum of ours, created by the guys at Havana Club in Cuba, their Seleccion de Maestros. As is traditional with Cuban rums, this is a light and delicate spirit with gentle hints of citrus and spice in the background, balanced against a fairly understated sweetness. At 45% abv the alcohol comes through quite strong at first when sipping it neat, but this fades into the background when mixing it with other ingredients. It’s an elegant rum and as such it’s wise to be restrained with the flavours you throw at it.
I wanted to come up with an easy sipping, refreshing cocktail, and thought that adding a hint of espresso into the background along with subtle spice notes would add an interesting dimension to the drink. If you aren’t familiar with Falernum, it’s a Caribbean syrup flavoured with almond, cloves, ginger and lime zest. For me this is one of the magical ingredients when combined with rum, and you’ll see I’ve used it in several of the drinks below.
50ml Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros
20ml fresh lime juice
1 heaped tablespoon pomegranate seeds
Muddle the pomegranate seeds, espresso and falernum together and add remaining ingredients along with plenty of cubed ice. Shake hard before fine straining into a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Top with a splash of ginger beer and garnish with a mint sprig and pomegranate seeds.
I love the rums produced by Santa Teresa, but my favourite by far is the Santa teresa 1796. It’s at the premium end of the range from this Venezuelan producer, and is one of my top 10 sipping rums. As great as it is on its own, it also cries out to be used in cocktails, and is always one of the first I think of when I stir a rum old fashioned. This is a rum that is less heavy and full bodied than many of the island rums, but is richer and has more depth than the light Hispanic rums of Cuba and Puerto Rico. I always pick up notes of toffee, burnt orange and dry spices when I have this rum in my glass, and it never fails to remind me what an excellent spirit this is.
With the sun shining, my mind was calling out for more refreshing drinks, so instead of a simple stirred cocktail I want to get my fruit fix as well. Pear and Chartreuse is a combination that always balances well, and combined with the vibrant and flavourful rum as the backbone of the drink, this is one that I hope will leave your mouth watering. It's subtle, with fresh pear and gentle spice coming from the Chartreuse, but as always it comes down to using this powerful ingredient with a gentle touch. Just a splash too much can overpower this delicate and refreshing cocktail, get it right however and it'll reward you with a complex yet easy to sip drink.
50ml Santa Teresa 1796
10ml Merlet crème de poire
5ml green Chartreuse
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 cheek of a ripe red pear
Muddle the pear and add remaining ingredients before shaking hard with cubed ice. Fine strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a pear fan. You may want to make two though as the first one will almost certainly go down too easily!
In my recent post about rum I said that not all white rums are light and delicate, and that we are now seeing premium white rums that are more full bodied and rich coming to the market. El Dorado 3yo is one that falls into the rich and creamy camp. On both the nose and the palate you will find white chocolate, macadamia nut and cream soda jumping out. Underneath the rich aromas there are hints of orange peel, cinnamon and even dried tropical fruit. This three year old white rum has bags of character and as such it’s a pleasure to use as a base for cocktails as it doesn't get lost when you combine it with strongly flavoured ingredients.
Although I’ve been known to use this rum in place of brown spirits for an interesting twist on classics, I thought I’d see how it works in a more refreshing tropical drink. So below you’ll find the River Song cocktail, featuring hints of tropical fruit set against spice and ginger. The El Dorado 3yo is such a full bodied rum that it can handle these fresh summertime flavours and still shine through as the star of the drink. It's important when using fresh fruit that it's ripe and that you use the recipe as a guideline only as you may have to adjust the balance of the drink depending on the ripeness and sweetness of the fruit you're using.
50ml El Dorado 3yo white rum
25ml lime juice
½ passion fruit
1cm slice of fresh ginger
6 mint leaves
In a large rocks glass, gently muddle the mint leaves and Falernum, add remaining ingredients and a few cubes of ice. Stir together drawing the mint leaves up through the ice. Top with more ice as needed and a splash of soda, before garnishing with half a passion fruit and a sprig of mint.
Bacardi is another producer of the traditional Hispanic style of light and delicate rum; in fact they invented this style of rum back in 1862. The Limited Edition 1909 from Bacardi is a slightly amped-up version of the better known Bacardi Superior. The abv has been increased and with it, the flavours and aromas that are almost subdued in their standard product, come to the foreground. Citrus notes of burnt orange and grapefruit peel jump out as does a subtle coconut and toasted almond background with gentle nutmeg and peppercorn spice.
The two most famous drinks from Cuba, where Bacardi started out before the revolution forced them to move to Puerto Rico and Mexico, are of course the Daiquiri and the Mojito. I was curious to see if I could bring the two together to get the light notes of a well-made Mojito to play with the crisp aspects of the Daiquiri. When I was in the Zetter Town House the other night, a bartender presented me with a straight up version of a Mint Julep made with peppermint tea syrup and instantly I knew what to do!
The name for the drink is meant as a playful tongue in cheek reference to the fact that Bacardi had to turn on their Cuban Heels and beat a retreat from Cuba after the revolution; a move that in retrospect has done them no harm as they continue to be a dominant force in the world of rum.
CUBAN HEELS COCKTAIL
50ml Bacardi Heritage Limited Edition 1909
15ml peppermint tea syrup
20ml fresh lime juice
5 mint leaves
Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker along with plenty of cubed ice, and shake hard. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with a small splash of soda water before garnishing the rim of the glass with a small sprig of mint. This drink evoked the fragrance and delicate aromas of the mojito, but with the sharp intensity of the daiquiri. It is in essence, the best of both worlds!
This is a new rum to the UK that launched just a couple of weeks back, and for me this is one of the most exciting cocktail rums I’ve seen for a long time. It’s an intriguing blend of rums from seven different countries, and includes within it a touch of Arrack. The nose offers burnt caramel, flamed citrus, intense spice and rich coconut, with a vegetal note that reminds me of rhum agricole. It’s the flavour that gets me most excited though, starting with toffee sweetness and the rich warming taste of toasted almonds and nutmeg, before turning surprisingly dry in a very pleasant way. There’s a slow lingering finish to this delightful rum that leaves you wanting another sip, in order to experience the journey of flavours that open up on your tongue.
There’s so much going on with this blend of rums that I found myself excited at the world of possibilities it presented to me in regards to ingredients I could throw at it. In the end I decided that pineapple, orange and spice would work well, but I wanted to let the rum shine through and not turn the drink to fruity. I made the Trade Winds Cocktail for a group of friends over the weekend and it was the stand out drink of the night, so I hope you’ll buy a bottle and give it a go yourself. If you want to add an extra dimension then try infusing the Banks Golden Age with sundried pineapple first (available from most health food stores if you’re wondering), it’s a match made in heaven.
GOLDEN TRADE WINDS
60ml Banks Golden Age Rum
15ml pineapple juice
15ml fresh lime juice
3 dashes Bitter Truth orange bitters
4 pink peppercorns
Crush the peppercorns into the Falernum before adding the remaining ingredients along with plenty of cubed ice. Shake well, before straining into a chilled coupe and garnishing with a sundried pineapple wheel and a sliver or two of fresh coconut. If you’ve infused the rum with sundried pineapple slices, make sure you don’t let them go to waste when you finish the bottle, they’re a deliciously rummy snack in their own right.
This is another old favourite of mine, but I always seem to make the same drink with it, a daiquiri twist using maple syrup. The rum itself is a delicious Jamaican style rum, with warm dark sugar sweetness balanced against tropical fruit and warm nutty notes. It is somewhat lighter than the other rums from Appleton, but to me this just offers different mixing possibilities. Appleton Reserve 8yo offers hints of rich orange peel, nutmeg and vanilla set against caramel richness and an almost marzipan base note.
I didn’t want to hide the rum away behind tropical fruit ingredients so decided to go down the Old Fashioned route. For sweetness I felt that upping the rich honey and maple notes would still work nicely, but to add an interesting dimension I decided to set it against the slightly bitter flavour of espresso and add a garnish that would draw out the citrus and nut aromas I found in the neat spirit.
MAPLE ESPRESSO OLD FASHIONED
60ml Appleton Estate 8yo rum
5ml maple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
In a rocks glass add the maple syrup, espresso and bitters along with three or four cubes of ice. Add a splash of the rum and stir thoroughly, repeating the process until the 60ml of rum is in the glass and everything is well chilled and diluted. Garnish with an orange twist and some toasted almonds.
It’s hard to know where to start with the Plantation range of rums as they offer so much insight into the various styles of rum produced in different countries. You see this range is based around selecting rums from different countries and then giving them a secondary aging in France in cognac barrels. Plantation offer rums from many countries and while it was hard to choose which one to play with this time around I eventually settled for the five year old Barbados from their range.
Plantation five year old Barbados rum is such a strong example of the style of rum that this Island produces that it’s hard to resist, so I didn't. The aromas and flavours are dominated by rich, creamy coconut and vanilla notes, but it still offers complexity and structure. There are clove and cinnamon notes woven into the rich base, along with dried papaya and pineapple. This rum screams ‘tropical island’, so I thought I should honour that by accentuating the flavours I found in the rum whilst also making a drink that’s light and refreshing. Papaya is a fruit that really must be ripe if you're using it in cocktails as it just won't have enough flavour to stand up to other ingredients if it isn't. Look for a nicely coloured and soft fruit and you should be on to a winner.
CANE FIELD COOLER
50ml Plantation 5yo Barbados Rum
5ml crème de cacao
1 inch cube of fresh coconut
1 cm slice of ripe papaya
2 mint leaves
Muddle the coconut hard before adding the papaya and other ingredients along with plenty of cubed ice, shake hard and fine strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice and top with a splash of soda. Garnish with a slice of papaya, a sprig of mint and some grated coconut.
El Dorado 15yo is one of my favourite sipping rums ever, but is also a great cocktail rum if you fancy a little luxury in your life. This is a rich, full bodied rum, full of intense spice and concentrated dried fruits. Think cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and burnt orange peel, set against raisin, plum, candied orange and dates. It’s Christmas in a glass but with a tropical, rummy twist.
I usually sip this neat or use it in classic stirred drinks, and I didn’t want to do anything that would hide the rum too much, so I settled for a twist on the Treacle which is one of my favourite golden rum based drinks. The Treacle is modelled on the Old Fashioned but with a splash of apple juice to lift the flavour slightly. For El Dorado I decided that the traditional apple juice could be replaced with pineapple juice to take this classic in an interesting direction; I wasn’t disappointed.
60ml El Dorado 15yo
10ml pineapple juice
1 scant barspoon gomme
2 dashes orange bitters
In a rocks glass add the gomme, bitters and a splash of the rum to a few ice cubes, and stir until the cubes start to melt. Add more rum and ice and repeat until all the rum has been added and the drink is nicely chilled. At the last moment add the pineapple juice and stir it through. Garnish with a pineapple slice and an orange twist.
In my previous rum blog I said that Elements 8 have redefined what spiced rum should be and that you should have a bottle in your drinks cabinet… I hope you were listening! This spiced rum delivers bags of spice with a balanced sweetness that stops it from being cloying or sickly. It’s the perfect rum for introducing a spice element to your cocktails (see what I did there?), but it’s still a rum and not a liqueur so you get the lovely spirit as the base from which the flavours grow.
I wanted to make a summer refresher that was light enough to let the spices come through and would also allow the rum to speak for itself, so I reached for the refreshing flavour of ripe melon and took inspiration from the Collins, which is one of the most refreshing drinks there is.
SPICED MELON COLLINS
50ml Elements 8 Spiced Rum
20ml lemon juice
5 x 1 inch cubes of ripe cantaloupe melon
Muddle the melon thoroughly in the boston glass before adding remaining ingredients and shaking hard with cubed ice. Fine strain into a tall glass filled with cracked ice in a tall glass and top with a splash of soda. Garnish with a slice of melon and a lemon twist.
So there are my nine rums you should be drinking, and maybe some inspiration for how you might want to serve them. The summer is coming, and with any luck it will be a long sunny one that will give us plenty of opportunity to enjoy the refreshing, tropical flavours with which rum is associated. As I said in the previous rum blog, I believe that there is a rum to suit every taste, so find one that suits you and don’t look back. Long live rum!