The classic Negroni is very much like the Manhattan: it’s a variable and customisable cocktail, as long as the basic recipe (spirit-vermouth-Campari) is respected. One variation is here, from Milk & Honey‘s Mickey McIlroy: the Right Hand. Here, the gin is replaced with a dark rum, and the rum and bitter flavours are drawn together with a few dashes of chocolate bitters. The result is a lovely, rich & interesting drink, with plenty of overlapping flavours. A pal had provided me with some excellent home-made chocolate & Absinthe bitters which proved absolutely perfect. I may actually prefer this to a classic Negroni – the rum is more warming, but this wouldn’t be a great pre-dinner drink, probably too rich. But as something to sip with something salty, or after dinner, it’s a great idea.
50ml dark rum (I used Skipper here)
25ml Italian vermouth
Dashes of chocolate bitters
Stir over ice in your mixing glass, then fine strain into a highball glass with a single large ice cube. Garnish with orange zest, or a dried orange slice as I did here.
My Baron Samedi hat was in use at New Year at a masked party & although sadly we didn’t have a rum-based cocktail at the time, I thought I’d properly honour the spirit of the Baron with his favourite spirit, and mix up a voodoo-themed cocktail this weekend.
The recipe comes from Difford’s Guide. and he describes it having been invented by the sculptor and bartender, Alex Kammerling in 2002.
I like the drink – the base is a rum Manhattan variant, made fresh by the addition of fresh lime and apple juices. This turns it into a longer drink, but with plenty of alcoholic heft. The Baron would approve. My only change is to add some bitters to give it a little more zip – and with a nod to the voodoo theming, I have used Peychaud’s bitters (Peychaud was born in Haiti, before settling in New Orleans). These seem to complement the apple and lime perfectly, but ginger would probably work just as well.
2 shots dark rum (I used Havana Club 7 Años, Diffords suggest Bacardi Carta Ocho)
3/4 shot Martini Rosso
2 1/2 shots of fresh apple juice
1/2 shot of lime juice
1/4 shot sugar syrup
Option – dashes of bitters to suit
Garnish by sprinkling cinnamon through a flame onto the drink.
Shake well over ice, then strain into a Collins (Diffords method) or Old Fashioned glass (my preference), filled with ice.
I flew back from Hong Kong last night, and was able to take advantage of the Virgin Clubhouse before the flight. Their bar was showcasing a number of cocktails specially mixed for them by the innovative Hong Kong cocktail bar, Quinary, and their Barbados Heritage sounded like one I should try. So I did. Although a little sweet for my taste, the flavours in this drink are fantastic – rich, smooth & spicy, with a definite afterbite from the absinthe & the chocolate bitters, which give it a rounded and slightly aniseedy lingering flavour. I am a very happy rum drinker, and think this cocktail really does show off the strengths of a decent, aged rum really well. I am back out to Hong Kong on April, so plan to make a visit to Quinary one evening – if this drink is typical of their style of cocktail making, I’d like to try more from their menu.
I’d like to mention the Clubhouse barman at this point: Patrick was a star, not only making a great drink, but taking the time to come out & to find out what we thought about the Quinary recipes they were trying. He was a true enthusiast & as perfect an exemplar of a barman you can imagine.
The Clubhouse menu does not give proportions, so I am estimating here:
1 measure Mount Gay XO rum
1/2 measure Cointreau
1/2 measure Drambuie
Dashes of Pernod absinthe
Dashes of chocolate bitters
Stir over ice, then strain into a chilled glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick & orange zest.
I recently added Michael Dietsch’s book, Shrubs, to my collection of drink books, this being a history of two distinctly-different styles of drink that share the same name and most likely a common ancestor in the middle Eastern sherbet, a combination of fruit flavours and sweetening to make a refreshing drink. The first style of shrub is the older English combination of citrus and sugar, steeped in alcohol, that developed when this country opened up trade with the caribbean and citrus fruit, rum and sugar became more available. The other shrub is a vinegar-based fruit drink that came out of the early colonial period in America, presumably using the antiseptic and preservative properties of vinegar to preserve the fruit ingredients of the drink.
I wanted to make one of the older, English-style drinks based on rum & sugar, so settled on a recipe from Dietsch’s book that came from the papers of Benjamin Franklin, one of the most famous founding fathers of the U.S.A. He was a remarkably talented man who crossed the Atlantic nine times in his amazing life – no small achievement when this meant an arduous journey by sail. America, as a trading colony, is reflected in the recipe – simply sugar, combined with rum and oranges, and left to steep for several weeks. Unlike Franklin’s recipe, which runs to gallons and quarts of ingredients, I made a smaller batch: half a cup of sugar, two oranges & half a bottle of rum.
The method is simple: Firstly, juice the oranges, and combine with the sugar. Then, in a bottle, combine the peel from the juiced oranges with the rum and leave overnight.
The following day, remove the peels, and add the sugar/juice combination to the rum and shake to combine. The mixture should then be left somewhere cool and dark to mature for 3-4 weeks.
My mixture went into the bottle at the weekend, so will be ready sometime around the beginning of March.
Wondering what to do with my opened bottle of port from Christmas, and looking for drinks to use it in, the discovery of the Suburban came as a happy surprise. It is a very, very good drink indeed & definitely worth trying.
Port may not appear too often on modern cocktail lists, but its inclusion in British mixed drinks is as old as the drink itself: punch was often made with port or another fortified wine, along with brandy, and served at Christmas. Taylors, one of the older port houses still features a recipe on their website.
The Suburban then is an unusual creature, using port but coming from an American source: the drink appears in the Waldorf-Astoria bar book, and the name comes from a horse race of the same name, the Suburban classic. This late C19th appearance puts it into the ‘classic’ category of drinks, and I would say it certainly was. The drink is a solid mix of bourbon (or rye, if you prefer), port & dark rum with plenty of bitters and he result is a cross between a Manhattan and an Old-Fashioned, but a very grown-up hybrid of the two. It’s a cocktail to be approached with care, drunk in a panelled room, lit by a roaring fire.
I am following Richard Godwin’s suggestion in his excellent drinks book, The Spirits, and using tawny port. This is lighter, more flavourful, than ruby or vintage port, and does not overpower the drink with excessive sweetness.
40ml of bourbon (Buffalo Trace here)
20ml of tawny port (Graham’s 10y.o. tawny here)
20ml of dark rum (Havana Club 7y.o. here)
Good dashes of Angostura bitters
Good dashes of orange bitters (Fee’s, here)
Stir ingredients over ices, then strain into an Old-Fashioned glass with fresh ice. Garnish with large slice of orange zest.
We had dinner last night in the Rum & Crab Shack in St Ives, a great restaurant located right on the harbour, which has a range of caribbean & creole cooking, including dishes such as jambalaya, gumbo & po’ boys (which covers the ‘crab’ side of the name). The other half of their menu (the ‘rum’ part) is a 35-strong range of the sugar cane distillation, organised by style, strength, flavour & so on. You could spend a happy evening just sampling their neat spirits, but I opted for their recommended after-dinner cocktail, the Old-fashioned.
I am very fond of this cocktail, because of its simplicity & elegance, and it was great to try a version that not only was based on rum, but also included an ingredient that I had read about, but never actually tried: Velvet Falernum. This is a Barbadian liqueuer, made by John D. Taylor, with rum infused by various herbs & spices – a little like the home-made rum concoctions you are served on beach bars in the Bahamas, each one a secret recipe of the barman, and all guaranteed to cure anything from impotence to hair loss. This spiced rum was then mixed with a very old rum from the Diplomatico range, their Reserva Exclusiva. I had just bought a bottle of this to sip by itself, and so the chance to try it in a cocktail seemed too good an opportunity to pass by.
The resulting drink, served in a cool old-fashioned tumbler with a very large cube of ice, was initially way too sweet for my taste, but after some stirring to dilute the drink with a little water from the ice revealed a much more attractive drink, though if I made it home, I think I would add barely any sugar. The drink had an almost smoky flavour, with heavy notes of vanilla, toffee & treacle, all cut through by the refreshing citrus kick from the lime & orange zests. It was a very good drink to round off a spicy creole meal.
Proportions (I am guessing here from the drink’s impression on me; the menu only gave the ingredients):
2 ozs of dark rum (Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva)
1 oz of Velvet Falernum
Dashes of Angostura bitters
Glass: Small tumbler or old-fashioned glass.
Shake bitters onto a sugar cube and lime rind & muddle in the glass until the sugar is crushed. Add a few drops of water if liked to dissolve the sugar. Add single large ice cube, then pour rum & Velvet Falernum over the ice, and stir. Garnish with a large slice of orange zest.
A recent addition to my drinks collection was a bottle of 7 year old Havana Club; this is a wonderfully dark, rich rum, good for sipping as well as mixing, so I wanted to find a complex cocktail recipe that could match the level of flavour in this drink. I had tried a Palmetto recently, which has been described as a ‘rum Manhattan’, but I thought this rum deserved more. Taking a cue from the Sidecar I made a few weeks ago, I settled on the Embassy, a drink that originated in the eponymous Embassy Club in Hollywood in the 1920s. Sadly, history doesn’t record the barman who invented the drink, but the story of Eddie Brandstatter, the restaurateur who opened this, and many others, before sadly taking his own life in the 1940s is as fascinating as this drink: with three different spirits and a decent amount of lime juice, it is like a very grown up Margharita. It is a potent cocktail, and when I sipped it, I could imagine the bright young things of the twenties enjoying it in California nearly a century ago.
Approach with caution, mix with élan & drink like you are partying with Clara Bow.
1oz of fresh lime juice
3/4oz of Cointreau or Triple Sec (I used Gabriel Boudier Curaçao Triple Sec)
3/4oz of Brandy or Cognac (I used Chateau de Millet Bas Armagnac)
3/4oz of Rum (Havana Club, 7 year old)
Dashes of bitters (I used my own house Bt bitters)
Glass: 3oz Martini glass, chilled
Shake well in a shaker over ice, then strain into the Martini glass. Garnish with a wedge of lime.
Variations: Diffords guide makes this drink with white rum. This would make the drink lighter, but much drier I imagine.