Old-fashioned: Diplomatico Reserva

Old Fashioned, made with Diplomatico rum & Velvet Falernum
Old Fashioned, made with Diplomatico rum & Velvet Falernum

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

Lime wedge

Sugar cube

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.

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Dark & Stormy*

The Dark & Stormy, as mixed at the Porthminster Beach Café
The Dark & Stormy, as mixed at the Porthminster Beach Café

Cocktail, or highball? It’s really the latter; the drink really only has two ingredients: dark rum (here, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum) and ginger ale, with more ale than rum. Garnish is a lime wedge.

There’s not much to the drink, but as a pre-dinner reviver, this one really hit the spot.

I’m not a big fan of flavoured rums, but on a fine, sunlit evening in St Ives in the best fish restaurant in the south west, the Porthminster Café, it really was a great pre-dinner drink.

* Naming note: I have spelled this drink with an ampersand. The original Dark ‘n’ Stormy recipe is protected by trademarks, filed by the rum company, Gosling’s, who invented the original drink, using only their Black Seal rum & a particular Bermudan brand of ginger beer (although they have recently changed to their own). If you’d like to know why, then an article in the New York Times will enlighten you.