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Remarkable Rum

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Written by Amy Sherman   
Friday, 12 June 2009

ImageRum has a long history, with precursors dating all the way back to ancient India or China. But the modern and best known versions of rum are from the Caribbean and Latin America. In 1493 Columbus introduced sugar cane to the islands of the Caribbean from the Canary Islands and the distillation of rum is well recorded as early as the 17th century. It was made from molasses, a by-product of the sugar refining process, and used as currency to buy slaves and to pay workers and was rationed among sailors in the Royal Navy.

For many people, rum has a tropical flavor that conjures up romantic images of swashbuckling pirates, sunshine and sea breezes.  Today, rum is made from sugar cane juice, syrup or molasses. It is generally aged in oak whiskey or bourbon barrels, giving it both color and flavor. Rum is an amazingly varied spirit, it can be light or dark, young or aged, dry or sweet. It can be used for mixed drinks or for sipping.

Remarkable Rum

Because of its complexity, rum is a very enjoyable spirit, even for those who tend to prefer wine over hard liqueur. If you have only ever tried mixed drinks with rum, here are three highly recommended sipping rums to savor.

Image1. Mount Gay 1703: This rum, two years in the making, was just recently introduced, and the bottle bears the familiar image of a map of Barbados. The name Mount Gay refers to an early caretaker at the distillery. It consists of reserve rums that have aged from between 10 and 30 years and is extremely smooth and elegant with a very long finish. It has luscious notes of banana, leather, spice, caramel and oak.

 

Image2. Ron Zacapa Centenario 23: Produced from a blend of vintage rums of up to 23 years in the barrel and fermented with pineapple yeast. It is made in the solera method used to make sherry. This rum from Guatemala is made from virgin sugar cane syrup, also known as honey. It has spice and caramel notes of molasses and fudge.  It is creamy, sweet and slightly viscous.

 

Image3. Ron Barcelo Imperial: From the Domincan Republic, aged up to 8 years in Kentucky bourbon barrels it tastes much older. It is very rich with vanilla, toffee and dried fruit, orange and a touch of tobacco. It's balanced, medium bodied, delicate and a bit on the drier side.

 


For more reviews and information about rum check out Rum Dood, Scotts' Rum Pages and Ministry of Rum.

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 11 June 2009 )
 

Bitters: From home remedies to flavor enhancer

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Written by Amy Sherman   
Sunday, 26 April 2009
ImageIf bitters sound like old fashioned medicine that's because originally, that's what they were. Based on home remedies, bitters were made with an alcoholic base and botanicals such as herbs, spices and citrus. Before the Food and Drug Act of 1906, anyone could bottle and sell potions in the United States and make wild unsubstantiated health claims and they often did.

With the rise of cocktails, bitters became a valued ingredient, creating balance, adding depth of flavor and masking poor quality alcohol. One of the earliest and most well-known bitters, available to this day is Angostura Bitters. Created by a doctor, the exact ingredients remain a secret. In addition to being a bar ingredient, Angostura claims their bitters can be used as a mosquito repellent and a flavor enhancer for cooking.

ImageBitters come in many different flavors and variations, most use alcohol as a base though a few do not. One of the only American brands of bitters to survive prohibition is Peychaud's Aromatic Cocktail Bitters. It is used in cocktails such as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned and famous New Orleans cocktail the Sazerac.

Artisanal bitters to try include Fee Brothers bitters which sell such flavors as Mint, Peach and Grapefruit, and bitters from The Bitter Truth which include Celery, Lemon, and a version inspired by Jerry Thomas, the father of American Bartending. You can also make your own bitters, check out theses recipe on Saveur (save recipe), the Washington Post (save recipe) for Orange Bitters.

Old Fashioned


  • 2 oz bourbon or rye
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup (or teaspoon each sugar and water)
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • 1 orange slice

Mix simple syrup and bitters in an old-fashioned glass. Add the cherry and orange. Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back end of a spoon. Pour in whiskey, fill with ice cubes, and stir.

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 26 April 2009 )
 

Genever: A Classic Spirit Alive Today

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Written by Amy Sherman   
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
ImageOne of the trends in modern bartending is a return to classic cocktails. The seminal guide to cocktails written in 1862 is called How to Mix Drinks or the Bon Vivant's Companion. It was written by a leading bartender of his day, Jerry Thomas, and it is back in print today. Using the guide requires a little sleuthing. What was once called gin or Holland gin, was not gin at all, but genever.

Like gin, genever is infused with botanicals including juniper berries. It is made from malt wine which is distilled from corn, rye and wheat in copper pots. Genever has more of the characteristics of whiskey than of gin, it is malty, viscous and earthy.  In the 18th century records indicate it was the most popular spirit in the United States. It was the inspiration for British style gin, but cannot be used interchangeably.

ImageGenever doesn't pair well with tonic but is the basis for many of the Jerry Thomas era cocktails. Though not every version of the Jerry Thomas guide specified which gin was to be used, The Holland Gin Daisy, Gin Cocktail, Julep Toddy and Sling were most likely Holland gin or genever drinks. Other types of gin include London dry, old Tom gin or old Tom.  Bols Genever from Holland is made with a recipe dating back to 1820, at 42% alcohol it is designed to be used in cocktails. Try it for a taste of what cocktails were like way back when.

Here are a few recipes to try:

John Collins

Mix in a tall glass

  • 1 teaspoon superfine or caster sugar
  • 1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

Add 2 ounces Bols Genever

Stir, add ice and top off with chilled sparkling water

Holland Gin Cocktail

Place a sugar cube or 1/2 teaspoon sugar in an old-fashioned glass

  • Add 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1/2 teaspoon water


Muddle until sugar is dissolved

  • Add 2 ounces Bols genever
  • 3-4 ice cubes


Stir for at least 30 seconds and then twist a thin slice of lemon peel over the top

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 March 2009 )
 
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