Tempered Spirits

Homemade Cocktails — Experiments, Critiques & Travels

Cocktail Night V: Dark n’ Spicy

Arrrr, it be time for more rum drinks, me hearties! This time, we’re covering a broader spectrum of this sugarcane spirit and delving into dark and spiced rum. The cocktail club is nowhere near covering the full range of rum — a nearly impossible feat — but we’re getting there! Tiki Drinks will wait ’til summer, methinks.

Anyway, we’ll be moving into dark rums with an aged, colored blend from Barbados, the formidable Black Seal from Gosling, and we’ll be starting off with the rum’s signature (trademarked) drink, the Dark n’ Stormy:

Dark n’ Stormy

2 ounces Gosling’s Black Seal
4 ounces Ginger Beer (Gosling’s, Bundaberg, Blenheim, or Fentiman’s recommended)

Garnish: A nice, thick lime wedge

Combine in a highball or double rocks glass over ice, then garnish.

Very simple and very delicious. We make them all the time at our house, and, being a highball, it’s a drink that anybody can make; the toughest part is tracking down the ginger beer. For those of you that haven’t had ginger beer before, it’s like a spicier, more gingery version of ginger ale (I prefer it over ginger ale, except when making a Pimm’s Cup). Super-spicy ginger ales — like Blenheim — can be substituted for it, but I think ginger ales are crisp, while ginger beers are spicy or “hot.” Bundaberg and Gosling’s are smooth with a deep ginger flavor while Blenheim’s and Fentiman’s have more bite. Many liquor stores carry Gosling’s, while fancier grocery stores or specialty stores — World Market, Co-ops, or H&F Botle Shop — will carry the others. One brand that is frequently recommended is Reed’s from Jamaica: get their “extra spicy” version next time you’re in Whole Foods, if you’re interested, but I find it has an odd honey/floral/melon aftertaste that makes it a bit tricky to mix with. Of course, you can always make your own ginger beer, carbonated or otherwise, which I’ve not attempted yet.

A final note on the Gosling’s: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry says it tastes like root beer, and he can’t stand it. Pfui! I like it. To each his own, I guess (he does mention that others have created wonderful drinks with it…it’s just not his personal cup o’ tea). For a relatively objective review, check out the Ministry of Rum.

Now, I know that in a previous post I said I preferred homemade spiced rum to commercial spiced rum, but the next drink proves to be the exception to the rule:

Cable Car

1 1/2 ounces Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
3/4 ounce Marie Brizard Orange Curaçao
1 ounce Lemon Juice
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup (1:1)

Garnish: Orange Spiral

Rub a lemon wedge around the edge of a cocktail glass, then rim the glass with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange spiral made over the drink.

Tony Abu-Ganim, Starlight Room, Sir Franics Drake Hotel, San Francisco, California, 1996

The Cable Car is a modern classic that has made its rounds on the west coast and in Las Vegas, and once you taste it, the reason becomes apparent. The drink is obviously a playful variation of the Sidecar (brandy, triple sec, lemon juice) named for San Francisco’s quirky-yet-wonderful cable cars as well as the Starlight Room’s slogan, “Between the Stars and the Cable Cars.” The drink veers ever-so-slightly toward the sweet end, as does a Sidecar, but the ratios can easily be altered to suit your tastes…in fact, I recommend rimming half the glass to give tipplers the option of increasing the sweetness and maybe reducing or cutting the simple syrup.

Yes, I tried the Cable Car with my homemade, spiced Eclipse, and I have to say I prefer Captain Morgan’s here, though you really end up with two different drinks. The vanilla provided by the Cap’n fits the drink’s profile more snugly, while the homemade rum — heavy on cinnamon, by the way — comes through as being sharp and spicy…not bad, but not perfect. Abu-Gamin engineered the drink with Captain Morgan, and his original formula wins out.

So, we have a wonderful highball and a sweet-sour-style drink, now for a slightly boozier one:

Captain’s Blood

1 1/2 ounce Dark Rum
1/4 ounce Lime Juice
1/4 ounce Simple Syrup (1:1)
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters
1 dash Cruzan Black Strap Rum

Garnish: (Optional) Lemon Spiral

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Make the twist over the drink, if using, and garnish.

What we have here is essentially a dark Daiquiri, and the rum that you choose makes all the difference. We’ll be using Gosling’s for the sake of convenience, but feel free to experiment with abandon. A nice full-bodied Jamaican rum or a demerara might work well here…the Gosling’s is an intense cross between the two, I think. A number of recipes I’ve found for this drink — such as Rumdood’s — add a bit of Falernum to the mix and reduce the bitters to a single dash. This mixture veers remarkably close to a Corn n’ Oil, so I like to use Robert Hess’s version, as it’s simpler and closer to a Rum Old-Fashioned. (EDIT: In the above recipe, I’ve played with the bitters, dashed in some black strap rum, and omitted the garnish — I think it’s an improvement).

In addition to the above drinks, I’ll have a couple of nice dark rums on hand for us to sample, probably a demerara and an aged rhum agricole, but we’ll see. Cheers!

PS: You can take all the above ingredients and make the following, as I might do for myself this coming Saturday…

Añejo Highball

1 1/2 ounces Añejo Rum (Spanish/Cuban/Puerto Rican dark rum)
1/2 ounce Orange Curaçao
1/2 ounce Lime Juice
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1-2 ounces Ginger Beer

Garnish: Lime Wedge, Orange Wedge

Build the above ingredients over ice in a highball glass, then garnish.

By Dale DeGroff.

Check out the Small Screen Network to see Robert Hess mixing one up.

Photos by IJL.

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