The Miami Rum Festival!! (part 2)

This posting is completely different from any other I have written – no recipes, no pictures, essentially a list of rums and nothing more.  This installment of the luxurious time I spent at the Miami Rum Festival has to do with the rums I experienced, and my immediate and brief thoughts on them.  Out of the large roster, some rums I knew of very well, some I have on my shelves at home, some I have heard of, some I have not, and a special few bottles I have waited a long time to see.  I did not taste every single rum, nor stopped at every booth, either because I knew enough, or simply did not have enough time.  Also, I did not taste every rum at each booth for the sheer reason of keeping my head and not getting so inebriated I could not discern fact from fiction.  I had to resort to near blasphemy:  Throwing into the trash an exquisite rum time after time so that I would not ingest every drop of rum I took in hand.

One of my regrets was not taking a picture of every rum I visited (or revisited).  After all, sometimes seeing a bottle with the brand’s label on it makes the description more conspicuous.  For that I apologize.  Click here to go to the festival’s website listing of rum bottle images.  I also wished I would have taken more pictures of the grand view of it all.

On my festival program, I kept track of each rum I tasted by rating it (the ranking is between 0 & 4), whether I would buy the rum (or better yet – “will” buy, or without a doubt – “MUST” buy…in a way ranking the rum in another fashion), and finally a few words to differentiate each from one another.  Below resembles what I wrote in my program, but with more words and less symbols.

Abuelo 7 year – 3 – makes a lovely mojito, I will buy this  (for the record – on Trade day, the vivacious woman working the Abuelo booth in my mind won Queen of the Festival)

Appleton Estate 12 year – 3 – maybe too good for cocktails, at which the Reserve excels (did not taste the Reserve since I vigilantly maintain a hardworking bottle at home)

Bayou Silver – 1 – would require bold flavors in a cocktail

Bayou Spiced – 1.5 – not often do I prefer a brand’s spiced rum over its silver, but not much better

Botran Reserva Blanca – 3 – nice mixing rum, and pleasant neat – I will buy this

Botran Solera 1893 – 2.5 – makes a wide variety of cocktails better – I would buy this

Brugal Blanco – 3 – a tasty white rum – I would buy this

Caliche – .5 – did not care much for this, nor appreciate the neglect by the booth (shared by other Puerto Rican rums who refused to sample) – they were late, ill-prepared, and did not wish to help people learn about them – these rums lost a customer

Centenario Añejo Espacial 7 year – (from Costa Rica) – 2.5 – I’d only want to drink this tasty rum neat – I would buy this

Diplomatico Añejo – 3 – way too good for my mixing needs, maybe as a treat – I would buy this

Don Q Cristal – 2 – separate from the group of Puerto Rican rums, I enjoyed my visit to this booth – nice clean white rum, and versatile – I would buy this

Don Q Gold – 2 – pretty good gold rum

Don Q Coco – 1 – super sweet, sugary more than coconut flavor

Don Q Passion – 3 – a lovely rum, and made a dynamite cocktail, would work with many recipes – I will buy this

Dos Maderas 5+3 years – 3 – delicious mixing rum, made a fantastic punch – I will buy this

Dzama Cuvée Blanche 40 – 4 – Good grief this rum is good, rare to give a white rum a 4.0 – wishing to drink this white rum neat, and the one below only with cocktails – not only would I buy this, I MUST buy this (too bad I could not buy at the festival)

Dzama Cuvée Blanche Prestige 80 – 3.5 – a fantastic white rum, would make perfect cocktails – I will buy this

Dzama Vanilla Amber 30 – 3.5 – probably the best vanilla rum flavor I have ever tasted, such a strong pronunciation of vanilla – I will buy this

El Dorado 8 year – 2.5 – a big fan of the 12 year, this almost tasted like fruit not yet ripe, good…but not at the level of excellence as the 12 – I would buy this

El Dorado 12 year – 4 – this rum is incredibly hard to beat, so good, so versatile, so bold – don’t know why I tasted this when I’m very familiar, but couldn’t resist – I will buy this for years to come, a constant on my shelf at home

El Dorado 15 year – 2.5 – too good for cocktails, almost as if its quality is lost on me – I’ve heard of this in cocktails, but hadn’t tasted it, now that I have, either my palate is too juvenile, or I disagree – my rating does not justify this fine rum

English Harbour 5 year – 3 – I really enjoyed tasting this for the first time, I could do many things mixing this – I would buy this

English Harbour Reserve 10 year – 2 – an excellent rum, too good for cocktails

Flor de Caña 7 year – 4 – I have waited a long time to try this year, the anticipation worth the reputation – I DID buy this (at a Miami liquor store down the street)

Gosling’s Gold – 3.5 – the Dark n Stormy is one of my favorite drinks, which of course is only made with Gosling’s Dark Seal – they made one more with their gold rum…delicious – I will buy this

Goslings Old Rum – 1.5 – where the Black Seal is versatile for me, the Old Rum is better off neat than mixing

Koloa White (excuse the spelling, I could not create a link with an ō) – 2 – not that an astringent flavor is necessarily bad every time, extremely clean in every other way, a resourceful white rum – I might buy this

Kōloa Gold – 2 – almost exactly like the white, but with more flavor aside from the astringency – I liked the white better though

Kōloa Spice – 1.5 – just like the first two, strong astringency as the foremost over-distracting flavor, leaving little room for spices

Kōloa Dark – 3 – pure vanilla flavor, yet astringent like the first three rums – I liked this rum very much – I might buy this

Kōloa Coconut – 4 – likely the best coconut rum I have ever tasted – was told by one of the owners (what’s his name – find card) they infuse for 2 years, long enough to completely obliterate any astringency…completely free of it, 100% coconut – I MUST buy this

Lost Spirits Navy Style Rum – 2 – pretty dry, pretty hot (68%) – thought it would make a good mixing rum

Ron Medellin 3 year – 3 – I liked this rum and saw it making lots of cocktails – I would buy this

Ron Medellin 8 year – 2.5 – less likely to mix with cocktails unless not the main rum, rather a background rum – seemed more like a neat drinking rum

Mount Gay 1703 – 4 – I can’t think of any better rum for appreciating neat, even large ice might insult how good this rum tasted – a sin if mixed – a treat for special occasions – I definitely would buy this

Papa’s Pilar Dark – 3 – rich and friendly, ready for a long list of cocktails, as well as mixing with other rums – I DID buy this

Plantation Guyana 2005 – 3.5 – delicious – for both mixing and neat, but I’d want to mix everything with this – I really want to buy this

Plantation Trinidad 1999 – 3.5 – Good grief this was good, tasted like an agricole, lovely balance of many flavors – I DID buy this

Plantation Original Dark – 3 – delicious, tasted like what the rep. said, “The overproof is 100% the flavor, this is a lighter version.” – I could mix so many drinks with this – I would buy this

Plantation Original Dark Overproof – 3.5 – way better than the Original Dark, like drinking the real this – at 73%…it’s a hot one – I DID buy this

Plantation 3 Stars White – 3 – a lovely white rum, it could do almost anything – I would buy this

Real McCoy 3 year White – 1.5 – I didn’t care for this one as much – seemed limited to what it might make

Real McCoy 5 year – 2 – better than the White, opening more possibilities for various recipes

Rum Fire (White Overproof) – .5 – like it was supposed to special simply because it could be hot, but nothing special about it

Tanduay Silver – 3 – one of my favorite white rums at the festival, one I would think would become one of my all-time favorite whites – I would very much like to buy this

Tiburon – 1.5 – I was disappointed with this one, hoping for it – the flavor did not call to me

Viejo de Caldas 3 year – (from Columbia by Industria Licorere de Caldas) – 3 – I particularly liked this rum, and could smell it all day – so many things this could do with all kinds of drinks – I liked it better than the Grand Reserva – I would love to buy this

Viejo de Caldas Grand Reserva – 2.5 – a bit more sophisticated, and better suited drinking neat, but still would make excellent drinks (just not as many) – I would buy this

Zafra 21 year – (from Panama) – 3.5 – very impressed with this new rum, did I hear correctly they started in 2009, and already had rum aging? – if so, in my opinion the best new rum not only of the festival, but perhaps the best new rum start I have ever tasted – nonetheless, not a mixing rum, only suited for neat imbibing – I would buy this

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Pumpkin Pie Cocktail

This is not a Tiki drink, or have anything to do with the culture.  I simply felt the desire, after swooping out of the high of apple season, to make a pumpkin drink.  It is a pleasant distraction during the cold months, even though not a warm drink.  I offer two recipes, whether for a small group of people or many, either way, a blender the tool for this drink.

Pumpkin Pie Cocktail

To Fill a Pitcher:
1 cup Appleton Estate XO
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (canned)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 cup milk
5 cups vanilla ice cream

Blend until smooth.  Lightly dust with fresh nutmeg after pouring into pre-chilled glasses.

**Note:  What might work best, particularly for those with a normal blender, and not some fancy-schmancy, ultra-expensive blender, divide the ice cream for successful blending, keeping the ice cream liquified.

Pumpkin Pie Cocktail for Two

For 2 drinks:
2 oz Appleton Estate XO
1 oz pumpkin puree (canned)
1/2 oz sugar
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 pinch allspice
3 oz milk
10 oz vanilla ice cream

Blend until smooth.  **See note above.  Lightly dust w/ fresh nutmeg after pouring into pre-chilled glasses.

Planter’s Punch

For anyone who has searched the internet, or hunted down books, they know there are a great many Planter’s Punch recipes out there.  It is not one of the oldest alcoholic beverages, aging as hundreds of years than thousands of years.  Yet, when considering the lifespan of rum, or what was first called “Rumbullion” (1650s), it is an old recipe, 200 years old – and still looking good.

Out of all the tiki drinks, “Polynesian” drinks, Caribbean drinks, or tropical drinks, out of the great many drinks to choose from – there were the first ones, the ones which started the craze, the originals.  Afterwards, numbering like the stars in the night sky, they opened the doors for a new creativity (or some not so much, more like stealing).  But in the beginning, which is a broad span of time, it astonishes me how most tropical drinks were not created anywhere near the tropics, but as a tribute to them, or most likely to remind people of far away exotic places.  Thanks to what I read from Beachbum Berry’s book, Remixed, when it comes to classic tropical drinks, the Daiquiri (Cuba), Planter’s Punch (Jamaica),  and Dr. Funk (Samoa) are the only originated in the tropics.  I have mentioned the Daiquiri in an earlier post, now I must pay my respects to another fostering fortification.

I have so much fun learning about rum’s history, where it first introduced production, the infancy of how to drink it – other than straight, development throughout the world, and the shining celebration of what rum is today because of it all.  Planter’s Punch had its own say in history, a voice which echoed into modern ears, a timeless recipe all on its own, as well as a blueprint for brilliant variations.  Here are two ways the recipe was remembered:

"Planter's Punch! A West Indian Recipe"
A wine-glass with lemon juice fill,
Of sugar the same glass fill twice
Then rub them together until
The mixture looks smooth, soft, and nice.
Of rum then three wine glasses add,
And four of cold water please take.
A Drink then you'll have that's not bad —
At least, so they say in Jamaica.
-- published in Fun magazine, London, September 1878
__________________________________________________________________
"Planter's Punch" 
This recipe I give to thee, 
Dear brother in the heat. 
Take two of sour (lime let it be) 
To one and a half of sweet, 
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong, 
And add four parts of weak. 
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong -- 
I know whereof I speak.
-- published in the New York Times, 8 August 1908
Note:  Back then, a “wine-glass” measurement was considered 2 ounces.

I need to say something about the garnish, because in this case it has to do with Jamaica more than it has to do with this drink.  Garnishing basically does two things:  It makes the cocktail look nice, and it gives off a scent, or sometimes many scents.  Of course there is the option of eating your garnish.  With that said, I’m throwing all of that out the window for this drink, just this once, and intend a garnish to mean more.  This garnish means something else.

jamaica-flag

Jamaica.  Please go there, and have the best time of your life.  Please spend lots of money on the island, please eat all you can and as many different things you can find.  I went with a group of finicky eaters, except for one.  He and I ate like kings on what the rest refused to eat, or too frightened to swallow.  I could go on and on about how many delicious foods and drinks come from that phenomenal island.  I’ll leave that between you and your internet.

I was lucky to study for a short time in Jamaica, far too short, and still miss the friends I made there.  My school sponsored a semester abroad, allowing me attendance to two universities (and a home-stay) in both Kingston and Mandeville.  When not in the classroom, we drove all over the island to celebrate “weekends” or “vacations” for the sake of exploration and curiosity.  It was simply glorious.  Ninety-nine life-changing days, ninety-nine days of paradise, ninety-nine days of beautiful scenery and beautiful people, including ninety-nine days of widespread poverty, yet always the wondrous sensation of the Jamaican spirit.  Please do no go to Jamaica for the place alone – it’s the people who make the place.  The nation is both land and people – the people become the land as the land becomes the people.  Please go there on vacation, and meet as many people as you can.

When I thought of making this drink, I wanted to separate the garnish from the thought process by using it to reflect my time on Jamaica, instead of provoking the flavors of the drink.  I drove by a banana plantation, noticing only for a moment a few banana pickers.  They wore next to nothing.  The term “rag” held more of a definition to that of fabric than what those men wore in the jungle.  Then on a northern  beach, on holiday, as a marching band played one of my favorite Bob Marley tunes, I bought the sweetest pineapple I’ve ever tasted from one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met.  And finally, while staying in Kingston at the Cole’s, at least two different mango trees fed us daily (of course not the only thing – some of the best food I’ve ever eaten was made by Mrs. Cole).

I will always remember Mrs. Cole (and her family, as well as Velita, the woman who worked there).  When I see a mango, or eat one, my mind immediately takes me to the comfort she provided under her roof.  I will always remember the kind woman who sold me the little pineapple before a rain came.  Regardless if it was such a short conversation, that spectacularly-filled moment marked itself in my memory whenever I eat pineapple – a moment so full of powerfully remembered events, making an ordinary day a holiday in its own right.  I will always remember those men walking along the road, wearing  strings for clothing under the dark shade of the dense banana fronds, foregrounding a waterfalls in the distant mountains.  I asked myself in that VW bus, “How long until jungles no longer exist?”  That moment is a permanent memory, and one I think of often, since I am able to buy bananas anytime.

These three fruits do not sum up all of my experiences in Jamaica.  However, this is the most honest representation I could think of without the use of a Jamaican flag.  Inhale deeply when you drink this, as with all drinks, but in this example inhale and imagine Jamaica.

Planter's Punch
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/4 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 oz honey
1/4 oz falernum
1/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz Bärenjäger (honey liqueur)
1/2 oz gold Jamaican (Appleton)
1/2 oz dark Jamaican (Smith & Cross)
1 oz gold Virgin Islands (I used Pyrat, from Anguilla)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
6 oz crushed ice
 

Warm honey so it will shake more easily into other liquids.  Shake ingredients with crushed ice until frost begins to form on metal shaker. Pour unstrained into chilled glass.  Add more ice to fill if necessary.  Garnish with sizable chunks of pineapple, banana and mango (if the mango is too thin after cutting from the seed, join pieces and trim to look like one big piece).

I called the next recipe a Fizz because of the definition of a Fizz, which takes after an older invention – the Sour.  A Sour is a spirit mixed with an acidic juice and sugar.  The Fizz is basically a spirit mixed with an acidic juice and carbonated water, whose fame grew substantially in America between 1900 and the 1940s.  The Gin Fizz was particularly popular in New Orleans, another town specialty.

Wray & Nephew and Ting go great together.  There are a lot of people who don’t care for the flavor of Wray & Nephew rum, and understandably so since it has a unique taste about it.  And mixing it with other rums can get a little tricky because it can take over even after adding such a small amount.  I think of it very similarly to that of Maraschino liqueur – any more than a dash will alter the drink irrecoverably.  Another good example is demonstrated from the movie, The Myth of Fingerprints, where they briefly discuss the concept of spreading too much mustard on a sandwich, and in effect creating nothing more than a mustard sandwich.  Reluctant in adding too much Wray & Nephew, yet hoping the Myers’s rum would play its mellow pronouncements well enough in contrast, I knew the overproof would win since the term “overproof” essentially means more flavor anyway.  And for those unfamiliar with overproof rums, please always remember they are twice as strong, and require half as much for both flavor and alcoholic effect.  

Planter's Fizz
1 oz Myers's dark
1/2 oz Wray & Nephew overproof 
1 oz fresh lime juice 
2 oz Ting (Didn't have this time - used Jarritos) 
2 oz Pineapple pop (Jarritos)

Shake all but pop with ice, pouring unstrained into chilled tall glass.  Stir pop in gently.  Garnish with a cherry.

Will the Planter’s Fizz become my precedent recipe for Planter’s Punch?  Absolutely not.  The most simplistic version is what I will drink the most, followed by others’ renditions.  Only after properly paying tribute will I shake-up my own recipes.

God Jul!

God Jul!  For those of you who do not speak Swedish (like me – even though I’m Swedish-American), it means Merry Christmas.  Pertaining to the approach of Christmas, not “the holiday season” since it does not have anything to do with Thanksgiving or New Years, this drink is like drinking Christmas Spirit.  However, this is how I see it, or from my perspective growing up with one of many traditions.  We called it “grog” in pronunciation, even though it should have been pronounced “wassail.”  It was my grandmother’s recipe, and meant to be non-alcoholic – no wine, no brandy, and certainly no rum.  Yet rum made its way in, only after it was done brewing all day, and resting through the night to be ready to drink the next day.  Whether a Christmas party, or merely to drink a bit of happiness into your life, we’d put the wonderment into a big, coffee maker with a spigot to warm it back up, and a bottle of rum nearby for the adults.  As a boy I never could see any reason to change what was perfect.

What we made was wassail, a hot mulled cider (Old English wæs hæl, literally ‘be you healthy’ – an ancient southern English ritual intended to ensure a plentiful cider apple harvest for the next year.  The term wassail was meant for both drink and toasting).  Regardless, we didn’t call it that.  We called it grog.  When looking up various recipes for grog, or glögg in Swedish, I quickly found out several missing ingredients.

Glögg, pronounced somewhat like glooog (roughly translated: “glow”), is a sweet, high-octane, mulled wine.  According to the Wine & Spirits Museum in Stockholm, King Gustav I of Sweden was fond of a drink made from German wine, sugar, honey, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves. It was later named “glödgad vin” in 1609, which meant “glowing-hot wine.” The word glögg is a shortened form that first appeared in print in 1870.

There are several recipes I am fond of, all which include various fruits, either sweet red wine or port, or both, and all with fortifying spirits.  Here’s a Swedish glögg recipe:

2 bottles sweet red wine
2 cups water
1 1/2 oz dark rum (with this I prefer Gosling's)
1 1/2 oz brandy (doesn't need to be expensive with so many flavors)
1 1/2 oz port wine
10 dried prunes
4 pieces dried apricots
4 pieces dried apples
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dark raisins
2 oranges (washed and sliced)
rind of 1/3 of a lime (no pith - either peeled or grated)
1/2 cup dried cranberries 
1/4 cup pistachios (should be almonds, but allergic to)
2 Tbsp whole cloves
1 tsp cardamom pods
4 (3 inch) cinnamon sticks
1 cup brown sugar (light)

Bind up cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and lime rind in cheesecloth.  Bring all ingredients, except alcohol and wine, to near boil (do not boil) and simmer for at least one hour, preferably 3 hours.  Remove bound up spice packet.  Add remaining ingredients only minutes before serving, reheating to near boil (again, do not boil).  Serve in heatproof glass cups (so you can see inside – this Christmas gift comes with see-through wrappings), adding a small helping of fruit and nuts to each glass, and a teaspoon to eat by.  Garnish either with an orange peal in the drink, or an orange slice on the rim of the glass.

I know that sounds like a lot of ingredients.  But the idea is richness, deep thought-provoking richness, the kind your most precious memories from Christmas past will conjure.  Also, if you would prefer, I’ve heard of substituting Aquavit (or Akvavit) for the brandy, but not for this precise recipe  This is where I haven’t experimented enough to make this call – maybe if Aquavit is added, maybe the cardamom will seem too powerful.  Sorry for not knowing for sure.

Even though I’m talking about glögg, I’m writing this to show the grog recipe I grew up with, regardless if it’s really wassail.  It’s a simple recipe, easy to make, and so happy and bright with flavor.  You could even use it as an ingredient if making a mulled wine.  I am very proud of this drink, and so glad my parents shared this recipe with me.

glögg

Julglögg (Christmas Grog)
1 quart hot tea (black tea - just use teabags)
2 tsp whole cloves
1/4 cup stick cinnamon
1 gallon apple cider
1 quart orange juice
1 pint grapefruit juice (not ruby red)
1 cup cranberry juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup hot water

Make hot tea by steeping for 5 to 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring water to boil and dissolve sugar completely within to make a simple syrup.  Add cloves and cinnamon to tea, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add cider, orange juice, syrup, grapefruit juice, and cranberry juice.  Bring to boiling point, but do not boil.  Simmer for a few hours.  If you don’t have time, just cover and let it sit all day.  Either way, let it stand overnight to marry the flavors.  Serve hot (but do not boil).  If you’re in the mood, add a splash (or more) of amber rum.  Silver rums feel a little too rough, and spiced rums think they are in charge.  I first thought dark rums would be ideal, instead learning they kind of clash as well.  A list of rums that work:  Appleton, Matusalem, Mount Gay, El Dorado, Pusser’s, and Bacardi.  Due to how more mild it is to any other, Gosling’s is the only dark rum capable for this recipe.  Finally, garnish with a slice of orange with a number of whole cloves poked into the skin, thanks to my loving parents for sending my wife and I a box of delicious Florida oranges.

Merry Christmas to all who read this.  Astonished to see so many people from so many places visit this website, I hope I can be of any help, even if it just means a suggested recipe for an option of what to make with certain flavors.  Thank you one an all.  And for those who do not celebrate Christmas, I wish you a Happy New Year.  Be safe.

Apple Season

It’s Apple Season!  It’s Apple Season!  Ahhhh-Hoooo!!  First let me explain something, I like apples, but really don’t take to them on a regular basis, nor do I crave apple pie, or apple dumplings, or anything flavored for the sake of apples.  I don’t have anything against them, just like I don’t favor them.  My point is,  for the most part I rarely eat apples and any thing made with them pretty rarely…at least until autumn hits.  Autumn changes me, alters me, sends me into biological dynamo of teenaged hormone-driven rambunctiousness.  Not only is it football season, there simply is something in the air, an electrically charged mood, an altered perception, as if my blood has chemically imbalanced.  I understand this all sounds ridiculous.  I also understand it doesn’t last long.  Autumn feels like the briefest of seasons, most likely due to my having so much fun.  While this season surprises me upon its arrival as much as its departure, Apple Season particularly takes hold of me as a Venus Flytrap around its prey.  There is no escape.  It has already happened.  I can’t get enough apple, whatever form the fruit can provide, whether as juiced into a cider, baked into a pie, thickened as a butter, picked off a tree and eaten it out of my hand, or in this case – mixing a little of all for this cocktail.

I need to give credit where credit is due:  An extraordinary orchard and a cooking website have influenced my wife and I.  We have driven 3 hours down to a fantastic orchard for a number of years, and have been surprised not only by how popular it always seems to be, meaning busy, but how well they thrive as a business.  So many assortments of apple products, so many kinds of apples, and by what we’ve experienced – everything tastes delicious, and well worth the drive.  We’ll leave with a couple bags of apples, a couple gallons of cider, a few caramel-covered apples (with nuts), a couple jars of apple butter, sometimes an apple pie, sometimes  a cup each of apple slush, yet always open to suggestion or experimentation.  The orchard is called, The Apple Works, which is south of Trafalgar and north of Sweetwater Lake, but also found at http://www.apple-works.com.  If you go in the fall, make sure to head a bit farther south to Nashville and get their fried biscuits and apple butter (one of the things that makes the town almost as famous as the Nashville in Tennessee).  Last year, my wife found an outstanding recipe for pumpkin waffles at allrecipes.com.  After eating this profound breakfast, my thoughts immediately went to how I could use the cider syrup for cocktails, since I hear about all kinds of syrups used in that way.

My first thought of course turned to rum.  When I first made it, I used Appleton, thinking it well-suited for an incredibly sweet apple cider made sweeter as a syrup.  But this time I wanted to use a demerara rum, thinking of its richness distinctive to that of the Jamaican rum, not necessarily better, since both are unique perspectives in enjoying rum.  One of my favorite demerara rums is El Dorado 12 year (I have heard the 15 year is the best, but have yet to try it).  The next ingredient is Applejack, not Calvados.  I have nothing against the french brandy, yet believe it is too refined for a recipe with so many ingredients.  Applejack is sweeter, and a little friendlier for this.  I like Laird’s applejack, especially its American history.  If any of you are in the mood, check out the Interesting Facts link at www.lairdandcompany.com.

Now that the spirits are taken care of, the only thing to do now is load up on the apple flavor.  I considered apple butter as one of the ingredients, but not for this one, maybe later.  I figured muddling would thicken the drink enough after straining, where apple butter would only add more cloud to the bottom of the glass.  Using cider, fresh juice from the fruit, and an apple syrup, I felt enough characteristics of the apple were properly introduced.  I questioned whether to use lemon juice over lime, though in the end went with my fondness of combining rum and lime.  Tasting them is like listening to two best friends having a funny conversation.  You can’t help but smile.

I am also encouraged to infuse rum with apples to offer even more flavor, perhaps sooner than later.  For an extensive list of infused recipes, please check out boozedandinfused.com where you’ll learn how easy it is to make your own splendidly fresh tasting spirits and liqueurs.

The Apple Season Cocktail
1 1/2 oz El Dorado 12 year
1/2 oz Applejack (Laird's)
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz apple cider syrup**
1 oz apple cider
1/4 of an apple (cut into 6-8 pieces)
dash of Angostura bitters

Muddle apple with syrup and lime juice.  Double-strain into small, pre-chilled cocktail glass, garnish with floating apple slice.

Muddling is important here, crushing the apple into a puree, and getting every drop out of the fruit.  I have two muddlers, one with a flat bottom, and another with teeth.  A flat bottom muddler will do the best work here, and more thoroughly.  The toothed one will get a better start, but it’s the best finish we’re after.  Make sure you have a sure grip on your mixing glass due to all the effort and pressure forced down into the glass.  I’d get pretty sore with myself if all that fell on the floor, namely that precious cider syrup.

Also, double straining is important in this drink, that is if your do not want food in your drink.  I like unstrained cocktails in many cases, thinking it simply tastes better with the demolished ice and broken fruit from shaking, however not in every situation.  This cocktail needs a little refinement, an endeavor worth the trouble when you taste it.  And if you’re not familiar, double-straining is using an additional fine mesh strainer, that is straining the drink with a hawthorn strainer (or for those of you who prefer julep strainers), and pouring through a fine-meshed strainer.  It confirms no shards of ice, or sediment from the muddle apple.

**Apple cider syrup
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter

Mix sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a pan. Stir in cider and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until starting to boil; boil until it thickens. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of butter until melted. Serve warm.  Again, you can find this recipe at the allrecipes.com. website.

My wife prefers less citrus juice, more syrup, and treasures Appleton rum over any other.  So her recipe is as follows:

1 1/2 oz Appleton Estate
1/2 Applejack
1/2 fresh lime juice
3/4 oz apple cider syrup
2 1/2 oz apple cider
1/4 of an apple (cut into 6-8 pieces)

I am probably going to drink this until Apple Season runs out of my system.  And then it’s Pumpkin Season…I can’t wait.

Death in the South Pacific

If you browse over the ingredients you will see this is a drink of powerful flavors –  orgeat, falernum, absinthe, lemon & lime juices, Cruzan Blackstrap.  Although quite mellow, Appleton can also take a drink away from other decided flavorings as well.  Sometimes a collection of powerful flavors is not a good thing, or possibly considered a mistake.  On the other hand, if Tiki drinks have taught me anything, they’ve taught me I won’t know precisely what I’ve got until I taste it.

Winning the official cocktail of the Tales of the Cocktail 2010, Even Martin’s recipe, Death in the South Pacific, at first caught my attention because of his cool garnish.  Not only is it outside the glass, it hangs from the straw.  Pretty neat trick; even if the drink didn’t taste good to me, I’d still dig its decor.  Looking at the ingredients when first making the drink, I had high hopes, since a drink wouldn’t win a Tales of the Cocktail competition on looks alone.  So when I first sucked my first taste from the straw, that is a small sip, a suddenly found myself on a great and might battlefield, on-going and devastating, but not between two foes – many.  The first sip hit my brain as a tidal confusion, though knowing what the ingredients were ahead of time helped with understanding.  I knew the drink would be powerful – not hot from booze, but rambunctious flavors clamoring to the top for attention.  The second sip came right after, probably just to assure myself what aftertaste lingered, and again a big push against me.  “Pick ME!” one cried, “No, pick ME!!” another aggressively shouted louder.  And so on.  Another sip.  My high hopes were kind of dashed against the rocks.  It was a fun drink, and tasted good, but likely would not rate very high with me.  I looked at the drink, enjoying the thorough frosting on the glass, and the unique garnish, but sighed with disappointment.  I wanted this drink to rock, to change my life, I wanted it to be one of my favorites to make over and over for years to come.  But one more sip wouldn’t change that.

I set the drink down, still wishing from expectation, still hopeful that the drink could somehow pull out of miraculous victory when down by so many points.  Again I sighed, and picked the glass up one more time, after all, I wasn’t going to let the drink go to waste.  I was still tasty, just mid-ranged to what I wanted.  But this time I drank from it the way I normally drink – without a straw.  I rarely use straws.  The only times I do is with to-go cups.  And with cocktails, I might stick a straw in for other people, but not me.  And with crushed ice, to me it’s a tool for drinking slower anyway.  So when I drank the drink through the crushed ice, something new happened, almost like it was a new drink.  The ice acted as a filter, rather the watering down layer, and calmed the drink down, making it taste better, much better.  I think I even verbally called out some angelic banter about the meaning of life – that’s how much of a surprise it was!  A second tasting confirmed it, including every one after until the whole prize was in my belly.  Death in the South Pacific tasted how I wanted it to taste – not from the fame of winning a contest, but the list of ingredients coming together winning my approval.  If you like powerful flavor, sip through the straw.  If you want a different perspective, try sipping though the ice (or raise your straw into the ice level).  And when you enjoy this drink, think of Even Martin.

Finally a Mini Me for me!

Death in the South Pacific  
3/4 oz Appleton Estate (gold Jamaican rum)  
3/4 oz Rhum Clément VSOP (gold Martinique rum)  
1/2 oz Grand Marnier  
1/3 oz orgeat  
1/3 oz falernum  
3 dashes absinthe (one dash is 6 drops, 3 dashes = 18 drops)
1/2 oz fresh lime juice  
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice  
1/2 oz grenadine    
1/2 oz Cruzan Blackstrap (not Jamaican dark or dark agricole)

Add all ingredients except for the grenadine and Cruzan Blackstrap to a Zombie shell glass and fill with crushed ice.  Swizzle the drink well to mix and frost the glass, then pour in grenadine. Overfill the glass with crushed ice, then pour in Cruzan Blackstrap.

Garnish:  Take a bamboo skewer and put a brandied cherry through at the very top, followed by a long peal of lime (insert through the middle).  Then two half as long peals from a lemon (or cut a long piece in half).  Insert the ends through the skewer having them hang on opposite sides of each other. Then hook the loop of the bamboo skewer over the top of a straw.  It should look like a guy hanging off of the drink (the cherry is the head, the lime the arms, and the lemon peal dangling away from each other the legs).  I didn’t have any brandied cherry on-hand, instead using a maraschino cherry.  I think the original picture I saw had orange instead of lemon.  I guess I figured if I squeezed lemon and lime, might as well use their skins as well, right?  When it comes down to which color I like better, orange will almost always beat yellow with me.  But I think I like the red/green/yellow effect of this poor guy.

At the Piña…Piña Colada – the coldest drink south of Ottowa (I know…sorry Barry)

There’s a great argument when, where and who invented the piña colada, so either without offending anyone or accidentally getting the facts wrong, I’m going to leave this point alone.  The important thing is to enjoy the drink, and making it the way you like it.  After all, you never know what you’re going to get with someone else making it.  With that said, it was a restaurant that taught me to pay attention to the piña colada’s ingredients in a new way.  Bahama Breeze was a place we used to go when living in Arizona, a great place I wish would come to my home town.  Anyway, they served a fantastic piña colada, and used Myers’s dark rum, which was the key ingredient, and what I feel is the cornerstone ingredient in any piña colada, or at least a dark rum for special flavoring.

My wife is a big piña colada fan.  As a loving husband, it is my duty to try to make her happy, and fun to do when getting it right.  For a long time I have gotten close to a good recipe for her, but fell short of getting precisely what she wanted.  In a way I was shooting for that Bahama Breeze piña colada, and continue to search for the perfect piña colada for her, both with my own experiments and hunting or other’s recipes.  There are two recipes I experimented into, which I labeled below as Piña Colada #1 & Piña Colada #2, one with more elaborate ingredients, and another with far less mixed together.  #2 is both quick and surprisingly close enough to an ideal piña colada taste.

I used to drink Malibu rum, that is the coconut rum, and felt completely content for my coconut needs.  Then I happened across the Cruzan line, who opened my eyes to what I truly preferred in a coconut rum.  And it was here where I learned how the Piña Colada #2 could work so easily, and enjoyably.  The Malibu simply could not mix the same way with pineapple juice, or the chemistry of Cruzan Coconut blended more thoroughly.  I don’t know if it’s a chemistry thing, or a palate thing.  Regardless, we made the change in rum brands, and started drinking more piña coladas.

The first two recipes are ongoing taste tests, recipes I hope to get right, but feel I am pretty close.  They are going for a more complex grouping of flavors, while the second two remain more simplified, and closer to the original idea of the drink.  I enjoy mixing rums together, to see what they do, how they play out a story, or if they fight and try to steal the show.  The first drink will be extremely friendly, soothing in smoothness, and more laid back in the shade on a hot sunny day on the beach.  the second I feel is more of a night drink, meant to be taken more seriously and appreciated after a good meal (or during as well).

Okay, whether you like your piña colada frozen or on the rocks, I’m describing how to make it shaken, and poured over ice.  That’s the way I prefer the drink, and how my wife prefers it.  I’m not saying I’m above frozen drinks, or anything like that.  So to each their own, and I salute you for considering other options but sticking to the way you like the drink best.  Also, some people like theirs creamy, and some don’t.  So I’ve added cream to each of the recipes as optional.  I recently tried Coco López brand coconut cream, reading many reviews and comparisons, and found it superior to what I normally stocked my bar with, Real Coco.  They both have great coconut flavoring, but the López for some reason seemed more creamy.  If you have Real Coco, your drink will taste just as good.  And finally, a note on “floating” – some like to float a dark rum on top.  My recipes have you mixing it all in to taste the same flavor from top to bottom.  But that’s just me.

Number One
1 1/2 oz Mount Gay Eclipse Silver
1/2 oz Matusalem Gran Reserva
4 oz pineapple juice
3/4 oz coconut cream (I used Coco López)
1/4 oz cream (optional)
1/4 oz Myers's dark

Shake with lots of ice to get it good and cold.  Strain into a chilled glass, and if you can – use a piña colada glass.  I recently got a good deal on a set, so I don’t stray from the fun.  Garnish with a pineapple chunk and cherry (not only the food of your drink, but the aroma really helps).

Or for a heartier version:

Number Two
1 1/2 oz Bacardi Superior
1/2 oz Ronrico gold
4 oz pineapple juice
3/4 oz coconut cream
1/4 oz cream (optional)
1/8 oz Lemon Hart overproof

Shake with lots of ice.  Strain into a chilled glass.  Garnish with a pineapple chunk and cherry.

For a more Jamaican style:

Number Three
1 1/2 oz Appleton
5 oz pineapple juice
3/4 oz coconut cream
1/4 oz cream (optional)
1/4 oz Myers's dark

Shake with lots of ice.  Strain into a chilled glass.  Garnish with a pineapple chunk and cherry.

And one in a jiffy:

Number Four
2 oz Cruzan Coconut
5 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz cream (optional)

Shake with lots of ice.  Strain into a chilled glass.  No need for a garnish, but if you want, a cherry will suffice.

When it comes down to it, a piña colada is three ingredients:  Rum, pineapple and coconut.  I was simply adding ideas to the original idea , hoping each drink remains balanced as what was first inspired.  Sorry I didn’t have any pineapple for the garnish.  It really makes a difference.

My wife and I had a taste test.  For those who are interested this is how they ranked:

I ranked them 1, 3, 4, 2                  My wife ranked them 1, 4, 3, 2

First Love – the Navy Grog

There’s no forgetting the first one, the one who first lit your eyes up with their features, and filled you with their warmth and feelings for you.  The first love, who in a way all others are compared, the first not of many, but as an exception.  The Perfect Drink.

When my wife and I were looking at houses a few years ago – our first house from living in apartments, the whole process began with the first house, right?  There’s always the first of anything one continues.  We looked at this house, bright-eyed like a dog at a picnic, and tried our hardest not to love it, not the first one!  We said to ourselves, if that wasn’t the first, we’d buy that house.  So we looked at other houses, and eventually mourned when we heard the house had sold, knowing in our hearts we should have bought it.  We still talk about that house.  In a way, and please bear with me a little on this, in a way that first house was the perfect house, just like “the perfect drink” – something I did not want to immediately entitle and rank as #1 until I drank more variety and got more experience.

Let’s go back in time a couple of years.  I started a ranking system around the time I started researching cocktails, and making them.  Soon after I learned rum was my favorite spirit and threw most of my efforts in researching all its facets.  I enjoy tequila and gin, and the occasional whiskey, but fell further away from vodka.  But rum seemed to call to me far more than any other.  This scoring of drinks I would make kept an eye out for what I wanted to taste again, or sifted out those I’d merely mark up as something I tried.  My growing passion for Tiki drinks lead me in ranking, but controlled my reasoning so I wouldn’t simply rank something with top marks for the only reason of liking how it tasted in the moment.  The system is based on a 0 to 4 scale.  As time went on, I thought I might never find the perfect 4, even though favorite drinks ranked as a 3.0 or a 3.5, protecting the stature of a genuinely amazing cocktail.  Just so you know, I won’t make my ranking system any part of this blog, simply something I do privately.  I just wanted to describe how I came about the first 4.0…the first perfect drink…the one that shattered the scoring possibility and opened my eyes to a new world.

Navy Grog

Sorry the image is not clear. And I messed up the ice funnel, making it look too smooth. I’ll try again and replace the image when I do better.

Navy Grog (from Hawai’i Tropical Rum Drinks & Cuisine by Don the Beachcomber)

3/4 oz fresh lime juice
 3/4 oz fresh grapefruit juice
 3/4 oz honey
 3/4 oz gold Ronrico
 3/4 oz Appleton Estate
 3/4 oz Pusser's
 3/4 oz club soda
 2 dashes Angostura bitters
 1 oz guava juice
 8 oz cracked ice

The instructions in the book have you using a blender.  I rarely use one, except when necessary, or if the desired effect absolutely must be in that form.  I shake almost everything in a boston shaker.  So what I did was shake all but the soda for about 15 seconds, vigorously, until my hand felt really cold (not merely cold…but really cold).  Stir in the soda, then strain into a 14 oz glass with a special ice popsicle with a straw inside.  The best instructions I have seen are from http://www.amountainofcrushedice.com.  She is great, and describes & illustrates this process in detail.

Donn Beach‘s Navy Grog changed my life.  Since then I have come across four more perfect drinks, and know more will find me in my traveling around the land of Tiki.  In fact, soon will come a drink I’ve hoped for since first hearing about it, but haven’t had the right rums, or at least approximate substitutes.  I’ll let you know after I try it for the first time.