Missing the Festival

Well, that’s it . . . the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival came to remedy the world of all its wrongs, and restore harmony, peace, and justice not only to all humanity, but inexplicably to the animal kingdom as well.  Now it’s gone.  I did not attend this year.  Hopefully next year.  In anticipation of the festivities, I decided to do a bit of research by sampling lovely rums, after venturing up to Chicago recently and buying two rums unavailable to my home state.  Tanduay from the Philippines, and Hamilton 151 from Guyana (the awaited creation offering to rebalance the universe from the tragedy of losing Lemon Hart 151).  I made two Mai Tais, based on Trader Vic’s 1944 version, for a side-by-side experiment, substituting these two rums in for the recipe’s dark Jamaican and amber Martinique rums.

Tanduay Silver, which I was quite taken with at last year’s rum festival, is a straw-colored rum due to its moderate filtering to enhance flavor.  The sweet aroma is a little vegetal, slightly similar to an agricole, as well as smelling clean, without a burning fume for my ignorant sense of smell to enjoy.  I apologize for my lack of skill in describing tasting notes.  Rhum agricole is one of the two rums used to imitate the original and extinct J. Wray & Nephew 17 year, the key ingredient in the original recipe.  My favorite agricole is from Martinique, specifically the Clément, which deservedly masters its role in the Mai Tai.  I am not saying Tanduay is similar to Clément.  I am saying Tanduay is as good as Clément.  Not only the top-selling rum in Asia, Tanduay is the second strongest seller worldwide, second to the marketing powerhouse of Bacardi (I am not up to date on current fiscal earnings).  As for the tasting notes, what I taste is bell pepper, the funk aspect of honey, black peppercorn, maybe butterscotch…or is it toffee?  I don’t know – I taste a lot of things, and am embarrassed to not be able to put it all into coherent thought and syllables.  For an expert review, please click here.  The Rum Howler not only has a discerning palate, but the ability to explain such things well.  I highly recommend his expert reviews not only of rum, but other spirits.

Hamilton 151, subtitled “Ministry of Rum Collection,” which I particularly enjoy reading on the front of the bottle since I have learned from our ministry for some years, is a demerara rum, a dark rum, a spiced rum, and dangerously also an overproof rum.  Above all, it takes on the responsibility of saving a world without the legendary Lemon Hart 151.  Lemon Hart has had some tough times, recently bought by a Canadian company to continue the legacy, only to fall short of the desired financial success.  No longer bottled, we are at a loss, like children suddenly finding ourselves lost in the wilderness by night.  What are we to do?  Seriously, what are we going to do?  What do we float our tiki drinks with?  We need a dark demerara overproof with the wherewithal to stand defiantly on the mountaintop and bellow during the crushing storm.  We had it, and we lost it.  Edward Hamilton, who manages the website ministryofrum.com, tried to help.  In the end, the overproof version of the company would not survive.  So Mr. Hamilton helped in another way by starting afresh with a new rum with the goal of coming close to the highly complex flavors of Lemon Hart 151.  His Hamilton 151 was born, and not an easy task I would assume.  For those who have tasted Lemon Hart 151, you know what towering height this achievement would seem.  For those who have tasted both, please let me know what you think.  Does Hamilton come close enough?  The tasting notes of this rum are beyond me.  Too much goes on, elusive, and yet obviously luring me with a long list of clues.  The best I can do is tell you this story in hopes you search the rum out for yourself.  It is worth it.  Back to the ingredient for the Mai Tai, Hamilton 151 is not a dark Jamaican rum, yet rich and oaky, sweet and bold.  I usually use Myers’s or Coruba for this category.

The second part of the experiment is comparing Jeff Beachbum Berry’s research of Trader Vic’s Mai Tai with Trader Vic’s own, going by their prospective books, Remixed, and Tiki Party!  There is one difference in their recipes:  The amount of freshly squeezed lime juice, whether one ounce, or only a half ounce, which sounds like a huge difference.  If you look around, you will find Trader Vic Mai Tai recipes with one ounce measurements for lime juice.  This book has a different recipe, perhaps for the reason of using Trader Vic brand rums.  Regardless, this is a fun way to try a published recipe against another published recipe.

maitai1

 Trader Vic's Tiki Party! Mai Tai
1 oz gold rum (Tanduay Silver)
1 oz dark rum (1/2 oz Hamilton 151)
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz curaçao (Curaçao de Curaçao)
1/4 oz orgeat
1/4 oz simple syrup
2 cups crushed ice

Shake ingredients vigorously for a few seconds until very cold, and pour unstrained into a chilled double old-fashioned glass.  Garnish with one of the spent lime shell halves, and a healthy sprig of mint.  Sorry, I have no mint (too early in the year for outdoor growth).

maitai2

Remixed Mai Tai
1 oz gold rum (Tanduay Silver)
1 oz dark rum (1/2 oz Hamilton 151)
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz curaçao (Curaçao de Curaçao)
1/4 oz orgeat
1/4 oz simple syrup

I’m going to quote the Beachbum’s instructions, “Shake well with plenty of crushed ice.  Pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass.  Sink your spent lime shell into drink.  Garnish with a mint sprig.”

After tasting both drinks, the obvious was obvious.  The Mai Tai with more lime simply tasted more tart.  The one with less tasted sweeter.  The Tiki Party! Mai Tai, however, hid nuances where the Remixed Mai Tai revealed.  Then I toasted the Burr family with both drinks, and went back to remembering the rum festival.

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Spindrift

Once again under the guidance of the Beachbum (from Remixed), I whipped up a batch of Spindrift Jr.’s for my wife and I, preferring the smaller scale to the larger original version.  However, even though the recipe sounded clearly better, not simply for its complexity, but for the abundance of flavor, my biggest challenge came when failing to find a favorable shaped glass for the Spindrift’s much larger amount.  Although I do not yet have a large snifter, a tall beer glass will have to do – either that or the huge pickle jar I use for infusing, which would of course be silly (but not absolutely out of the question).

I saw some passion fruit at the grocery store, and decided to make some fresh syrup.  Upon extracting the juice from around the seeds, very similar to pomegranate, for some reason I was surprised how tart it tasted.  Up until that point, passion fruit juice had always tasted sweet, meaning I was ignorantly surprised how much better and pure the juice tasted.  Why would this surprise me after all the harping I practice in pronouncing how much better fresh juice is to concentrate/frozen/manufactured products?  The robust passion fruit declared itself incomparable, and bolder than any attempt otherwise, from now on dragging me from Plato’s pitch-black cave into the light.

Normally I use containerized juice, prefer paying for shipping to get the Ceres brand, but am not above using Welch’s nowhere-near attempt – when the supermarket has it on its shelves.  It is simply a fact of life:  Sometimes it is difficult finding passion fruit juice.  Making your own juice takes a bit of time to prepare, yet far less time if you’re unable to find any purchasable juice, and above all worth tasting at least once.  Seriously, even if you buy one passion fruit, just one, and are able to get less than a half an ounce of juice – it is worth it.

To make passion fruit syrup:  Cut the passion fruit in half with a sharp knife (worse than a tomato – the skin defends against slicing), then scoop out the fruit into a wire mesh strainer.  Mash the fruit to break the membrane surrounding the seeds, or the use of a blender on slow speed, careful not to harm the seeds themselves.  The membrane is pretty resilient, and will require a good share of elbow grease if mashing with a spoon.  Please remember to scrape off the bottom of the strainer.  Doesn’t passion fruit smell great?  Next, stir some fresh simple syrup with the juice in a sauce pan on medium heat, warming the mixture together without boiling for a couple minutes, seeing steam rise.  Or make the simple syrup in the pan with the juice, which is a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water – or 2:1 if wishing to make “rich simple syrup.”  Please remember – “rich” means very sweet.  Turn off the heat and cool to room temperature, approximately twenty minutes.

This post is about a drink, not a fruit; yet the fruit can clearly make the drink, if not make it better.  Fresh lemon juice is a must, there is no substitute.  I would say the same about orange juice.  Some oranges simply do not taste as good if they are not in season.  That does not mean I will ever choose concentrate over freshly squeezed.  I squeezed a couple oranges, and used the peel (along with the lemon) for a pleasant bouquet.  Jamaican and demerara rums go very well together with their independently rich flavors and complexities.  I think the vanilla and passion fruit stand as the true character of this drink.  I was tempted to make a strong syrup from a vanilla bean, but did not want to tamper with the undeniable strength and straight-forward essence of the extract, or over-reach with sweetness.  As it is, the Spindrift is very well-balanced between tartness and sweetness.

If this drink sounds too big, or the combined ounces of rum sound too much for a work night, split it with a loved-one, or make a friend.  There’s nothing in the rule book about straining a Spindrift into a pitcher for two.

Spindrift

Spindrift
3 oz fresh orange juice
2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz passion fruit syrup
3/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz dark Jamaican rum (Coruba)
1 1/2 oz demerara rum (El Dorado)
1 oz light Puerto Rican rum (Bacardi)
20 oz crushed ice (2 1/2 cups)

Blend for 10 seconds, pour unstrained into a large, chilled snifter.  Garnish with orange and lemon wheel, and if you freshly made the syrup – a spent half shell of passion fruit.