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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Fruit Sauce

great blue hole of belize

I thought the Great Blue Hole of Belize would represent a big enough bowl – rather than the below’s galactic size depicts.

In the beginning, my mother got out a very large bowl, 
and in the bowl was without form, and void.   
She opened cans of peach and pineapple, 
a couple containers of fresh blueberries,  
chopped up some oranges, 
several kiwifruit, 
then dumped all that into the void.   
And it was good.

The inspiration of this drink came from flavors my mother brought together, a satisfying and mood-brightening deliciousness called Fruit Sauce, made in large quantities for either get-togethers, holiday gatherings, special occasions (or ordinary made special), whether supplementing breakfasts, snacking, or as a dessert in its own right.  There is a lot of sugar in the recipe (not listed in the reverent and loosely listed recipe above), as well as including the syrups from the cans, causing me to experiment with sugar for a still-pleasant more-acidic satisfaction.  Pineapple, orange, kiwifruit, blueberry and peach – a flavor spectrum perfected by all, though strangely disharmonized if missing a single ingredient.

I say again, this is a sweet one, no question about it, yet close to balancing with the tart qualities of the pineapple, orange and blueberry.  These fruits are why a calculated addition of simple syrup is discretionary.  As to which rums to use, I hope you experiment which ones play best with these flavors.  I stayed away from spiced and infused rums, but have no objection to overproofs, demeraras or agricoles.  After all, the original idea of the five fruits will guide the drink – like a tugboat coaxing a cruise ship towards the dock to board you for an adventure.  When adding simple syrup, perhaps the best thing to do is taste the mixture beforehand (shaking first to incorporate the flavors – shaking without ice), deciding if syrup is even needed.  If it is not sweet enough, start with a 1/4 ounce, and if needing more, another 1/4 ounce, making sure the natural flavors of the fruit do not get camouflaged.

fruit sauce 2fruit sauce 1

Fruit Sauce
1 1/4 oz light rum (Ron Matusalem Platino)
1/2 oz gold rum (Flor de Cana 7 year)
1/2 oz dark rum (Gosling's Black Seal)
3 large chunks pineapple
1 1/2 kiwifruit
10-15 blueberries (depending on size - if really big, use 8)
1/4 orange (peeled & cut into 3 pieces)
1/2 oz peach liqueur
simple syrup to taste (start at 1/4 oz)

Thoroughly muddle orange, pineapple and blueberries.  Double-strain back into mixing glass.  Muddle the kiwifruit (do not strain for added flavor), add rum and peach liqueur.  Shake vigorously without ice for 5 seconds.  Taste to see if the fruit is sweet enough, as if provided season’s ripeness, adding simple syrup if desired.  Then shake again with ice.  Pour into a chilled glass.  Skewer some blueberries for a garnish.

Note:  When you have found your preference of sweetness, there is no need to dry shake the next time you make it, since it is your original experiment.

Another Note:  Bless your hearts for waiting for this dumb posting.  I had planned to make a drink commemorating my moving into a house (will make it another time), then a planned holiday drink afterwards (also will save it for next year).  I’ve missed writing about drinks.  Thanks so much for reading.

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.