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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(Fill in the Blank) Fog Cutter

The Fog Cutter is one of those drinks I have lifted on high in massive glory, a neon-lit icon for all to see as a genuine representative of tiki drinks, like the Zombie, Mai Tai, and Hurricane.  Even though there are many others (seriously – there are a lot of tiki drinks…thank goodness), some drinks are simply born with spot-lights of fame because of a person’s imagination.  A long time ago, as in before my drinking age, if I were to describe a Zombie, it would have looked red, as well as a Mai Tai, and for some reason imagining a Hurricane as a blue drink.  When I learned what the drinks truly were, and they became real to me, the lofty heights of my given stardom no longer appeared so unreachable.  Reality replaced fantasy, and appreciation changed my perception.

The Fog Cutter, once again, is a drink with questionable origins, whether invented by Trader Vic, Tony Ramos, or from Edna Earle’s restaurant, which Fogcutters was named after a diving knife.  And for those of you who enjoy trivia, which has nothing to do with the Fog Cutter, the term Cutty Sark originally was not for the British clipper, but named for women’s undergarments.  Cutty meant “short” – Sark meant “shift” or “chemise.”  First came the underwear, then the famous ship, then the Scotch whiskey.  I guess the bottle would look pretty silly with something other than a sailing vessel on its label.

WARNING:  Anyone allergic to almonds should not ingest orgeat.

However, “Almond Flavoring” precisely printed on the bottle should be harmless.   If you don’t want to buy a bottle orgeat, or make your own, which is easy, another option is to add a few drops almond flavoring (from the grocery store) into simple syrup to give a neighborhood taste – a couple drops for 2 ounces.  I mean, the flower water really makes the flavor profile, not simply almonds, and there really is not substituting orgeat for something less.  But almond flavored syrup is close enough in a pinch.  I used to think, “Maybe if I substitute another kind of nut flavor it will be alright, after all – it’s just a nut flavor, right?”  Since then, I’ve experimented, trialed-and-errored, and learned the inventors of drinks could have used Frangelico instead of orgeat, but didn’t.  Could vodka work just as well as gin, if not better?  No.  The recipes are in writing.  They are permanent.  New drinks can be made using the old recipes as guides, yet cannot be called the same thing.  It’s all about flavor.  Bottom line:  Please try the original flavor of a drink first.  If you don’t like it, of course change it.  If you don’t have the ingredients at first, make it as close as you can.  But please, strive to get the original ingredients.

With that said, I substituted out the sherry.  I don’t like sherry.  I learned from Beachbum Berry’s Remixed (all hail Jeff “Beachbum” Berry!), whatever you float on top of a Fog Cutter is allowed as long as you alter the name of the drink.  For example, if I wanted to float Maple Crown Royal, I could call it a Canadian Fog Cutter, or Fog Cutter Flapjacks, or whatever you can think of, whether prestigious or playful.  Your drink – your name.  Plus, once you drink a Fog Cutter, you’re not going to listen to another word I say.  If by chance your mood carries you into two of these drinks, your opinion will suddenly grow to monstrous heights, and might crush us all under your bootheel of wisdom!

fog cutter

Malagasy Fog Cutter
2 oz fresh Lemon juice
1 oz fresh Orange juice
1/2 oz Orgeat Syrup
1 oz Light Rum
1 oz Brandy (no need for expensive kind since it's for mixing)
1/2 oz Gin (dry)
1/2 oz *Madagascar Mix

Shake everything with cracked ice – except the mix.  Pour into tall tiki mug and add more cracked ice to fill.  Float sherry on top of drink.  Garnish with mint.  Drink with a straw.

*Madagascar Mix
1/2 part Clément V.S.O.P. (I prefer rhums more than rums for this)
1 part Vanilla syrup
1 part Tia Maria (any Coffee Liqueur will work)

If you have trouble with the technique of “floating” and the liquid flows down too far into the drink – remember to pour slowly, perhaps using an up-side down spoon to help slow the pour.  As you can see by my picture, my float sank like a stone.  Obviously I need more practice, if you understand my meaning.  Also, I don’t have a Fog Cutter mug yet, and feel I should have gotten one by now.  After all, the drink and the mug are practically synonymous.  Just for curiosity sake, I made two drinks, substituting lime for the lemon, simply to see a side by side comparison.  They look the same, and both taste extraordinarily good.  My wife prefers the lime, while I favor the lemon because I can taste the gin better with lemon.

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.

Laulima Lapu

A little after posting the Powell Point Punch, I began to wonder what was out there when it came to the three ingredients of pineapple, cranberry and grapefruit.  A funny thing happened – I found not only a drink that sported the three, but nearly had all the ingredients of another of my posted drinks as well (POG).  Reading Beachbum Berry’s book Remixed, I came across Bob Esmino’s Kijiya Lapu.  What I wanted to do was fiddle with Bob’s great drink, but still remaining devoted to his reasoning.

It comes down to a balancing act, sweet versus sour, like two teams with many members on each side of the rope playing tug-of-war, and rum is the rope.  My first thoughts before tasting it was not nervousness, but doubt.  I hoped the two drinks I liked wouldn’t ruin each other in the same glass.  Bob Esmino made a better drink, neither was his drink improved.  I simply made a different drink.  But it’s similar in many ways.  Changing the proportions altered the drink all by itself.  Also, it only made sense (to me) to add guava juice (regardless if I think the world is a better place with more guava in it).

Laulima Lapu
1 1/2 oz Myers's dark rum
1 oz Cruzan light rum
1/2 oz cranberry cocktail
1/2 oz grapefruit juice
1/2 pineapple juice
1/2 oz passionfruit juice
1/2 oz orange juice
1/2 oz guava juice
1/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz honey mix**
6 drops of absinthe
splash of orgeat
dash of Regan's No.6

Shake with lots of ice.  Pour without straining into large chilled glass, adding more ice if needed. Garnish with orange, cherry, mint, and an umbrella.

**Honey mix is simply equal portions honey to hot water, mixing until honey is dissolved.  Honey blends better this way; and you can get it all out of your jigger.