In the couple of weeks since Tales of the Cocktail I've become hyper-sensitive to the cocktails that I've been imbibing. My palate has done some serious mood-swings lately. There was that lovely punch last weekend made with the locally distilled Busted Barrel Rum from Jersey Artisan Distilling and my fabulously well balanced Grey Gardens Cocktail at Gramercy Tavern which was a combination of Greylock Gin, Celery Leaf, Cocchi Americano and Black Pepper Bitters. Something to be said for pepper in a cocktail. It reminds me of those GORGEOUS bottles of Karlsson's Gold Vodka that come with a pepper mill filled with pepper ready to be ground into the top of each perfect shot. Peppery goodness. Just like the Grey Gardens in my hand yesterday. Perfect with the burger at the bar at Gramercy Tavern.
This leads me to the premise of the story. Simplicity in my cocktails during the late summer.
There are few drinks that have the capacity to stir up memories for me than the Cuba Libre or Rum and Coke. I suppose this is because the rum and coke reminds me of being younger, a bit more opinionated and certainly a font of information on liquor. My rum and coke drinks would have been enjoyed on the deck or sometimes in bad weather below deck of my family's former Little Harbor Yacht while sailing in the British Virgin Islands. There might have been ice in the equation, made by desalinating the seawater, so it had a strange flavor to it and this ice was certainly cloudy from impurities in the water. But add a healthy portion of rum and a Coke, now we're taking pure satisfaction and stomach soothing properties. When you are on a yacht, no matter how large she is, the ocean can toss you around making you quite ill.
Rum and Coke is a sailor's dream cocktail.
The venerable Rum and Coke could be made Island Strength. What is Island Strength drink? Well, quite simply it is the way drinks are made should you live in the islands. There are two ways to craft cocktails in the islands. One way is for the tourists- that would be 1 ounce of whatever the local rum was and 8 ounces of soda, usually coke. The other and far more preferable way in my opinion is the Island Strength method which is at least 4 ounces (or more) of rum and just a splash or two of the cola. You can tell who is from the islands and who isn't not only by their sunburns, but by the color of their cocktails.
Sailors usually like being in control of their yachts and the strength of their Rum and Coke usually depends upon the height of the sea or the power of the wind. My step-father liked to drink from early in the morning to late at night, so his drinks were usually lighter in the morning, heavier at lunch (from dealing with my mother anyone would want to drink into oblivion...) and lighter again in the afternoon. Evening would start with a few pina-colada cocktails and there would definitely be a Rhum agricole in a snifter for enjoying with dessert. Then of course, as if like clockwork, a bottle of Tia Maria (the marvelous coffee liqueur from Jamaica) would appear for a night cap in the spacious center cockpit of our yacht.
If you think drinking all day at Tales of the Cocktail was hard work, sailing the Caribbean was also very hard work. You have the sun on your head and wind buffeting the yacht. Seawater might splash over the rails into your face.
You had to expect that there would be a Rum and Coke in your hands at all times. If not for healing a case of seasickness, but for giving you something to do with your hands while not sailing.
Historically, I'm not usually a fan of the large liquor brands. My focus in this industry is on craft and small producer liquors. Perhaps it's the entrepreneur in me that says small producer is better tasting, but I've discovered a "side" project from the venerable GIANT of a rum company named Bacardi that may completely change the way you feel about mass production rum because this variety is anything but mass produced.
The Ron Solera from Bacardi is a stunning achievement for a company that produces millions of bottles of rum per year. They have succeeded in creating a true Solera method rum that is aged up to three years in used oak (probably Bourbon wood) and they use the Spanish Solera method of aging where some of the prior year's rum is used to ensure that the future expressions speak clearly of the past. Bacardi? Are you sure? Is this the same company that produces rum that tastes more like vodka than rum? Am I dreaming?
No, I am not. The Bacardi Solera rum is golden in color and pares wonderfully with that very special Cane Sugar Cola that speaks of anything but corn syrup. I think drinking cane and cane is a very honorable way to do things. Cane sugar cola and Cane sugar (molasses) rum is my idea of a stomach tonic that has an ulterior motive. And what would that motive be?
Perhaps a buzz?
Sitting in front of me is a lovely bottle of bitters from 5 by 5 in Chico, California. Fivebyfivetonics.com is how you would get in touch with the producers of these bitters like no others. The label reads Aged Citrus Bitters. On the backside of the bottle there is a short description of the history of bitters which closely mirrors my upcoming book on Apothecary Cocktails.
I think what makes these bitters exciting is the nature of the product itself. Aged Citrus is what makes these bitters unique. And when they are combined with the slightly citrus tinged Bacardi Solera Rum and a chunk of lime and a good hit of REAL Coca-Cola- not the corn syrup stuff, but the REAL CANE SUGAR variety from Mexico. This Coca-Cola mimics the aromatic elements of the rum and deeps the experience with several dashes of the 5 by 5 Bitters.
A lovely cocktail it is indeed!
I Can't Call this a Cuba LIbre Cocktail because it isn't made with Havana Club... .
Mexican Libre Cocktail
1 Mexican Coca Cola 12 oz.
3 oz. (almost Island Strength) Bacardi Ron Solera (from Mexico)
2-3 dashes 5 by 5 Aged Citrus Bitters
Hand Cut Ice
Add a couple chunks of hand cut ice to a Collins Glass
Add the Bacardi Solera Rum
Add as much Cola as you like.. I like very little so as not to taint this gorgeous rum
Add a good chunk of lime
Dash 2-3 shakes of the bitters over the top
Serve, preferably from the deck of your yacht in the Islands.
Warren Bobrow has published over three hundred articles on food, wine, and cocktail mixology in just over three years. In addition to his popular blog, The Cocktail Whisperer, Warren is the “On Whiskey” columnist for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans. He has written for the Williams-Sonoma blog, Foodista.com, Voda Magazine, Saveur, Serious Eats, The Beverage Journal and Edible New Jersey. Warren is on the Drink Careers 101 Advisory Board. He was a 2010 Ministry of Rum judge and an Iron Mixology judge at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival.
Warren has taught classes in social media and food writing at the New School in NY and on the roster of professors at ICE in NYC. Warren was the only journalist from the USA asked to participate in Fete de la Gastronomie 2012 in Paris for Atout France and the French National Tourist Board.
Quayside Publishing Group will publish Warren’s first book, Apothecary Cocktails, Restoratives from Yesterday and Today with forward from Paul Tuennerman, in October 2013