Tag Archives: Cuba

Rum Diarys: Best rums for tiki cocktails Part IV

So here we are, the second to last post, and it’s all about the rich and powerful: Dark Rum…

Dark rum, the rich and powerful, best kind, of rum!
Dark rum, the rich and powerful, best kind, of rum!

Now we move onto the Dark rum and here is where it gets a little special, some of these rums are aged for nearly a decade and most come with a pretty special little story or two… From the Highly prized Goslings Black seal to the highly flammable overproof Plantation Rum here is my top 5 Tiki Dark Rums:

Goslings Black Seal (Bermuda) £21.15 – The Whisky Exchange

goslings
Goslings Dark rum (left bottle) is a delicious and rich Bermudan rum, so good in fact, they even have their very own cocktail trademarked!

This brand of rum is one of the best dark rums on the market; its rich, well-balanced flavours make it an ideal choice for tiki cocktails and enjoying with your favourite mixer.

Interestingly the Dark N Stormy cocktail (at least in the USA, Caribbean, UK & most of Western Europe) can only be made with Goslings Black Seal Rum! This is the result of a trademark Goslings started filing back in the 1970’s.

Fervent Shaker insider tip: Goslings were the first alcohol company to put in for, and get, a trademark for a cocktail. The trademark covers the use of the name ‘Dark N Stormy’ and regardless of the amount of lime or ginger beer used; the rum has to be Goslings Black Seal!

Bacardi Black (Cuba/Puerto Rico) £18-£20 – Sainsbury’s

Dark and powerful, like a dark rum should be, Bacardi Negra is a classic dark rum, readily available in your local supermarket...
Dark and powerful, like a dark rum should be, Bacardi Negra is a classic dark rum, readily available in your local supermarket…

Made in the Cuban style, but exiled to Puerto Rico; Bacardi Carta Negra (Black Rum) is a rich full-bodied dark rum that can hold its own against some of the best. Whilst the price would indicate its relative ‘cheapness’ when compared to some other brands, this rum is intended for the general use of mixing. Whilst it can be sipped, it’s best served in long drinks with cola or juice.

Fervent Shaker insider tip: I don’t like this rum neat. But I do love it in a Cuba Libre. Its dark-nature shines through in the rich taste and you don’t lose it when it’s mixed with Cola. Definitely worth the punt if you can’t afford the top end dark rums…

Plantation Overproof Dark Rum (73%) (Barbados) £35.65 – The Whisky Exchange

Overproof Dark Rum... Dangerous but theatrical in an epic way!
Overproof Dark Rum… Dangerous but theatrical in an epic way!

Like the honourable mention of Wray & Nephews white overproof rum in my first post, this dark rum is also overproof. If you’ve ever made, or had made for you, a cocktail called a ‘Zombie’ (made famous by the Don himself) then you’ll know that there is a requirement for overproof rum and for it to sit on the top of this drink. Its primary function is to burn and add a deep charred, burnt alcohol flavour to the drink. A worthwhile addition to any bar, home or public house; this rum is an excellent rum and perfect for advanced mixologists/bartenders…

Fervent Shaker insider tip: As with all alcohol one should be always be careful. However seeing as this alcohol is overproof (it’s 73% abv) it’s extremely flammable and should not, in any way, be underestimated or used lightly!

Ron Abuelo 12YO (Panama) £31.80 – The Drink Shop

Abuelo Rum, 12 year old. A rich taste and perfect to give your cocktails that added lift!
Abuelo Rum, 12 year old. A rich taste and perfect to give your cocktails that added lift!

Made from their home-grown sugar cane plantation, Abuelo 12 year old Anejo rum is soft, complex and character-full and can challenge even the most sophisticated of palates. Now some aficionados might argue that to mix rum of this quality would be heresy, I for one like my cocktails full of class. And this rum provides some serious weight in that category…

Clarkes Court – Special Dark Rum (Grenada) £27-30 The Drink Shop / The Whisky Exchange

Special Dark Rum. It's in the name really...
Special Dark Rum. It’s in the name really…

Winner of 9 bronze/silver awards from 2002-2009 (as well as various gold medals) Clarkes Court Special Dark Rum is a 40% abv rum from the shores of Grenada. This dark rum is aged in ex-bourbon casks and is perfect for cocktails as it is considered to be a gentler style of rum; those preferring softer rum have a love for this particular bottle.

Fervent Shaker insider tip: This particular rum is perfect for adding a little tweak to your tiki cocktails. Being of the softer variety of rums, this bottle will supply you with an easy to mix rum and help you develop your prowess, in regards to tiki cocktails at least…

So there you have it, my 5 top dark rums to use for you tiki cocktails. If you ever get a chance to nab a bottle or two off that list then I suggest you go ahead and give them a go! Just be extremely wary of the Plantation overproof 73%!!!

Is there a Dark rum you prefer that didn’t make my list? Why not leave a comment below with your choice? Although please understand that tomorrow I’ll be looking at spiced rums as the 4 section and therefore any ‘spiced’ dark rums will possibly be on that list!

Links:

The Drink Shop

The Whisky Exchange

Sainsbury’s

Ron Abuelo

Goslings

Plantation

Clarkes Court

Bacardi

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Rum Diarys: Best rums for tiki cocktails Part II

White Rum is the foundation for any rum collection. It’s a base for literally hundreds of cocktails, not least some of the most famous cocktails of all time; The Pina Colada, Mojito & Daiquiri all contain this clear elixir!

White rum is distilled from the sugar cane plant and can be made using one of two methods: Pot still or continuous still. Some rums use a combination of the two, and all three types have their merits and come-downs.

Check out my list of what I consider to be 5 of the best white rums for use in tiki cocktails (all under £40 of course!)…

(1) St. Aubin – Rhum Agricole (Mauritius) £22 – The Drink Shop

Hitting hard of the bat, this 50% rum is a sucker-punch if you're not careful...
Hitting hard of the bat, this 50% rum is a sucker-punch if you’re not careful…

In my first post about tiki cocktails I mentioned that the best rums to start with included rum from Martinique, Jamaica and, of course, a white rum. Well this Mauritian white rum is a perfect shoe-in if you’re unsure of which white rum to choose.

At 50%abv it’s a heavy hitter, but surprisingly it’s rather smooth and supple. It’s made with the freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, a very French way of making rhum, and is made at St. Aubin which has been a sugar plantation since 1819…

(2) Brugal Blanco (Dominican Republic) £20.85 – The Whisky Exchange

A fine looking bottle for a fine tasting white rum from Brugal (Venezuela)
A fine looking bottle for a fine tasting white rum from Brugal (Venezuela)

Brugal Blanco is a white rum all the way from the Dominican Republic. Its process includes ageing rum for 2-5 years in old American oak bourbon casks. The rum is then triple filtered, removing the colour, and that leaves you with a rum that’s as smooth as super-premium vodka but with all the character you get from premium rum. Basically it’s pretty darn good!

Fervent Insider Tip: Brugal is one of my favourite rum brands and this is one of my go-to white rums for new exotic cocktails; its smoothness compliments the addition of various fruit juices and syrups perfectly.

(3) Havana Club Anejo 3 YO White Rum (Cuba) £15-£20 Sainsbury’s/Tesco

Havana club are one of my favourite rum brands and this is one of my all-time favourite white rums...
Havana club are one of my favourite rum brands and this is one of my all-time favourite white rums…

One of my long standing favourites, Havana club has a superb collection of rums, so much so that they could potentially be on all 4 of these posts, but alas the one I’ve chosen is arguably their most versatile Anejo rum: their 3yo Blanco. Found readily in your local supermarkets, this rum is a quick journey away from becoming part of your now-growing rum library!

Aged for 3 years in Cuba this light yet crisp rum is fantastic in those famous Cuban cocktails, but it also works miracles in classic tiki cocktails like the Pina Colada!

(4) Plantation Rum – Three Stars White Rum (Barbados) £22 – The Drink Shop

I have one of these in post as we speak. It's a great silver-rated blended white rum...
I have one of these in post as we speak. It’s a great silver-rated blended white rum…

This is a well-balanced mildly vibrant rum, blending the finesse, character and fuller-flavours of all 3 historical rum producing islands: Jamaica, Barbados & Trinidad. Its name ‘Plantation 3 Stars’ honours those 3 historical islands and stands as a signal to all who lay eyes on the bottle: This is premium…

Fervent Shaker insider tip: This rum is extremely sophisticated and works better with cocktails that allow the flavours of the rum to come out in the drink. So whilst the juices of some tiki cocktails are not always suited for this rum; cocktails like the Zombie and similar ‘shorter’ cocktails are perfect to make the most of this particular rum…

(5) La Mauny – Rhum Blanc (Martinique) £27 – The Drink Shop

A fancy Martinique rum in a simple bottle. Don't let its subtlety fool you, this rum is class through and through...
A fancy Martinique rum in a simple bottle. Don’t let its subtlety fool you, this rum is class through and through…

This rum from Martinique, one of the countries mentioned in my first post, is a clear white and has a strong 50% abv. With this in mind it is one of the stronger rums on this list and is more suited to the fruit juice laden concoctions that make tiki cocktails so popular.

Fervent Shaker insider tip: Coming in at just under £30 this rum is a bit steep compared to supermarket brands and even some better known brands. But unlike a lot of things in this world, when it comes to Rum, as well as straight alcohol in general, you pay for what you get.

Honourable Mention: Wray & Nephews Overproof White rum (Jamaica) £26.00 – Sainsbury’s

Strong and, from personal experience, not a nice straight. But fantastic for adding a little theatre to your cocktails...
Strong and, from personal experience, not a nice straight. But fantastic for adding a little theatre to your cocktails…

This honourable mention is simply because I could not fit all of the rums I liked into the 5 slots I limited myself too. Tiki cocktails often invoke memories of that beach bar on that Caribbean island you never learned to pronounce, along with flames galore. Drinks on fire are usually gimmicky but sometimes this adds to the theatre of the bar world. With regards to tiki cocktails you need a spirit that combusts and yet will not damage the overall flavour of the drink. Enter Wray & Nephews. This high abv alcohol is perfect for this job as it is highly flammable – that means you can light it to give you your fiery theatrical gimmick whilst not altering the overall taste of the cocktail…

Links:

Sainsbury’s

Tesco

The Drink Shop

The Whisky Exchange

St. Aubin

Havana Club

Plantation

LaMauny

Brugal

Wray & Nephews

The Legend of the Cuba Libre…

cuba cab

The Cuba Libre the epitome of a classic cocktail – it is 114 years old after all! Better yet, it has not only stood the test of time, but today it remains one of the most ordered cocktails across the world.

But for a drink some only know as ‘Rum & Coke’ to have lasted so long would’ve required some rather important factors;

  • A colourful history
  • Simplicity
  • Fantastic taste
  • The use of a world class Mixer

Now simplicity doesn’t always work, and let’s be honest, a colourful history could be good or bad. But mix the good kind of colourful history with simplicity and then blend in the great taste of a classic American mixer then you have formed the perfect storm, in cocktail terms at least.

I’ll be honest here; The Cuba Libre’s success is in no small part down to its drinkability and the fact it’s mixed with arguably the most famous mixer in the world, Coca Cola, is no mistake.

As you can probably already tell, the Cuba Libre is my favourite cocktail. Whilst you’ll rarely see me order one when out and about, as they are so easy to make, at home they’re pretty much all I drink.

Give me a well-made Cuba Libre and I’ll be a happy man.

So let’s look at the facts:

The History of the Cuba Libre…

cuba libre 4

The history of the Cuba Libre cocktail is well documented as being around the turn of the 20th century – when cuba won it’s freedom after the American-Spanish war of 1898. It’s said that after the war ended, around August 1900, Captain Russell (of the US Military) ordered Bacardi Rum with Coke and a slice of lime. The name of the drink was coined when he toasted the phrase “Por Cuba Libre” – For a free Cuba. This phrase was of great political significance at the time, especially as it was used by both American and Cuban citizens alike. Whilst Bacardi Rum is no longer ‘Cuban’ rum (they vacated the Island back when the American Prohibition hit hard) they are still considered the Rum of choice when ordering a Cuba Libre or, as it is better known; “A Bacardi & Coke please”…

Simplicity & the taste of America…

Coca Cola is unequivocally American. Any American will tell you that Coca Cola is as much a part of the USA’s history as the Wild West and JFK, with some of the older memorabilia selling for $100’s with some more specific items fetching far higher prices! The fact that it’s so simple to create; combined with the classic taste of America and the history surrounding the cocktails’ creation means it’s not that surprising it has, arguably, become one of the most famous cocktails of all time.

An Advocate for slow sipping…

The Cuba Libre can be a pleasure when well-made and should always be enjoyed sip by sip; especially, if like me, you like to use it to help taste the finest of rums. I find that Cola helps bring out some of the better flavours of golden/dark rums and this for me not only means I get to enjoy a rum without the burning feeling of the alcohol, but also allows me to spend more time enjoying it. The use of Cola takes a drink that would be over far too soon and lengthens it to perfection.

So whilst this cocktail is certainly a classic, especially when Bacardi is used, it also allows people like me to enjoy the rum they love for longer, by allowing us to sip it slowly over a greater amount of time.

And finally; the two Cuba Libre’s that matter:

The Original (1900) Cuban Recipe…

Recipe:

1 measure Bacardi Gold Rum

3 measures Coca-Cola (bottled*)

2 lime wedges

Method:

  • Build over ice and drop in the Lime wedges for garnish.
  • For an added lime kick, squeeze the juice out of the lime and into the drink before putting the wedges in. Remember to stir before serving…

This recipe is as close to the original as today will allow, with the problem being that Bacardi vacated Cuba shortly after the USA took over. They relocated production to Puerto Rico & Mexico and have rightly had the title of ‘Cuban Rum’ removed from their current products. However if you want a taste of a current day ‘Cuban’ Cuba Libre then check out my favourite recipe:

‘True Cuban’ Cuba Libre:

cuba libre 1

Recipe:

1 measure Havana Club Especial (Gold) Rum

3 measures Coca-Cola (glass bottle*)

2 wedges lime

Method:

  • Squeeze one of the lime wedges into your ice-filled glass.
  • Then pour in the rum.
  • Top up with the Coca-Cola and then stir.
  • Drop in the 2nd lime wedge, put your feet up and sip away.

*It’s no secret that bottle Coca-Cola tastes better than Canned and this is not a coincidence. Using glass bottled cola is the best way to enjoy it in my opinion, and it is definitely the better of the 3 types for the ultimate Cuba Libre. However any Coca-Cola will do just fine.

A Classic Preview – Of a Classic Drink… THE MOJITO

Here’s a preview of my upcoming post about the magic of the MOJITO

Basically Mojito’s ROCK! – they are superbly refreshing, glorious drinks for those glorious summer nights we never seem to get any more here in the UK… Well i have news for you, Rum is making a comeback this year and among a few other drinks, the MOJITO will he right on the front lines of this overdue revival.

The Mojito is a classic Caribbean style cocktail, although adopted my many a Mexican resort as a slight diversifier from Tequila; this drink is by far superior from the Caribbean using home grown local ingredients…

As i always say a cocktail can only be as good as its ingredients. And the Mojito is no exception. The original recipe calls for Caribbean white rum, Cuban in particular (as if it would be any other). Add to this the local sugar, limes and mint and you have one of the most crisp, breathtakingly refreshing drinks you’ll ever try…

A Classic Recipe…

60ml Caribbean White Rum

15ml Sugar Syrup

4-8 mint leaves

1/2 lime cut into chunks

top up soda water

crushed ice…

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Mojito’s everywhere… Coming soon: More Mojito Recipes than you could shake a stick at (who does that these days anyway!)…

For methods on how to mix this drink and a large collection of different flavour-filled Mojito recipes (including some rather special easter related recipes), look out for my forthcoming post titled: Mojito’s – The many flavours of Caribben Rum

Keep mixing and dont forget: Drink Responsibly!

The Cuba Libre – A classic cocktail for the new era.

 “The Cuba Libre requires Bacardi rum and Coca Colatm with ice and a wedge of fresh lime. Why? Because that’s how an original Cuba Libre has always been made – at least since 1900, when American soldiers on Neptuno Street, Havana, first persuaded a barman to mix his precious Bacardi rum with their tasty new beverage called Coca Cola” – Bacardi’s description of the Cuba Libre on their website. (http://www.bacardi.com/uk/Cocktails/BACARDI-Cuba-Libre)

Image
Old Havana Skyline, taken by Wikimedia Commons/Flickr user Gabriel Rodríguez.

The Cuba Libre has all the mysterious history you need from a classic cocktail and then some. Now I’m not saying it’s because of this that it’s actually considered a ‘classic cocktail’ but you have to admit the uncanny similarities to some of the other classics (Mojito, Martini, Margarita etc…).

The one thing that the Cuba Libre has in its favour though is its base spirit: Rum. Rum, as any well-to-do person will tell you, has a mysterious history all to its own. It just so happens that the Caribbean (that’s the collection of islands that includes Cuba would you know) is arguably the best place for premium quality rums anywhere in the world. Whether it’s the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Trinidad or even the ‘Rum King’ Island known as Barbados, the rum used in Cuba Libre’s has traditionally been of the best quality full stop (little wonder it’s become a classic then eh?).

The Recipe:

So traditionally it was made using Coca Cola, a Premium quality Cuban Anejo Rum and a wedge of Lime to freshen the drink up a little. However recently (mainly due to the lack of any Cuban rum in my repertoire) I have been trying out different brands and styles of rum both to find my favourite, and also because it is a simple recipe to stick to and easy to tweak without destroying the original idea…

Image
As you can see it keeps to the simple and balanced nature of the classic cocktail, but also packs a great taste (just try it if you don’t believe me)…

Of course there are many variations, more variations than the time I have to write them down for you, and some include different types/brands of rum. From the classic white(light) rums  to the semi-aged golden and Aged ‘Dark’ rums of the Caribbean and even the spiced rums (Captain Morgan’s, Kraken etc.) which have become more and more popular over recent years here in the UK…

The last time I got paid (just after Christmas) I went out and stocked up on some quality rums that my local Sainsbury’s had on offer at the time (and I also got a bottle of Makers Mark, but that’s a story for another time)… The Rums purchased/received as presents were;

–          Brugal Ron Anejo Rum £20-25 (I got it on offer for £16.99)

A Golden (semi-aged/aged) rum from the Dominican Republic; considered to be of a very high quality.

–          Kraken Black Spiced Rum £18-23 (depending on store)

Imported from the USA, Kraken comes in a glorious pirate themed bottle and denotes a giant squid (hence the ‘Kraken’) on the label. It’s a high quality black spiced rum and it tastes magical, which is probably why it has gathered quite the cult following. This was a very well received present from my sister for Christmas.

–          Bacardi Oakheart  £18-19 (£12 – offer price when I got it)

My soul reason for buying this bottle of rum was the price. It was a mere £12 at the time (worked out around £10.80 after my discount) and I just could not pass that up (considering its usual RRP is around £18-19!!!)…

Also I was a little wary because whilst Bacardi is a quality product, I feared they had created something that might not work (needless to say I was very, very wrong!).

Anyway, back to the recipes;

                So I tried a Cuba Libre using a 2-1 (Rum-Lime) ratio and topped up with a cola (Pepsi as it’s my favourite but feel free to change that to your favourite). Needless to say you do get 3 very different tasting drinks.

The Brugal Anejo Cuba Libre is as close as a Classic Cuba Libre these recipes got, purely in the way of geographical accuracy (Dominican Rep. is as close to the Havana Club style Anejo I have) and I imagine it’s similar in tastes to a classic Cuba Libre too. Whilst not the best when mixed with Pepsi, if you use Coca Cola like the classic recipe requests, it becomes sublime. And as a classic Cuba Libre (if you don’t have any Cuban rum) then this is the recipe I suggest you use!

The Bacardi Oakheart Cuba Libre was a standout favourite among my friends and family, with its smooth taste blending with the lime and Pepsi better (in their opinion anyway) than the Brugal Ron Anejo. The Bacardi was obviously made for cocktail mixing; such is the way with their other rum products.

The Kraken Black Spiced Cuba Libre, after a few tries, was my personal standout recipe. Purely for the thick, almost syrupy taste it brings to the drink. The Lime juice, when freshly squeezed, cuts through the nasty aftertaste of the alcohol (that horrible kick you get that can spoil a drink) allowing you to pile in 2 measures without thought, and the Pepsi brought out the Spiced notes perfectly and made sure they were there in the background, but not too overpowering.

In my opinion the Kraken Rum brought something extra to the Pepsi recipes that the others simply did not have: a thick almost syrupy, spice texture that when cut with the fresh lime juice created this sensation of pure bliss; that something a little bit special.

Now don’t mistake my gushing for naivety. I know that the classic Cuban rum recipe will always be the classic Cuba Libre, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but what I am saying is that If you want something a little special and a bit of a taste-treat in the disguise of a Cuba Libre; then Kraken Black Spiced Rum is your poison of choice. Trust me you will not regret it.

Footnotes:

–          Always use freshly squeezed lime juice. Lime cordial is never a replacement at the best of times, and especially not here. It is too sweet and doesn’t help balance out the rum. Don’t expect the taste to be that good if you do use it. Having said that, if you have no choice try to use a little less rum so you don’t overpower the drink.

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Always use fresh lime juice where possible. It is far superior to any lime cordial in every way.

–          These rums were used purely because they were accessible at the time I tried them. So whilst I am raving about the Kraken Rum here, it is very likely you will disagree. Please don’t hate me for ignoring your favourite rum; that is not the intention. It was simply MY favourite of the 3!

Recipes:

Brugal Ron Anejo Cuba Libre (Coke)

2 measures Brugal Ron Anejo Rum

1 measure freshly squeezed lime juice*

Top up Coca Cola

Brugal Ron Anejo Cuba Libre (Pepsi)

2 measures Brugal Ron Anejo Rum

1 measure freshly squeezed lime juice

Top up Pepsi

Bacardi Oakheart Cuba Libre

2 measures Bacardi Oakheart

1 measure freshly squeezed lime juice*

Top up Pepsi

Kraken Black Spiced Cuba Libre

2 measures Kraken Black Spiced Rum

1 measure freshly squeezed lime Juice*

Top up Pepsi

*this is equivalent to around 1 small lime being around 25ml

Now as a slight addition to this post, one I did not intend I might add, will be in relation to the fact that whilst in the process of writing this post; I was again paid.

This payday I invested in a rather well-known brand of Cuban Rum, mainly to test out the theory of ‘Cuban rum for a Cuba Libre is better’ and also because I love it. That’s right ladies and gents; Havana Club 3yo white rum.

Now normally I would keep this sort of information to myself, but seeing as it was mainly to try a proper Cuba Libre Recipe out, I thought it best to add. The recipe I used was a 2:1 ratio (the same as the above recipes) only I added the lime juice to the glass first (following Havana Club guidelines).

And can I just say, from the above recipes, Brugal & Coca Cola was my favourite (not including the Kraken & Pepsi recipe), but this Havana Libre I made up, was on another level… It is very strange, but the flavour of the Havana Club comes through the cola perfectly, so you taste the rums flavour, but without the painful bite of the alcohol (thank the lime juice for that).

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Havana Nights: Cuba is the birthplace of the Cuba Libre and Cuban Rum should always be your first stop…

So I suppose to summarise I just have to leave you with this bit of advice: Cocktail recipes can be fluid. You make them to your own tastes. And sometimes you may want a spiced rum, sometimes you want a white. But if you ever have a Cuba Libre, try it first with the Havana Club 3yo, create a Cuba Libre the way it was intended and then, if you want to, experiment with other rums. You’ll find that this classic recipe is just that: a classic. You may find you prefer a spiced version, or even the taste of black rum. But no matter what you try you cannot beat the Cuban Anejo rum recipe. It’s just one of those things… Like gravity or the short life of a turkey; it’s inevitable.