Rum Barrel.

Straight to the rum show.

Rum Barrel.

The Rum Barrel is a drink that shows up on the menu of bona fide Tiki bars yet leads to some puzzlement regarding the recipe. And there is a good reason for this confusion. Like the Planter’s Punch – but even more so – the Rum Barrel isn’t a specific drink at all. Let me explain. The Rum Barrel is the blank canvas that a Tiki fanatic uses to express themselves using their advanced palate and their palette of exotic rums, syrups and juices. Therefore there is no definitive recipe for a Rum Barrel. However, anyone who takes their Tiki seriously should have their own secret recipe ready for when they open their own (fantasy?) Tiki bar. Now, while there are no hard and fast rules for such an endeavour there are certain guidelines of which I will shortly avail you of. But first we must address the obvious dilemma: how can I show you how to create a superb Rum Barrel without giving away my own secret recipe? Hmmm. OK. I’ll give you an example that is a predecessor to my current house Barrel and I believe paints a pretty good illustration of how to create your own. But first those guidelines.

Your Rum Barrel should contain a pleasing combination of at least three different rums. They should be interesting ones and yet they should be relatively affordable. Why? Because they are going to be a staple of our fantasy Tiki bar and must maintain a viable profit margin. Next up your Barrel should be a pretty large drink to make it appear to be good value for money. It should have a lot of ingredients yet the formula should be relatively simple. And finally it absolutely, positively must be served in a barrel. My Rum Barrel is pictured in my much treasured Mai Kai barrel which was acquired with much difficulty from the Mothership of Tiki in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Other ceramic barrels are fairly easy to find – just Google “Tiki ceramic barrel”.

Beyond the above guidelines the Rum Barrel is a licence for you to go freestylin’. Keep an eye on your sweet/sour balance and make sure to get some exotic flavours in there (passionfruit is often involved though I chose not to). If you’d like a nice foamy head, as seen above, pineapple juice will be more than happy to help. Take plenty of time to get all of this just right as the Rum Barrel should be both a revelatory introduction to the uninitiated as well as deeply satisfying to the experienced cocktail drinker. It should have complex layers of flavour which are well balanced and do not individually dominate the drink. The drinker – given the secrecy of recipe which, incidentally, you may never fully reveal – should be left guessing as to the components yet able to pick out individual flavours (“ooh, is that almond I’m getting now? And what juice is this I’m tasting?)

So let’s go! Here’s something that’s a bit like my Proof Rum Barrel and now you’re on your own. And good luck with your new Tiki bar!


Rum Barrel (Proofish version)

1oz / 30ml El Dorado 8 year old*.

1oz / 30ml Coruba NPU.

1oz / 30ml Plantation Original Dark.

1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice.

1oz / 30ml white grapefruit juice.

2oz / 60ml orange juice (good carton is fine).

2oz / 60ml pineapple juice (fresh is best).

0.5oz / 15ml golden falernum.

0.5oz / 15ml ginger syrup.

2 dashes of Angostura bitters.

Blend (just 6 or seven quick pulses as always with Tiki) with a cup of crushed ice and pour into a ceramic rum barrel containing enough ice to make the finished drink full to the brim.

A flower garnish is perfectly acceptable here although I didn’t bother. Sue me.

Toast yourself as this is going to be your Rum Barrel in due course.


*More on this rum very soon.

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Pimm’s Cup

Anyone for tennis?
Anyone for tennis?

Anyone for tennis?

Pimm’s Cup

Just recently we were talking about punches. And yeah, punches rock but something like a Fish House Punch takes a bit of organising and preperation. What if we want to make a nice summery drink for a small group or even just individually without all that fuss? Then we turn to the Pimm’s Cup. Before we get to the recipe we’d better get up to date on the main ingredient – Pimm’s (well, what did you expect?)

Pimm’s

Waaay back in 1823 James Pimm, owner of a London oyster bar came up with a concoction that was a kind of ready made gin punch containing a variety of (still) secret additions. This he called his Pimm’s No.1 Cup. Now where this gets a little confusing is that this product is called a Pimm’s Cup but so is a drink made using it. Get used to it – that’s just how it is. Over the years other bottled formulas came and went which used other bases; Scotch, brandy, rum, rye, vodka and tequila. Don’t worry about it as they’re all essentially extinct and we now just call Pimm’s No.1 Cup “Pimm’s” and be done with it. Pimm’s is the quintessential English summer drink to sip while watching cricket, tennis and probably fucking polo too I would imagine. Pimm’s is essentially an English amaro if a somewhat light and approachable one. It’s not strong (ABV 25%), it’s not particularly distinctive but, hey, it’s not expensive, it’s damn refreshing and it’s spectacularly simple to mix into a jug or glass. The traditional way to make a Pimm’s Cup is to pour a few glugs into an iced pitcher and top up with either British style lemonade (ie. Sprite/7 Up) or, less commonly, ginger beer (or ginger ale). Usually some combination of sliced citrus, cucumber and mint are thrown in too. And that’s it – you’re ready to hob-nob with Rupert, Jennifer and St John, discussing how wahnderful Brexit has been while wondering why the price of fresh fruit has gone through the roof. Pricks.

Cup it up!

But I think we can do better. What if we did a deconstructed/reconstructed Pimm’s Cup and ditched the cucumber* along the way? It’s not going to be significantly more difficult and it tastes a lot better. Presented here is an individual serving but just scale directly up as required. Chin chin!


Pimm’s Cup (Proof version).

2oz / 60ml Pimm’s No 1.

1oz / 30ml fresh lemon juice.

0.75oz / 22ml simple syrup (1:1) – or optionally ginger syrup.

Build over ice in a tall glass or tankard. Add some sliced citrus and a few mint leaves. Top up with soda and stir gently. You don’t really need to garnish it any further but I did anyway.

Toast Jim Pimm.


*I despise those nasty things that seem to creep into everything these days.

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Fish House Punch + oleo saccharum.

Punch it Chewie!

Fish House Punch.

Before the drinking world settled on the cocktail as its sophisticated drink of choice there was another concoction that oiled the wheels of the well-to-heel. The punch – likely of ancient Indian origin – was de rigeur amongst the wealthy, ships officers and not a few pirates. In its heyday from around 1750 – 1880 the punch was all the rage and spawned a whole range of new tableware in the form of elaborate punch bowls, cups and spoons. The arrival of the cocktail craze (c.1880 – 1970 and 2000 – ∞) largely killed off the punch as there was more cachet to having one’s drink prepared lovingly and individually.

Suitable for the watering of a larger number of guests than individually mixed drinks the punch gives the host the opportunity to enjoy the gathering without being chained to the shaker all evening. Better still the punch can largely be prepared in advance  – and indeed certain components must be prepared in advance (we’ll get to that) – making it ideal for parties. With – hopefully – the end of coronastrictions on larger gatherings in sight, now might be a good time to raise our punch game in time for the inevitable round of get-togethers with those we have missed of late.

The most famous of all punches is surely the Fish House Punch which, despite the somewhat unappetising name, is both delicious and has a long and colourful history. In the days before the United States was either there was a gentleman’s club in what is now Pennsylvania called the Colony in Schuylkill. This very exclusive club was founded in 1732 and let’s just say had delusions of grandeur as it decided it was an independent state (so you could say the first state of the USA), gave its members fancy titles and indeed changed its name to The State in Schuylkill in 1782 when declaring statehood was trending. Their signature drink was the Fish House Punch which was served at every meeting since at least 1744 and perhaps earlier. George Washington was an honorary member who, legend has it, once enjoyed the punch so much that he was unable to make an entry in his diary for the next three days.

The Fish House Punch is a fairly typical punch formula of rum, brandy, lemon juice, sugar and water (or tea). It differs from others in the addition of peach brandy – although some claim this was a later addition – which can be a little problematic. At least is was for me as the peach liqueurs available to me had little sign of any actual peach content and far too much sugar. While it may be controversial I’ve found subbing apricot brandy to be perfectly satisfactory should you find yourself in a similar situation. If you can get you hands on some proper peach brandy by all means go for it. Unsurprisingly for such and old drink there is some divergence in recipes likely because this actually changed over time but my one is fairly typical. Because it is made in quantity I’ve composed it in (gasp!) metric.

These days you can find the Fish House Punch served as an individual drink but we’re going to make it in bulk, as it was designed. What follows is a quantity for 10-15 servings so scale that up as required and divide by 10 for a single, but large, drink. But first you need to know about an optional extra:

Extra credit – oleo saccharum.

If you want to take you punch to the next level substitute the sugar syrup for oleo saccharum. Wait. What? Oh, my bad: Oleo saccharum is a very cool ingredient that is much easier to produce than it sounds. Simply reserve all the lemon husks that are left over from making the juice and cut them into smaller chunks. Put these remains in a strong plastic bag (such as a freezer bag) and throw in a similarish mass of fine white sugar and give the whole lot a bit of a massage. What then happens over the course of 2 or 3 hours is that the remain juice and oils from the lemon are sucked into the sugar creating a tasty lemon sugar. Giving it the odd extra massage helps the process. After a time the sugar will be yellow and much more like a grainy syrup. I usually proceed by adding a splash of water to the bag and giving it a mix before dumping the lot in a big bowl and mashing gently with a potato masher or large spoon. Finally simply strain out the solids and you’ll have a zingy citrus sugar syrup that really livens up a punch and indeed was commonly the sweetener of such in days of old. I’ve got to admit that my process is a little less than scientific and my quantities are somewhat ad hoc but if I ever come up something more formulaic I promise to come back and update this. Other recipes use only citrus peel but I’m perfectly happy with my quick ‘n’ dirty version.

Step 1

Step 2.

Result!


Fish House Punch (Proof version).

600ml (20 oz) dark Jamaican rum such as Myers’s or Captain Morgan Dark*.

300ml (10 oz) VS cognac (eg Courvoisier).

400ml (13.5 oz) fresh lemon juice.

100ml (3.5 oz) peach or apricot brandy (see text).

300ml (10 oz) simple (1:1) syrup – or oleo saccharum**

700ml (23 oz) still or sparkling water – or alternatively and perhaps more authentically chilled black tea.

Mix the ingredients in advance of the party and cool in the fridge. One hour before the party add about 1kg (2lbs) of cubed ice. Serve in a large bowl or basin (don’t worry too much about the container as the original version was served out of the Christening font!). Garnish with lemon slices. Optionally also add a large block of ice containing sliced lemons – details below.

Toast those posh nutters who pretended to fish but instead mostly drank and ate at The Fish House.


Garnished ice block.

Take a clean plastic container or about 1000ml (1 quart) capacity and clean well. Put a little filtered water in the bottom and put in the freezer for a couple of hours. On the iced layer place a couple of lemon slices and let freeze. Add another water and let freeze. Add more lemon slices. Rinse (not literally!) and repeat until you have a nice block of ice with layers of lemons frozen inside it. Start this a few days before the party. When served, place the block in the punch bowl to keep the punch cold without over-diluting it.


*Or go nuts and add some Smith & Cross or Tiki Lovers Dark for extra kick and authenticity as these rums are more like those that would have been used in the 1700s.

**If you don’t have quite enough oleo saccharum just top up with a little more simple syrup. Because of the imprecisity of my OS method test the total mix for sweet/sour balance before serving.

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Man O’ War.

Wins by a neck.

Man O’ War.

While it might be quite a stretch to call the Man O’ War a classic cocktail, it’s such an interesting drink I think it’s worth a look. Details on its creation are thin on the ground and all we really know is that it emerged in the mid 20th century and is named after a race horse from a generation earlier. I’ve heard it said recently that if you are struggling to find a name for a drink you’ve created you should have a look at the names of some racehorses in the paper. Clearly that has being going on for longer than I thought. Now I don’t know much about racehorses but some say Man O’ War was the greatest one ever – I thought it was Red Rum but perhaps I’m biased. Whatevers. What is really interesting to me is that this drink is an example of that rare sour/aromatic hybrid cocktail that I had (apparently incorrectly) thought to be quite modern. The MoW takes a bourbon base, a hefty glug of orange liqueur as the sweet and balances that out with equal parts of lemon juice and sweet vermouth. As we know (right?) sweet vermouth is not sweet but simply sweeter than dry vermouth – and I especially like Punt e Mes which has some extra bittering agents included. Therefore while the Man O’ War sounds like a sweet drink it’s really quite nicely balanced. It’s also got quite a kick if you’re using one of the 40% orange liqueurs such as Cointreau or Pierre Ferrand. The result is a rather pleasing little drink that tastes neither heavily of bourbon or orange but, at least to me, of grapefruit juice. What’s not to like? Well actually I’m not keen on it’s standard lemon peel and cherry garnish – which seems a little over-used. I switched that out for a long strip of white grapefruit peel draped through the drink to reflect and enhance its grapefruity liveliness. While I’m not one to double strain every drink served on the stem I think this is one that definitely benefits from such treatment.

There’s not much more to say here given the unknown history of this drink except to suggest you whip yourself up a Man O’ War while the going’s good.


Man O’ War.

2oz / 60ml bourbon of choice.*

1oz / 30ml orange liqueur.**

0.5oz / 15ml fresh lemon juice.

0.5oz / 15ml Punt e Mes or another Italian/sweet vermouth (I’d add a dash of Angostura if I didn’t have any PeM).

Shake with ice and double strain into a (large-ish) chilled Champagne coupé.

Garnish with lemon and a cherry or a long strip of grapefruit peel.

Toast Man O’ War 1917 – 1947.


* I wouldn’t go for anything too strong as this is already a pretty strong drink.

** I suggest Pierre Ferrand dry curaçao/triple sec but Cointreau or others will suffice.

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(Stripped Down) Porn Star Martini.

Oh, no – all my clothes have fallen off…

(Stripped Down) Porn Star Martini.

The cocktail classicist can become prone to an arrogant disdain for certain modern populist concoctions and being myself guilty of exactly such a weakness I decided it time to engage in some constructive catharsis around one such drink. A dear friend, while certainly a bon viveur, is no cocktail fanatic but when she does partake is magnetically drawn to that increasingly ubiquitous potion known, not without some eye-rolling, as the Porn Star Martini (only an actual Martini should ever be called a Martini FFS). Created in the early naughties by Douglas Ankrah at The Townhouse bar in London and quite deliberately embracing a trashy aesthetic the PSM – with its characteristic side-shot of prosecco – may very grudgingly be called a modern classic. So when said friend, denied her favourite cocktail by this long dry lockdown, asks a self appointed cocktail expert if he can rustle one up how can he refuse?

Swallowing his pride our hero looks at the prevalent and fringe recipes for the PSM. And despairs. All are trying to cram in vanilla and passion fruit flavour from more than one direction. Vanilla vodka and vanilla syrup, passion fruit juice/nectar/pulp and Passoã liqueur. It all seemed a touch desperate and heavily reliant on decidedly mediocre ingredients. Surely he could strip this back to the core flavours both purifying and simplifying this peculiar drink? Being in possession of some excellent home-made passion fruit syrup and being well acquainted with flavouring spirits, a more zenny spec came gradually into creation. Shall I share it with you? OK then:

Make some passion fruit  syrup. You can follow the link if you like but the gist of it is to buy some frozen passion fruit (maracujá in Portuguese) pulp from a South American/Mexican store warm it up and mix with an equal weight of sugar. Passion fruit flavour and sweetener – check. Make some delicious vanilla vodka. Take a vanilla pod. Split it down the middle with a sharp knife and unfold it. Put it in a bottle of vodka for about five days, agitating daily. Pass through a coffee filter and rebottle. Vanilla flavour – check. No need for iffy vanilla flavoured vodkas, dodgy liqueurs and double doses of flavourings. And that shot of prosecco on the side? Let’s upgrade that to cava. The proportions of our stripped down Porn Star should be self-evident (I’m trying hard to hold back the tourette’s here…) as those of a classic Daiquiri. Garnish? In my opinion the shot of cava is the garnish but in the unlikely event that you have a passion fruit lying around – as I did – then by all means go for it.

Did my friend enjoy this version? Well, she said it was the best one she’d had. Truth or generosity? The only way to find out is to try it yourself:


Exotic Actress.

(Cocktail Formerly Known as Porn Star Martini.)

2oz / 60ml home-made vanilla vodka* (see text).

1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice.

0.75oz / 22ml home-made passion fruit syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled Champagne coupé.

Serve with a shot glass containing 1.5-2oz (45-60ml) of chilled brut cava.

Toast Paula Jääskeläinen – our Covid lockdown support bubble PSM fan.


*I used Finlandia as a base to further ingratiate myself to my Finnish test subject but any neutral 40% vodka is fine.

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In search of the perfect Gin & Tonic.

A tonic for the troops.

In search of the perfect Gin & Tonic

To find the perfect gin and tonic we need to start at the beginning. With history. Gin became a part of British culture in the 17th century via the Genever of the low countries yet was initially drunk in just the same way as the Dutch – neat. And in vast amounts, but that’s another story. Bump forward a couple of hundred years and the British were busy subjugating India but there was a problem. The pasty foreigners kept coming down with malaria. Not happy with sickly soldiers the army issued the troops with a powerful Cinchona (aka Quinine) tincture that helped suppress the dreaded malaria. This medicine was so incredibly bitter that sugar and water were added to sweeten and dilute it. At some point someone decided to put their gin ration in the same glass to save time and the gin and tonic was born. Perhaps it was quite unlike the modern version but in any case the Brits never looked back.

Come the 20th century the Gin & Tonic settled into its middle phase as the drink of choice of the English middle classes and, at risk of oversimplification, what ladies sipped in the pub while the men downed their beer and whisky (you really did not want to risk British pub wine in those days!) This Gin & Tonic had a pretty standard formula consisting of a fairly stingy measure of Gordon’s or Beefeater gin in a plain Collins glass, a couple of ice cubes, a little bottle of standard issue Schweppes tonic (or worse, something insipid from the soda gun) and, if you were very lucky a slice of lemon or lime. Not terrible but nothing like what was about to explode on the booze scene in the early years of the 21st century…

As unlikely as it seems the Spanish had been secretly enjoying a sneaky gin and tonic since General Franco departed to the underworld in the mid 70s, probably a vice learned from the seasonal influx of English tourists, but it was during the Spanish gastronomic revival around the turn of the millennium that the modern gin and tonic had its roots. The quest to improve food through attention to detail was also applied to the already moderately popular gin and tonic. Away with the boring Collins glass and in with the Basque sidra glass and later the more elegant balloon glass. New domestic gins with more local botanicals emerged, as did companies such as Fever Tree (2004) with more finely crafted tonics. At the same time, of course, there was a cocktail revival in a similar phase of development and those two scenes certainly encouraged and intertwined with each other. By the early 2010s the number of “craft” and “small batch” gins had gone through the roof with many countries who had never been gin producers joining the fun (Colombian gin anyone?) and a sizeable number of new tonic producers to match. To date there is little sign of the gin and tonic revival slacking off and indeed, why should it? For the noble G&T is a superb drink; refreshing, simple to make while still complex and nuanced. While the Gin & Tonic is technically not a cocktail it is the cocktailista’s default backup to be requested when a bar’s cocktail menu looks suspect or the requisite ingredients, tools or time are not available yet you are in need of cocktaily sustenance.

A relative latecomer to the joys of the G&T it was only recently that I began my quest in earnest for the perfect one. Involved in a project to open a classy restaurant and bar I sought the optimal pairings of gin to tonic for the creation of a modest G&T list. Alas the whole project became thoroughly Corona’d but our protagonist does not easily give up on such a mission. Given the large variety of tonics on the market and positively enormous selection of gins the combination of those two ingredients alone is vast. When an active garnish is added we reach a near infinite number of possible Gin & Tonics. Which, don’t get me wrong, is a wonderful thing as the exploration of all those combinations is an informative and rewarding experience. Of course much comes down to personal taste but there are some basic rules to the creation of your perfect G&T that are close to universal. Let’s deal with those first before moving on to my own personal (current) “perfect” G&T.

The glass should be the relatively recent invention that is known as the G&T balloon glass*. Like a large puffed-out wine glass it focuses the aromas in a way that the older Collins glass does not. While your balloon glass need not be pre-chilled (although it’ll do no harm) it should be generously iced with decently big cubes to around its widest point. The more ice used the less will melt and thus your drink will remain fizzy and undiluted. Let the iced glass sit a minute to get thoroughly chilled before adding your gin. 45-60ml is the range of gin to use somewhat depending on how much tonic you intend to use. The tonic should be chilled in the fridge and in individual bottles unless you intend to make several at once in which case a larger bottle can be used. Life being too short for flat tonic, one should never return an opened bottle to the fridge. Individual tonic bottles come in sizes that range from 150-250ml and this brings us to the controversial topic of our gin to tonic ratio. Opinions range from equal portions to drowning the gin completely and, to some extent, those are all valid personal preferences but I would say that three parts tonic to one part gin is a reasonable starting point. Don’t feel compelled to use all the tonic in the bottle – if the perfect balance means tipping 50 ml of your 200ml bottle down the sink, so be it. Pour the appropriate quantity of gin very gently into the glass so as to preserve the fizz and stir ever so gently for the same reasons. As important as a good Gin & Tonic pairing is the choice of garnish and this is where things have gotten a bit wild recently (singed rosemary, pink peppercorns et al). Our default should be a swathe of citrus peel (a slice or wedge coming over as a touch uncouth these days) which will release some wonderful oils into the mix. Orange, lime, lemon, grapefruit or yuzu (if you can afford one) all add significantly to the flavour combination you are creating but the exact choice will be down to intuition or experiment. I prefer to add my swathe at the beginning, twisted over the ice in order to get the maximum citrus oil in my drink but if you like it to be more discreet then, by all means, add it last. Our final question is whether to add a straw or not. While it’s not wrong to serve with a straw I think the enjoyment of your perfect gin and tonic benefits from sipping directly from the glass and enjoying those wonderful aromas.

That’s the template for our modern Spanish style G&T to be gently varied to your own personal liking. I suspect (and perhaps even hope) that my personal search for the perfect gin and tonic may never end but for what it’s worth here is where I’ve landed after many months of trying a wide selection of gins, tonics and garnishes.


Andy’s “perfect” Gin & Tonic

60ml Normindia gin

150-200ml Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic (depending on mood)

Long thin swathe of lemon peel

Assembled as described above.


Notes on ingredients:

Normindia gin is a wonderful mid-price gin made in Normandy, France by a calvados estate in small copper calvados stills. Despite using a fairly standard range of botanicals I find it absolutely delightful – superbly balanced yet with a distinctly orange-forward profile. It comes in an elegant and nicely corked dark bottle at an encouraging 41.4%. While it might not be the most widely available gin consider it a well kept secret that is worth seeking out. Shout out to Pulak Goswami and Barbara Marx for gifting me this gin that I might otherwise never have discovered.

Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic. I tried a lot of tonics on my quest but I kept getting drawn back to this one and finally realised I was going to struggle to find anything that equalled its flavour and balance. Fever Tree are part of the DNA of the G&T revival and while their range is excellent the Mediterranean version is simply sublime with an ability to pair effortlessly with a wide range of gins – which can’t be said of every tonic. Happily it’s also widely available.

Citrus. While I specify lemon here as it balances out the orangeward leanings of Normindia I’m not beyond changing this now and then. Orange if I feel like an all-out orange blast or white grapefruit if I happen to have any. In any case it should be a long thin swathe cut along the length of a nice fresh fruit.


*If you don’t have one a tulip beer glass would make an (almost) acceptable substitute.

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The Sun Stone + Chipotle infused tequila.

Spice, spice baby…

The Sun Stone + chipotle infused tequila.

There are relatively few tequila cocktails compared to those based on other spirits and I was thinking about why this is. Maybe because it’s hard to improve on something like a good Tommy’s Margarita? Maybe because the distinctive flavour of tequila is a little tricky to work with, pairing easily with little other than lime and grapefruit? In any case I’ve been looking to add another tequila arrow to my quiver and I’m quite pleased with my latest creation. The formula is close to the Tommy’s Margarita but with two significant twists the first one being:

Chipotle tequila

Infusions are a great way to add extra dimensions into some of your favourite spirits. Recently I’ve been playing with chipotle flakes as a way of injecting some smoky spiciness into bourbon and tequila and the process couldn’t be easier. Leaving the bourbon version aside for another day, grab a bottle of a good value 100% agave, unaged tequila. I used Topanito blanco but there are plenty of others such as Espolon, Calle 23, Olmeca Altos or 30-30. Next you’re going to need some chipotle flakes from your spice supplier. Just in case you’re unfamiliar with them chipotle is a smoke dried jalapeno pepper that has been around since Aztec times and imparts a wonderful spicy smokiness to many a Mexican dish. You’ll want it in the form of small dark flakes (but not a powder – see picture above) rather than whole dried peppers as it will infuse more quickly in the tequila and, trust me, you’ll not want to wait to long to taste the results! From here on it’s simplicity itself: just add a level teaspoon of flakes to a 700ml bottle of tequila and leave it there for 24 hours giving it a shake now and then. The next day strain out the flakes. In this case a fine strainer is good enough but if your flakes were on the powdery side then running it through a coffee filter might be better. Your resultant chipotle tequila should have a lovely deep red hue. Have a taste. Yup, told you. If you’re a total spice nut you could boost it to a heaped teaspoon and, indeed, the results may depend on the quality of the chipotle you used so feel free to adjust to taste. When I tested the chipotle tequila on some friends the reactions were overwhelmingly positive so I’m confident that you’ll enjoy it too, either neat or optimally deployed in a:

Sun Stone.

I was slightly disappointed that, while still delicious, the chipotle didn’t quite get enough of it’s smokiness into the tequila until I quickly hit on the solution of bolstering it with a portion of smoky mezcal. Being related spirits tequila and mezcal always bond well but in this case you’ll want to go for one that is on the smoky and/or briny side of the range. I found Peloton de la Muerte and La Herancia de Sanchez to be ideal but good ole Del Maguey VIDA would do the job too. The Sun Stone does work with just chipotle tequila but the mezcalated version is a significant upgrade. Named for a stunning sculpture by the culture that invented the chipotle (and which also graces the label of the Topanito blanco tequila that I used).


The Sun Stone

1.25oz / 37ml chipotle infused tequila (see text).

0.75oz / 22ml good quality smoky mezcal.

1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice.

0.5oz / 15ml agave syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a champagne coupé.

Garnish with a small pinch of chipotle flakes (optional).

Toast those clever Aztecs and their amazing Sun Stone.


Note: I designed a variation on the Sun Stone for my buddies at Jack’s BBQ shack which they call the Fiery Margarita. If you live in central Amsterdam you can order one here.

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Hotel Nacional Special + pineapple juice

So f***ing special.

Hotel Nacional Special.

Back in the Halcyon days before communism, when Cuba was America’s playground run by brutal puppet dictators and the mafia, the rich and famous liked to stay in Havana’s prestigious and historic* Hotel Nacional. And the Hotel Nacional had a house cocktail that became something of a classic. Modern interpretations of the recipe for the Hotel Nacional Special are somewhat varied but all contain pineapple juice. Before we get to my version of the recipe I’d first like to take sometime to talk about this wonderful ingredient and how to get the best out of it.

Pineapple juice

There is nothing quite as tasty as fresh pineapple juice and yet I’m always surprised how few people seem to have even tried really good pineapple juice. But maybe I shouldn’t be, as very often pineapple juice is made in a way that prioritises yield over flavour. The typical process is to blend the pulp of the pineapple with water and then strain it. It’s fine, it’s quite nice, you get a lot of juice out of a pineapple. Indeed, if you look online almost all guides on how to juice a pineapple use this method. But in my option there’s a better way. If you’d like to try it then proceed as follows. Buy a nice fresh pineapple. Ideally it should be still fairly firm and a yellow colour with still a bit of green here and there. One that’s gone too far is softer and a darker yellow going to brown in places. The condition of the leaves is also a useful guide. To get at the flesh either slice the top of and use a pineapple corer to extract pineapple rings** or trim off the skin (and eyes) with a knife and cube the rest, discarding the firmer core. Once you have your rings or cubes put them in a metal colander/strainer over a large bowl and then, using a potato masher or similar device gently mash until you’ve extracted most of the juice. If you treat your pineapple with this kind of respect you should get about 300ml (10oz) of the tastiest juice that ever passed your lips. It has a thinner consistency than “regular” pineapple juice because you haven’t crushed all that pulp and pectin into it – just the very sweetest, juiciest bits this wonderful fruit has to offer. If you’re after juice for making cocktails 300ml is plenty and works out cheaper than lemon or lime juice but do be aware that this type of pineapple juice deteriorates rapidly and should be used pretty quickly. If I haven’t used it withing 24 hours I usually just drink it or turn it into a pineapple syrup for making sodas. OK let’s be honest; I usually make a couple of Singapore Slings or use it as the “weak” in a Planter’s Punch. If you feel you need more proof to be swayed to my slightly unorthodox pineapple juicing methods just read about how commercial pineapple juice is made

Special

With some fresh pineapple and lime juice in hand continue to make this iconic Cuban drink. As I was saying, recipes do vary but the one below is my favourite. Aged Cuban rum is called for and that can only mean Havana Club 7 year old which is a damn fine and yet affordable rum. I’ve eschewed the simple syrup many versions use and rely solely on the sweetness of the pineapple juice and a healthy measure of apricot liqueur and find this results in a beautifully balanced, complex cocktail. By no means the sweet tropical pineapple bomb you might expect, the Hotel Nacional Special is one of those drinks that fully rewards those who take a little extra care with their ingredients.

¡Salud!


Hotel Nacional Special.

1.5oz / 45ml Aged Cuban rum (eg. Havana Club 7 Anos.)

1oz / 30ml fresh pineapple juice (see text.)

0.75oz / 22ml fresh lime juice.

0.5oz / 30ml apricot liqueur.

1 dash of Angostura bitters.

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupé.

No garnish.

Toast Hotel Nacional de Cuba.


*It has had its very own battle and is the site of that famous scene in The Godfather II.

**This being my preferred option as it’s less work and you also get to use the remains of the pineapple as a drinking vessel.

 

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Tiki Lovers Dark Rum – Review

Born to rum.

Tiki Lovers Dark Rum.

This is a rum that I’ve been hearing good – if vague – things about from the Tiki community for quite some time but never quite got around to trying because I wasn’t really sure what kind of rum slot it would occupy on my already crowded rum shelf. But when I spotted a bottle that was favourably discounted I thought it time to bite the bullet. So here we go.

Tiki Lovers Dark Rum comes in a somewhat ordinary screw cap bottle and adorned with a grinning Tiki-god decoration that is a touch on the cheesy side. Alarm bells are going off all over the place here and I feel the makers need to raise their game a little on the presentation. However on closer inspection we see (oh, alright I already knew) that this is a blend put together by The Bitter Truth company from Germany, them wot make a pretty decent range of bitters and liqueurs. This in turn means it was very likely the work of master rum blenders E & A Scheer right here in Amsterdam. How so? Well pretty much any small company who wants to “make” their own rum blend ends up at a little office at Herengracht 316 due to their unparalleled expertise and connection in the world of rum*. The label provides some additional information on the contents. First up we note that it’s a Navy Proof rum bottled at 57% so we immediately know that this is a serious rum. The details on the blend as printed on the bottle are intriguing but a touch vague so I consult their website which, indeed, has more information. And it’s all good news! Tiki Lovers Dark is largely made from a combination of pot-still Jamaican rum from Hampden Estate and aged Barbados rum from Foursquare distillery and frankly those are two of the most respected rum distillers on the planet. Not content with that The Bitter Truth go on to round things of with a little Guyanan (ergo Demerara) and Trinidadian rum which shows a remarkable attention to detail for a rum of this price (€28 is typical here). The label states clearly “contains colouring” (probably thanks to German transparency laws) which is honest and welcome. A little caramel colouring is pretty normal and harmless enough but regardless I wish other manufacturers would be so open. These days I have the equipment to test for added sugar and I’m not surprised to find that Tiki Lovers has either none or very, very little added. There are some very encouraging signs here and I can hardly wait to crack this bottle open!

I can’t even wait to pour it into the glass and my sniff from the bottle rewards me with the delightful aroma of that funky Hampden Estate pot-still component but tempered with something deeper that I’m pretty sure is the Demerara part of the mix. In the glass we see the the effect of the caramel addition but they’ve at least been fairly restrained going no further than a nice coppery hue. With none of the rum over 5 years old – and likely not too much of that – we can be pretty sure little of the colour is barrel related. Whatever. A taste reveals a most interesting mix of the classic flavour profiles we would expect from the individual components with the hogo of the Jamaican rum a little more restrained than it was on the nose. It’s a skilfully blended affair that does the individual components full justice. Now very clearly this is really not a rum that was designed for sipping from a sherry glass so let’s dispense with such pretence and without further ado a-mixing we shall go.

Naturally I first make myself a Daiquiri as any test of a rum would be pretty lame otherwise. And it makes a fine if powerful one. But the whole raison d’etre for this rum is to easily replace the mix of rums that are required for a variety of Tiki drinks. Typical classic Don The Beachcomber recipes mix a funky Jamaican rum with a rich and smoky overproof Demerara rum and a classic Barbados rum**. Tiki Lovers Dark was designed to cover this in one pour and frankly pulls it off pretty darn well. An experienced and dedicated tiki-head with an extensive rum collection (raises hand) could probably do a three rum blend that is slightly better – but this comes pretty close. It’s a perfect fit for a Zombie, Navy Grog or Jet Pilot and also makes a pretty fine Mai Tai. It’s versatility can be further expanded by nudging it in slightly different directions with the addition of a second rum. For example a bit of agricole alongside it makes a fine base for a Three Dot and a Dash or you could double down on the Jamaican for a cracking Planter’s Punch. I wrote an article recently about Ten Tiki Rums but if there are issues of cost, storage space and availability with those I have no hesitation in recommending Tiki Lovers Dark as a great starting point for your voyage on the good ship Tiki.

Conclusion

Yes, it’s a bit of a niche product but what it does beautifully is to open the door to authentic classic Tiki drinks to those who lack the space and budget*** for a wide range of mixing rums. Even though I already have a fine range I’m inclined to keep some Tiki Lovers Dark in stock for when I’m feeling a little lazy. But don’t tell Mrs Proof…

When it comes to the grade please bear in mind that my mark is for this rum in its intended use. At the risk of being just a touch over enthusiastic I can’t help but reward the dedication of bringing classic Tiki recipes to the masses in such simple yet delightful form and crown Tiki Lovers Dark Rum with a hearty:

A+

 


*I have to be clear that I can’t be 100% certain of E & A Scheer’s involvement so don’t quote me on that.

**Don The Beachcomber once said “Three rums can do what one rum can’t.” And that was certainly true at the time.

***and dare I say dedication?

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11 Dashes.

…dashing all the way.

11 Dashes

Happy 2021 readers! Let’s hope this is a better year for everyone and especially the beleaguered hospitality industry who have been particularly battered by 2020.

Maybe after the festive season – or what passed for it this year – it might be time to dial back the alcohol consumption a little? I created the 11 Dashes to be the perfect drink for when you don’t want a drink. It’s a tricky thing to make a satisfying and flavourful cocktail with a tiny alcohol count but there’s an equally tricky way to pull it off: use bitters as a base. Bitters might be strong in alcohol (usually in the 30-45% zone) but they’re even stronger in flavour so we can still dial the flavour up to 11. Those 11 dashes equate to barely 2 teaspoons which is certainly not going to impede you from driving or operating any heavy machinery. While I insist that 11 dashes is precisely the right amount* I’m gonna give you the leeway to use whatever bitters you happen to have – indeed tinkering with the bitters combo is all part of the fun. As a guide I’m pretty keen on the mixture of aromatic, orange and Peychaud’s listed below but feel free to diverge from that depending on what you have in stock. I find that the amount of syrup needs to be adjusted depending on the bitterness of the bitters you’ve chosen so I’ve just included a range in the recipe. I suggest using the lower amount the first time you make this and adding little more (if necessary) until you find the perfect equilibrium: the 11 Dashes should be neither sweet nor bitter but right on that perfect fulcrum between the two. Proost!


11 Dashes.

(11 generous dashes of bitters such as:)

4 dashes of Regan’s orange bitters.

4 dashes of Bogart’s bitters.

3 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters.

0.75oz / 22ml fresh lemon juice

0.75oz – 1oz / 22ml-30ml simple syrup (I quite like vanilla syrup in this).

Pour ingredients into an iced Collin’s glass, top up with chilled soda water, stir gently and garnish with a lemon twist or slice.

Toast Spinal Tap.


*I mean the drink is called the 11 dashes so you know

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