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.
By Spencer 22nd July 2021 - 12:12 am
Where does one draw the line between making your own Rum Barrel recipe and just making a brand new tiki cocktail? Is it the significant size, and quantity of fruit juice that distinguishes it as a Rum Barrel?
By Andy 22nd July 2021 - 10:05 am
Good question Spencer! Let’s say you create a cocktail roughly in line with the (vague) formula in the article. You can call it Spencer’s Rum Barrel OR you can call it whatever else you like. No-one is going to say “damn – that’s just a Rum Barrel” as there is no precise definition of what a Rum Barrel tastes like or is composed of. Yes the RB tends to be on the large side, have 3 or more rums and is served in a barrel (ceramic, wood or glass) and I guess you could say it’s the last of those that defines it. The short of it is that anyone who wants to call themselves a Tiki-master should have their own secret Rum Barrel recipe alongside a knowledge of the classics and a selection of their own creations. I hope that answers your question, and, indeed, thanks for asking it.
By Spencer 22nd July 2021 - 1:19 pm
That clears it up nicely! Thanks Andy.