The first time we ever drank rum it came out of a white bottle decorated with twin palm trees against a setting sun. Malibu, like Southern Comfort, is something of a gateway liquor—by the time you’ve thrown up on it a few times you are ready to move on. But while Southern Comfort might lead all the way to aged bourbons and single malts, Malibu took you to… piña coladas? Well, why not? We all know that as a beach drink, the piña colada is damn near faultless. There’s the creamy goodness of the coconut, the spikiness of pineapple, and the hit of rum. Done well, it’s a dream of tropical heaven, with a cherry on top.
After the glorious rehabilitation of gin and bourbon in the cocktail cosmos it was inevitable that rum would get its own moment. Distilleries took note of innovations such as cask finishes and longer aging more commonly associated with bourbon and Scotch malts. The result has led to more complex tastes.
Spiribam, which distributes a portfolio of Caribbean rums, includes both Martinique’s Rhum Clément and Saint Lucia Chairman’s Reserve. Clément is made from sugarcane, bestowing a fresh, smooth, pineapple-y quality to its white rum (Première Canne), while the dark rum (Clément Select Barrel) with its vanilla nose, is aged in charred oak. Try it in a mai tai, or savor it neat.
A recent acquisition, Saint Lucia’s Chairman’s Reserve ia a blend of pot and column-still rums. With its notes of Christmas spice and molasses, there’s an intrinsic warmth to it that brings out the best of a winter’s night—even in a long drink like the classic Cuba libre. Gin and whisky have their acolytes, and no one is ever going to object to vodka (it’s so wonderfully “adequate”)—but rum is the charmer that can be reliably droll (the daiquiri) or seductive (dark “n” stormy) to order.
It’s no bad thing to treat top shelf brands like these the same way you’d treat a single malt, but they are robust enough to withstand mixing and shaking. Try Chairman’s Reserve with a dash of Angostura bitters, half a cube of sugar, a teaspoon and a twist of lemon for a rum old fashioned. Or go the highball route, and mix two ounces of dark rum (Clement 10-year Aged Rum works a treat) with eight ounces of a peppy ginger beer like Reed’s from Jamaica (get the Extra Ginger Brew if you can find it), garnished with lime, for the aforementioned dark “n” stormy.
A ‘How To’ of Classic Rum Cocktails
A Perfect Hot Buttered Rum
1.5 ounces of dark rum
2 tablespoons of compound butter made from combining 2/3 lb butter, ½ cup molasses, ½ cup water, zest of one lemon, cinnamon stick, ½ vanilla bean (scraped) and 2/3 pound of butter.
Combine rum and butter in toddy glass. Top with boiling water
Chairman’s Mai Tai
1 oz Chairman’s Reserve Rum
1oz Rum Agricole
½ oz Creole Shrubb
¾ oz orgeat
1 oz fresh lime
Shake all ingredients with one cube of ice and pour into glass. Top with crushed ice and garnish with fresh mint.
Old Fashioned de Martinique (see photo top)
1 tsp sugar
3-4 dashes of bitters
2 oz of Clement Select Barrel
Grate nutmeg and cinnamon on top. Garnish with orange peel.
½ fresh pineapple, peeled, cut into chunks (canned will do)
6 ounces sweetened cream of coconut (preferably Coco López)
2 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
8 ounces white rum, preferably Clément, Première Canne
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 ounces dark rum (optional)
Maraschino cherries and lime wedges (for serving)
If time, freeze pineapple pieces in a plastic bag for about three hours. In a blender, purée pineapple, cream of coconut, coconut milk, white rum, lime juice, and 3 cups ice. Pour into glasses and top each with ½ oz. dark rum and a cherry.