Make a rum for it
On World Rum Day, go beyond light, dark and gold varieties and invest in a premium aged bottle
Rum is a democratic spirit. Its robust flavour, pocket-friendly price and fuss-free availability cuts across age groups. A Mint story published in November explored whether it could replace gin as the new hip drink, with exciting varieties being introduced, sustained marketing initiatives by brands and the opening of a rum-focused bar, RumBah, at the Ritz Carlton in Bengalurulast summer. However, the lockdown brought bars and social lives to a standstill. Attention switched to home experiences.
“For home, sip on a delicious barrel-aged rum. Pick a bottle marked as ‘solera’, where rums of varying ages are in perfect harmony," says Prahlad Sukhtankar, owner of The Black Sheep Bistro and Black Market restaurants in Goa.
Solera-ageing is a process where different rums, based on their age, are stored in interconnected barrels, allowed to intermingle and then bottled. The end product is a refined blended rum with a distinct depth of flavour. A caveat: If a solera-aged bottle is labelled as a 10-year-old rum, it doesn’t imply a decade of ageing, it indicates the oldest spirit is 10 years old and its other constituents are less mature.
Let an informed approach guide your investment in a premium rum. Some of the popular labels in this category include the smoky Santa Teresa 1796, the full-bodiedRon Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23 and the woody La Hechicera. The dampener is that they are not available in India but are listed on duty free, which is temporarily suspended. The brands available in India are essentially aged rums.
“Diplomatic from Venezuela is a great choice to be introduced to this category. El Dorado from Guyana and the delicious Plantation rums are available at Mumbai’s Vault Spirits. Bacardi 8 is a fantastic aged rum which is easily available," says Pankaj Balachandran, co-founder of the Delhi-based beverage consultancy Bar Back Collective. He also recommends cane spirit or rhum agricole, extracted from sugar-cane juice, such as Leblon Cachaça from Brazil. “Closer home, there’s Chalong Bay rum made in Phuket, Thailand, by a French duo who run a beautiful distillery," says Balachandran. Add this to your travel bucket list. Globally, the focus has moved beyond light, dark and gold, to premium-ization with aged or blended varieties.
However, if white and dark varieties are the only viable options, make spirit-forward cocktails. “The greatest rum cocktails are simple. If you have a good rum, then it’s all about enhancing those flavours," says Balachandran. He believes a bar enthusiast today must try the classic Daiquiri, which uses a lighter rum shaken with castor sugar and freshly squeezed lime juice. The drink, which dates back to the late 19th century, is all about the balance of the essential elements—spirit, sweetener and citrus. Balachandran says it’s credited to an engineer who worked at the Daiquiri mines in Cuba. Later, it travelled the world and found a home on bar menus.
In modern mixology, bitters offer a new dimension. Balachandran recommends Old Cuban (see recipe), a contemporary classic with Bacardi 8 concocted by the New York-based bartender Audrey Saunders. In the bartending fraternity, she has a global fan following for updating traditional cocktails with a modern spin. “An absolute legend whom we look up to. When you drink the cocktail, you will know why," adds Balachandran.
For a bar-like experience, try home-made oleo-saccharum(fruit-oil based sugar syrup), consisting primarily of fruit rinds. Evonne Eadie, Diageo Reserve brand ambassador, recommends citrus fruit peels such as lime, lemon, grapefruit, pomelo and even mango (with their sourish peels). They need to be well-coated and hand-rubbed with sugar granules and stored overnight at room temperature. They can be turned into a liquid by adding some water and used to flavour rum cocktails.Eadie believes rum cocktails traditionally need a big glass and this essence of largeness can be accentuated by garnishing with a big sprig of mint or chunky lemon pieces.
Audrey SaundersOld Cuban
BY Pankaj Balachandran
40ml Bacardi 8
10ml lime juice
10ml sugar syrup (2:1 sugar to water ratio)
8 mint leaves
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Champagne to top up
Mint sprig to garnish
Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass or a flute. Make sure there are no mint leaves or particles in the drink. Top up with champagne and garnish with mint sprig.
Mojito with a twist
BY EVONNE EADIE
45ml Captain Morgan
20ml lime oleo-saccharum
15ml lime juice, freshly squeezed
8 mint leaves
Lots of ice
Mix all the ingredients and serve in a large glass. Add sugar, if needed.
Vocal for local
BY PRAHLAD SUKHTANKAR
Take a local fruit, like pomegranate
A few mint leaves
45ml light rum of your choice
20ml sugar syrup
15ml lime juice, freshly squeezed
Muddle pomegranate arils with mint. Add rum (light rum goes well with fruity flavours), sugar syrup and lime juice. Shake with ice. Strain and serve over ice. Add a splash of soda for a refreshing effervescence. Try substituting pomegranate with any other fruit and replace mint with a local spice to create multiple concoctions.