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Molasses in Your Cocktail

Maybe I should have been a pirate. On second thought - I would have been lousy at the killing and the swabbing of decks and the constant sunburn... I should have been a Purser in the British Navy. You know - the guy that doled out the rum rations to the the sailors - and who therefore sat on one of the most prized possessions in the British Navy - the rum. Oh sure, there would have been the occasional mutiny and perhaps a watery grave along the way - but the RUM! I do love that rum. 

Dark and StormyI have always been pretty much a sucker for the flavors of Caribbean rums. The beauty of them is that they are so varied - nearly every island in the area has its own distinct rum culture and rum flavor profile. Today I wanted to talk about two rum cocktails that use a traditional strain of rum that is distilled from the molasses that is a by-product of sugar cane production. The viscous, dark brown qualities of the molasses itself are passed down to the rums made from molasses. The resulting rums are dark in color and sweet yet grassy on the palate.   

One of these cocktails is very easy to find on many bar menus - so much so that it is somewhat passe today. 


Dark and Stormy
Adapted from the Barbados Buck cocktail of Jigger, Beaker & Glass by Charles Baker (1939)

2 oz. Dark rum (Gosling's Black Seal 151 rum is the standard - I have also used Cruzan Blackstrap with great effect)
3 oz. ginger beer (I strongly recommend Bundaberg or Fentiman's)
1/4 oz. lime juice
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir gently (don't abuse the bubbles in the ginger beer) for a few seconds to mix the ingredients. Fill a tall collins glass with ice and pour the drink over the ice to serve. Garnish with a slice of lime. 

This is by now a standard at many bars, but it is still one of the most basic and tasty of the rum cocktails out there. You get the fresh lime and the ginger beer on the nose, and the spicy characteristics of the ginger beer offset by the molasses flavors of the rum at the end. Straight-laced and tasty.

Note that the choice of ginger beers is important. I enjoy the flavors of Reed's or The Ginger People ginger beers on their own, but i find that they do not mix as well in a Dark & Stormy as Bundaberg or Fentiman's do. I also like Cock & Bull here, and use it when I do not have my preferred ginger beers in the house. 

The other recipe is a Corn and Oil - an obscure drink that has started to catch on in hipster circles but that still lingers in the shadows of most of America's cocktail menus. It features an amazing spirit called velvet falernum, which is actually a flavored rum product distilled from sugar cane and infused with a number of botanicals such as almond, ginger, cloves and lime. 

Corn & Oil
Adapted from recipe on back of John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum bottle

2 oz. Cruzan Blackstrap rum
1/2 oz. velvet falernum
Dash of Fee Brothers' aromatic bitters (recommended for its heavy cinnamon flavor)
1/2 lime

Combine the rum, falernum, bitters and the juice from the lime in a shaker with lots of ice and shake for at least 20 seconds to chill. Pour (including the ice) into a highball glass and add the spent 1/2 lime in the glass as a garnish.

Corn and OilThere is quite a bit of variation with respect to the proportions of rum to falernum to be mixed in this drink. Mr. Taylor clearly wants to sell a lot of falernum, as he recommends mixing 3.5 parts falernum to 1 part rum (ick) - and on the other side of the spectrum I have seen ratios of 6 parts rum to 1 part falernum. It's really just a style preference for you. I have chosen 4:1 ratio of rum to falernum to ensure that the falernum flavor comes through without overpowering the rum with its sweetness. There is also some disagreement on whether the lime is needed - but I hold steadfast that the lime is essential to the drink.  

So there you have it - two cocktails that serve as good starters into the dark side of the rum world. These drinks will help you decide for yourself if the molasses-based rums are for you or not - the rich, dark flavors of these rums are not for everyone and are just now beginning to enter the American flavor palette. But if these rum flavors agree with you then perhaps you have a future in the pirate industry.