There’s a lot of talk today about who is better, best and right in the world of premium spirits, even with rums. There are writers and specialists who say there is a renaissance, that rum is experiencing a “come back.”
It’s often less interesting to subscribe to who is right or what someone else deems is best than to sip a swizzle (see recipe below) and savor the memory or experience of chewing on a sugarcane stick – pure, sweet, succulent sugar. It’s better than the giant pixie sticks of my childhood, and really is just the adopted adult version. Like with childhood, it is in the seeking for the non-perfection, the aberration that we find our interests.
So, if rum is making a comeback, when did it first fade from popularity? Now the second most widely produced spirit in the world behind vodka, rum began its resurgence during Prohibition. The come back started in Cuba, where Hemingway’s famous daiquiri was birthed.
Rum is as it always has been – a classic. And no matter how boutique and specialized the world of spirits gets, it lives in a world of its own, inspiring Trinidadians to dance in the streets and parade at Carnival, and driving the likes of Hunter S. Thompson to pen “The Rum Diary” about his wild adventures in Puerto Rico.
It’s interesting, too, how many rum producers clamor about the quality of their sugarcane these days, when the truth is that 99 percent of the world’s rums are made from molasses, which is a by-product of making sugar from raw cane. So why all the braggadocio? Rums made from sugarcane juice, also known as cane rums, are rare and originate with rhum agricole, which comes from the former French colonies of the Caribbean. In order to protect the special nature of this liquor, the French have designated Martinique an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Côntrollée), the only one outside of France. As such, limits are placed on the growing area and production, ensuring a consistent character to the rums of Martinique. Cane rums are not necessarily better than the rum we are more exposed to, but represent a different category.
Rum as we know it falls in to five major categories: light, clear white rum; medium/gold; aged or dark; rhum agricole; and cachaça (the Brazilian native spirit that makes the caipirinha beverage famous. It’s made from sugarcane juice like rhum agricole, but is dis- tilled differently). Cachaça, like rum, can be industrial and mass-produced or artisanal and aged up to 12 years.
OK, maybe there are six categories when you consider flavored and spiced rums. All these types of rum are great for enviable summer cocktails, and aged or dark rums are fantastic for sipping; many connoisseurs even like to sip on a rhum agricole for its pedigree and distinct taste.
MOXY’S FAVORITE RUMS:
Lights: Rhum Barbancourt White, Angostura Old Oak White.
Mediums/Golds: Appleton Estate VX, Westerhall Plantation Rum (good for sipping too), Havana Club 7 Year Old.
Aged/Darks (the coveted ones): Pampero Rum Aniversario, Zaya 12 Year Old Gran Riserva, and my all-time favorite, Ron Zacapa Gran Centenario 23 Year Old (or the very rare 25-year-old that can only be purchased outside the U.S.). Ron Zacapa is the Holy Grail of aged rums, and if you can get your hands on some, treasure it.
Cachaça: Ypioca, which is fairly easy to find; and Beleza Pura, which is more difficult to find, but delicious.
Rhum Agricole: Rhum Clement, hands down. Try the Clement XO and hold on to your boots, boys!
Spiced and Flavored Rums: Charbay Vanilla Bean and Cane Rums, Rhum Clement Creole Shrubb.
Out-of-the-Box and New-to-the-Market Rum: Austin’s own Treaty Oak Rum (try it in the specialty cocktails listed below).
Cube a lime into 4 pieces and muddle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of fine sugar. Add ice and 2.5 ounces of cachaça. Shake and serve in rum glasses. (For a variation, try half an orange and half a lime for the mud- dled fruit and top with blood orange Italian soda.).
PLANTEUR (a classic rum cocktail)
In a tall glass, combine 1 part white rum with a splash of sugar syrup and 3 parts citrus or tropical fruit juice to fill glass. For a unique twist, add a drop of vanilla and a pinch of nutmeg.
CHARBAY SWEET HEAT
Muddle 2 slices of Serrano pepper with 5 slices of peeled cucumber, 2 lime quarters and a splash of simple syrup. Add 2 ounces Charbay cane rum. Shake, then strain over ice.
SWIZZLE (named for the Jamaican stick or twig– the swizzle – that is used to stir the cocktail)
Combine in a glass 1.5 ounces of dark rum, a splash of non-alcoholic Falernum (a fruitier version of orgeat syrup), half an ounce of lime juice, half an ounce of simple syrup and a dash of Angostura Bitters. Add ice. Stir with a swizzle and garnish with lime.
FLORIDITA DAIQUIRI (Hemingway’s Baby)
Combine in a cocktail shaker 1.5 ounces of white rum, a splash of maraschino liqueur, half an ounce of grapefruit juice, half a shot of sim- ple syrup and half a shot of fresh lime juice. Shake vigorously with ice, then strain into a martini glass and enjoy.
GRAND CAYMAN FLASK
Combine 2 ounces of the rum of your choice with equal parts ginger ale or ginger beer and lemonade. Pour over ice and serve.