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May 2015

A Caribbean-Italian Mashup -- The Rumara

What's a Rumara?  It's just a combination of the two key ingredients in this cocktail I created -- rum and maraschino liqueur.  Putting these types of booze together might seem strange, but the result is great.

All hail this trans Atlantic triumvirate!
All hail this trans Atlantic triumvirate!

2.25 ounces dark rum (right now I'm drinking Barcelo Imperial)
.75 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the grace of a cool breeze coming off the Caribbean or Mediterranean, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I know what some of you are thinking -- maraschino liqueur?  You mean like those eyeball searingly red cherries?  Rest assured, I wouldn't do that to Den followers. Maraschino liqueur bears no resemblance whatsoever to those Frankencherries.  The liqueur has a nutty, vaguely sweet flavor.

The orange bitters can make a big difference.  The first time I made a Rumara I used Angostura orange bitters (which are almost sweet), and the second time I used Regan's orange bitters (which are definitely not).  Use whatever bitters you prefer, or whatever you can get your hands on.   

Dare to expand your liquid horizons, make yourself a Rumara, and imagine that you're looking at a beautiful sunset on the horizon.


Of Avians And Axl Rose -- The Jungle Bird

Welcome to the Jungle (Bird).
Welcome to the Jungle (Bird).

What do Axl Rose (of Guns N' Roses) and avians (you know -- birds) have in common?  They're both sort of related to the Jungle Bird.  This cocktail dates back to the late 1970s (not exactly a high point of cocktail culture) at the Aviary bar in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I've never been in Malaysia unless you count its airspace between Thailand and Singapore.  Thanks to Mens Journal magazine for introducing me to this drink.

1.5 ounces dark rum
.75 ounces Campari
1.5 ounces pineapple juice
Juice from 1/4 lime
.5 ounces super simple syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake like you're a bird flapping its wings (or Slash flailing on his guitar), and strain into a chilled glass.

You might be thinking -- Campari in a tiki drink?  Yes, it looks weird.  Even though I like the sharp taste of Campari in cocktails such as the Negroni or Amaro Amore, I was hesitant to use it here.  Turns out there's no reason to question the recipe.  

This probably goes without saying, but to erase any doubt, use fresh pineapple juice.  If for some reason you only can get your hands on canned pineapple chunks, I suggest leaving out the simple syrup.  Now go give 'em the Bird!


Some Visual Cocktail History

Global cocktail historyEver wonder where some enterprising person created a particular cocktail?  Thanks to Vinepair, you can now look at a map (click here to see it).  An extra special thanks goes to my wife for telling me about this.

Some things on the map will come as no surprise to the cocktail novice, e.g. the birthplace of the Manhattan, or the cocktail enthusiast, e.g. the number of cocktails such as the Sazerac that originated in New Orleans (it's no accident that this unique city is host to the Tales Of The Cocktail conference).  However, other things may be in dispute.  For example, if you're in Chile I wouldn't tell the locals that the Pisco Sour comes from Peru.

So look at the map and go travel around the cocktail world! 


A Drink For Austin Powers And The Hulk -- The Whiskey Smash

Austin Powers would say "This drink is smashing baby!  Yeah!"  The Hulk would ... you know.
Austin Powers would say "This drink is smashing baby! Yeah!" The Hulk would ... you know.

This drink goes back much farther than the hilarious British superspy spoof and everyone's favorite green superhero.  The cocktail dates back to the 19th century, and an article from Imbibe magazine will give you some good historical background (click here to read it).  Here's how to make it:

2.25 ounces bourbon (Willett is great, and I used 1792 here)
.75 ounces super simple syrup
1/4 lemon cut into a couple of pieces
4-5 mint leaves

Muddle the lemon and mint in a shaker, add the super simple syrup, bourbon, and ice, shake like you're the Hulk smashing someone or Austin Powers shagging a babe, then strain into a chilled glass.

This drink essentially is a cross between a Mint Julep and a Whiskey Sour.  It has something for everyone.  It's easy to adjust the ratios of the ingredients to suit your taste for tartness, sweetness, etc.  If you look you can find a lot of variations with different liquors and other ingredients, but the concept is the same.  When it comes to the muddling, you don't need to be like you're Dr. Banner in desperate need of an anger management program.

No disrespect to the Hulk, but Captain America is my favorite Avenger.  He exudes honor, acts like a gentleman, stands up to bullies of any stripe, and kicks Nazi ass. Now go get smashed!


Dreamin' of the Caribbean -- The Pina Colada

Sometimes a cocktail is all about the context in which you drink it.  For me, the pina colada is a great example. A tropical beach setting is perfect for a concoction of pineapple (fresh of course), cream of coconut, ice, and a healthy amount of rum.  Just the thought of it transports me back to a recent vacation in the Dominican Republic. 

Click here for a thoughtful article about the pina colada from Carrie Allan.  You might learn something new, e.g. the pina colada is the official drink of Puerto Rico.

She's absolutely correct that the prevailing cocktail culture isn't a good environment for a drink such as a pina colada.  Right now there's a lot of focus on whiskey based cocktails, e.g. the Manhattan, cocktails that have amari (bitters), e.g. the Amaro Amore, or cocktails that have whiskey and amari, e.g. the Lupara (one of my original creations).

Of course, times and tastes change, and like many other things in life the cocktail culture is no different.  Considering the recent revival of tiki drinks, in which fresh pineapple juice is a major player, maybe the pina colada is about to have another moment in the sun.  Como se dice "colada comeback" en espanol?


 

 


Win, Place, Show -- The Mint Julep

Three is an important number in horse racing.  Think about it -- the Triple Crown, the number of the most common bets (win, place, or show), the name of a high reward bet (the trifecta), etc. Three is also the number of ingredients in the Mint Julep, which is famously associated with the Kentucky Derby.  Even though today is the running of the Derby, this is an excellent cocktail for any day of the year.

Savor an alcoholic Triple Crown winner.
Savor a Triple Crown champion in the cocktail world.

2.5 ounces Kentucky (duh) bourbon (Willett Pot Still is perfect)
6-8 mint leaves
.5 ounces super simple syrup

Combine the mint and super simple syrup into a cocktail glass, gently muddle, add the bourbon, add crushed ice, stir as if you're Secretariat coming down the home stretch at Churchill Downs, and enjoy the taste of liquid victory.  Garnish with a mint sprig.

Purists will say you have to use sugar cubes instead of simple syrup, and you have to use a silver or pewter cup.  Go ahead if you want to, but like the fancy hats you see at the Derby, they are not necessary.

A quick word about muddling -- the key word is gently. Don't beat the hell out of it.  The muddler serves double duty because you can use it to crush the ice (you can beat the hell out of this).  If you do not have a muddler, the bottom of a spoon or the handle of a knife will work.

Even though the traditional Mint Julep uses bourbon, for many years the Derby served one that did not contain bourbon.  Click here for a good article on the subject from Caroline Padilla at Eater.  The cocktail used Kentucky whiskey instead of Kentucky bourbon.  By law bourbon must be in aged in new charred oak barrels.   Just remember -- all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.