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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.

The Whiskey Smash dates back much further than the hilarious British secret agent spoof and everyone's favorite green superhero. Smash cocktails came on the scene in the 19th century, and this article in Imbibe magazine gives good historical background.

2.25 ounces bourbon
1 ounce 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.

The Whiskey Smash essentially is a cross between a Mint Julep and a Whiskey Sour.  A julep has a spirit, herb, and sweetener, and a smash is a julep with added citrus. It's easy to adjust the ratios of the ingredients in the Whiskey Smash to suit your taste for tartness, sweetness, and booziness.  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, stands up to bullies of any stripe, acts like a gentleman, 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  -- the Triple Crown, the number of the most common bets (win, place, or show), and the name of a high reward bet (the trifecta). The Mint Julep, associated with the Kentucky Derby, has three ingredients. The word julep derives from old Persian and Arabic words for rose water. Originating in the southern United States in the late 18th century, the Mint Julep had become so widespread by the 1810s that some consider it to be the first American cocktail (though technically it isn't one because it has no bitters). 

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

2.5 ounces bourbon
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.

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.

The Mint Julep became the race’s official cocktail in 1939. Interestingly, even though Kentucky was and is a huge bourbon producer, for an 18 year period ending in 2015 the Kentucky Derby served a Mint Julep that used Kentucky whiskey, not Kentucky bourbon (remember all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon).

So go win big with a Mint Julep!