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In the world of spirits, rum has long been the poor cousin, consigned to bad fruit punches and syrupy cocktails—until now, that is.
A clutch of rum distilleries in the Caribbean have caught on to the tricks of the whiskey industry, experimenting with sherry and bourbon barrels, double aging, and triple distilling to jump onto the premium spirits bandwagon. Does it work?
Our favorite recipe comes from cocktail wizard Dave Wondrich:
16 oz. Mount Gay Rum Extra Old
8 oz. Ruby Port (or dry red wine)
4 oz. Superfine sugar
The peel of two lemons, each cut into a half-inch-wide spiral
4 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
16 oz. cold water
In a gallon-sized punch- or mixing-bowl, muddle the lemon peels and the sugar together and let sit for at least 90 minutes. Juice the lemons and enough more to yield 4 oz. of strained juice. Muddle the peels again and add the lemon juice, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rum, the wine and the water and stir again. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
To serve, add a one-quart block of ice to punch bowl (or add large ice cubes to individual glasses) and grate 1/4 of a whole nutmeg over the top. Ladle into small cups.
Sometimes the holidays call for something more serious than a light-hearted mixed drink, no matter how chic (or potent) it may be. Sometimes, especially when you're raiding someone else's liquor cabinet, the holidays call for Scotch.
There's a wonderfully acerbic scene in Roman Polanski's claustrophobic movie, The Ghost Writer, in which Ewan McGregor, dining alone with the prime minister's wife, discards his glass of white wine for a tumbler of Scotch. 'White wine—I've never seen the point of it,' he says. It's meant to signal his gaucheness, but it also feels utterly cool and enticing. You leave the movie wanting to follow suit. Drinking whisky with dinner is not always a winning combo—the big populist malts are too noisy for anything remotely subtle—but subbed in as an aperitif, the right Scotch can be a revelation.
Not sure what to look for? Here are some of our favorites:
1. Old Pulteney
Fresh and briny, with a faint hint of smoke and orange, this lovely retiring gem from the northern tip of mainland Scotland is an all-rounder, as good before dinner as after, and the best value of the lot.
2. Highland Park 15-year-old
A grand mouthful of toffee and honey, with a lovely hit of smoke at the back. Try it in place of rum in a Dark 'n' Stormy or neat, with a drop of water to bring out its full glory.
3. Glenfiddich 15-year-old
Fruitier than the Old Pulteney, with notes of cinnamon, crowd-pleasing Glenfiddich always behaves well.
4. Asyla by Compass Box
Compass Box does interesting things, not all of them popular with Scotch purists (one of their whiskies is called Hedonism), but this light blended Scotch is the jewel of the pack. Great as an aperitif.
Just because Thanksgiving is an American holiday doesn't mean you can's add some international flare. Take this Italian-style cocktail, which features ingredients easy enough to find at any U.S. liquor store and is guaranteed to add some flavor and flare to your Turkey Day.
1 ounce tequila
3 ounces Carpano Antica Formula (red vermouth)
Stick of cinnamon for garnishing
Put ice in a rocks glass, rinse with a few drops of absinthe, and discard ice. Add tequila, vermouth, and a few drops each of orange and Angostura bitters and stir well. Pop in a stick of cinnamon and serve.
Blackberry liqueur from England is the central ingredient in the bramble cocktail, a mid-'80s confection from London that combines gin, lemon juice, and creme de mere to superb effect. Like its cousin creme de cassis, blackberry liqueur adds a lovely sweet note without dominating gin's complexity and seems wonderfully appropriate as the days get shorter.
1 1/2 ounces London dry gin
3/4 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce American Fruits black currant cordial
Mix all ingredients and shake with ice. Strain over crushed ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a blackberry and a lemon wheel.
Like jazz, baseball, and Humphrey Bogart, bourbon is an authentic all-American creation, a reflection of something inspired and fine in the nation's character that remains decidedly unpretentious. With its seductive way of inflaming senses and loosening inhibitions, it is also very rock 'n' roll. Try it this season in a classic cocktail, the Old-Fashioned.
2 ounces bourbon
1-2 cubes of Demerara sugar to taste
3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 orange slices
2 Maraschino or Luxardo Marasca cherries
Splash of water or club soda
Muddle sugar, bitters, one orange slice, one cherry, and a splash of water or soda in an old-fashioned glass. Remove fruit. Add bourbon and ice and stir. Garnish with remaining orange slice and cherry.
(Adapted from The Essential Cocktail by Dale DeGroff)
After the glorious rehabilitation of gin and bourbon in the cocktail cosmos, it was inevitable that rum would get its own moment of glory. There's an intrinsic warmth in dark rum's notes of spice and molasses that brings out the best of a winter's night -- even in a long drink like the dark 'n' stormy, which is fast becoming as ubiquitous as the cosmopolitan was for a hot Sex and the City second.
Go the highball route and mix two ounces of dark rum (Gosling's Black Seal, if you want to be truly authentic) with eight ounces of a peppy ginger beer like Reed's from Jamaica (get the extra ginger brew if you can find it), and garnish with lime for a dark 'n' stormy night of it.