It was only two weeks ago that I began a love affair with rum. Before this, Captain Morgan and his cohorts were a thing of the past -- a sweet and boozy addition to the average party drink. They usually tasted like coconut or pineapple or “natural spices” (at the very least, some factory made facsimile).
But then I learned what rum could taste like -- no, SHOULD taste like -- and the rest was history. Literally.
The tradition of rum in the United States can be traced back to before this continent was even referred to as North America. Here’s 500 years in a nutshell:
In fourteen-hundred ninety two, Columbus sailed the... you know the rest.
By establishing the ‘West Indies’ as a boarder-land between Europe and South America (and eventually, the American Colonies), the Spice Trade took footing in a whole new way.
Sugar Cane quickly became an important component of this trade circuit, and its byproducts -- including molasses -- grew in popularity throughout a burgeoning world.
Witty (and heroic) New Englanders realized that Molasses can be turned into a rich and heart-warming liquor which could, in turn, be traded on the market. Or... be kept at home for those tough NE winters. Blizzard 2015 anyone?
Blackstrap Molasses New England Rum was born.
Ok, lets move ahead a few years:
Prohibition happened because, reasons.
People kept drinking because, better reasons.
Despite a once booming industry with more than 150 local rum distilleries, NE Rum was a relic from another time. Until...
GrandTen and Bully Boy distillers brought it back with a vengeance.
Bully Boy is originally known for their White Whiskey, but have been extending their reach in recent years. Their Boston Rum is a noteworthy example of how this old New England tradition can be misunderstood: rich and golden in color with hints of dried-fig and butterscotch on the nose, I would have thought I was drinking whiskey had the bottle not been sitting beside me. A broad, spicy palate and a tannin heavy finish kept me guessing at what, exactly, was in the glass. As rum goes, this experience was much different than I had expected and I enjoyed savoring each savory sip.
GrandTen had my heart when they released their flagship Wire Works Gin, which has since become a family favorite. I’ve enjoyed many of their spirits but was still blown away by their recent release of the Medford Rum, fermented with their own strain of locally cultivated wild yeast: a shade or two more pale than the above-mentioned, this rum was an altogether different experience. Apple-blossoms and the rich, sweet smell of pie baking in the oven caught my nose. Allspice and a buttery caramel took over my tongue and the long, luxurious finish brought me back to my days on the orchard, dreaming of the reward I’d receive when I got home and that apple pie came out of the oven.
It may have taken 500 years but I’ve finally come to appreciate that rum -- specifically New England rum -- is not something you toss into a beverage haphazardly. Rather, it should be the star of a carefully crafted cocktail.
For your enjoyment, and education ;), have a look at our playful take on the Sazerac, brought to you by myself and colleague Hope Gee. And Boston-made rum:
The South Boston Sazerac
2.5 oz Local Blackstrap Rum
¼ oz Simple Syrup
1 healthy pipette Bitter Tears ‘Lolita’, Cherry Bourbon Vanilla Bitters
½ pipette Crude ‘Sycophant’, Orange & Fig Bitters
Stir the rum and simple in a standard boston shaker, over ice
Rinse a Martini Glass with the bitters, reserving the bitters in the glass
Strain the rum solution into the glass
Garnish with a fresh sprig of lemon-verbena