It’s been a pretty long time since my first taste of hard liquor, and so it’s a rare thing when I try something that’s genuinely new to me. Still, when the generous gods of booze publicity saw fit to gift me with a bottle of Brugal 1888, it was the best kind of shock. Made from whole sugar cane rather than molasses, but tasting nothing like the cane derived spirit cachaça, no doubt largely due to its painstaking aging process, it’s best described as a high end rum that thinks its fine Scotch or bourbon — right down to its price tag. It includes numerous hints of flavors that range from chocolate to bracing woody notes of dad’s after shave, or something.
Okay, so I’m no better at describing the indescribable than the next writer, but this Brugal 1888 is some really interesting stuff and naturally my first thought was, “what kind of Old Fashioned would this make?” The answer was, “a pretty darn interesting one.” It got even more intriguing when I stumbled over the idea of using maple syrup instead of the usual sugar or simple syrup. It required a little pleasant experimentation, but I think I finally got this drink down.
The Brugal 1888 Maple Old Fashioned
2 ounces Brugal 1888 rum
1/4 ounce maple syrup
2 teaspoons soda water
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 orange slice
Muddle the orange slice in the bottom of rocks glass. Add the Brugal, soda water, maple syrup, and bitters along with several ice cubes. Stir the cubes and liquid for 20-30 seconds to mix your ingredients and get the drink good and cold. Sip and toast the nations of the Dominican Republic and Canada (or the state of Vermont) for giving us Brugal and maple syrup.
While sipping your Brugal straight is a very adult experience, the other ingredients definitely soften the drink up pleasantly…but I think it can get a bit too soft. I originally tried it with Regan’s Orange Bitters, and then with Fee Brothers Aromatic, but neither of those outstanding products quite did the trick. The relative harshness of regular old Angostura was needed to bring back some of the edge that was lost to the maple syrup. Still, I really never had a bad experience making this drink and if you think orange bitters, or another type of aromatic bitters will work with this, be my guest.
I didn’t dare try it this, but if anyone out there is considering making this with something other than real maple syrup, just don’t. Simple syrup or sugar for a more standard Brugal Old Fashioned is great and, though I haven’t been able to try it out, agave syrup is probably okay too. Maybe honey, even. But Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth don’t belong in your cocktails.