Drink of the Week: The Dark and Stormy

The Dark and Stormy.I wouldn’t exactly compare my experience trying to come up with a version of the Dark and Stormy that I could really love to my personal Vietnam. Afghanistan, maybe? Nah, but the more time I spent on it, it was clear that what started out seeming like a noble effort was a truly fruitless endeavor.

That’s not to say I think you should avoid the Dark and Stormy. If the ingredients sound good to you, give it a whirl. In fact, if you make at the proportions below, I think it’s a reasonable alternative to a gin and tonic, which is not a bad thing at all. It’s just that I think this drink ought to be more of a sweet and sour super-treat, given its ingredients. Somehow, however, the bitter and tart flavors always seem to predominate and it just never quite comes together.

Below, for what it’s worth, is the best version of this I’ve found based on many experiments. For some reason, it’s a pretty close approximation of the Wondrich take. It’s not a classic in any sense as far as I can tell, but it’s drinkable.

The Dark and Stormy

2 ounces dark rum
3 ounces ginger beer (add more if you like, but I don’t think it will be an improvement)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

Combine ingredients in a Collins glass — a big rocks glass may be just as good — with ice and stir. Drink and see if it weathers the storm for you.

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As I mentioned above, I tried this drink in an enormous number of iterations, taking a few sips and dumping nearly whole drinks and killing nearly half of the Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, the more or less official rum of the Dark and Stormy, on which I spent $18.00 of my own money. Nearly as expensive as the ginger beer.

Yeah, you read that right. When I made the similar but, to my taste buds, far sturdier Moscow Mule for this blog some time ago, I accurately joked that ginger beer, which is in the same non-alcoholic family as ginger ale and root beer, can cost more than actual beer. That’s true. This time, though, I tried three brands all hailing from the Dark and Stormy’s mother island of Bermuda. They’re actually kind of worth the money. Gosling’s has their own brand, which is tasty enough and a bit cheaper. But I really, really dug both the classic Burmudan option of Barritt’s and I really, really, really, super dug Regatta Ginger Beer. A really top-notch soda with a lot of tastes going on in it, including a zesty aftertaste I can’t quite identify.

Sadly, however, when I actually combined the ginger beer with my approved brand of rum, as described above, the result wasn’t some kind of delightful alchemy — just another okay kind of a mixed drink. Since David Wondrich had mentioned that Bermudans generally limited the lime to simply a garnish and basically just had a ginger beer and rum highball, I tried it that way and found it not much better or even particularly sweeter, which was weird. I tried it with Cruzan Black Strap Rum which I’ve had got luck with earlier but that was, frankly, a non-starter. Then I tried my usual fall back dark rum of Whaler’s. Not bad, but it was, in fact, better with Gosling’s.

I will say there are two things you should not do that I actually tried. You should not attempt a Dark and Stormy with ginger ale. The results are surprisingly almost nasty. Moving on, you should definitely not use Rose’s Lime Juice , which is sweetened, and ginger ale. This was actually given to me in an impromptu attempt by me to request the drink at a local nightclub. The club will remain nameless, as it’s actually a very good place to see live bands and it was my fault for not specifying that the lime juice shouldn’t be sweetened.

On the other hand, the perkiest version of this that I’ve tasted was made at the very good Westside Tavern on Pico Boulevard, over the hill from Drink of the Week Central. This high end Dark and Stormy was not even made with ginger beer, but with a house made ginger puree,  which definitely upped the ginger flavor. Not bad.

Is it getting to the point where I can only patronize craft bars?

  

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Drink of the Week: The Mai Tai

Mai TaiAs I begin writing, the winner of the U.S. presidential election is not yet known for at least another 12 hours, and people across the political spectrum are going a little insane. Well, I’m happy to say that, wherever you fall on the political spectrum, we have a drink that will help take the edge off a loss and intensify the joy of a win — at least assuming your spiritual beliefs allow you to drink alcohol. It’s also the first of the post-WWII Tiki-inspired cocktail classics I’ve dared to take on here. Wish me luck.

I owe part of this week’s column to the good people at Cruzan Rum. Along with the tasty spiced rum we featured last week, they were kind enough to send me a bottle of their Cruzan Black Strap Rum to play with. My search for an appropriate cocktail led me directly to cocktail historian David Wondrich, whose all-dark rum-based version of this ultimate South Seas inspired classic seemed a perfect vehicle for the stuff.

I also, however, deemed it necessary to try another brand of dark rum. I went with my usual reasonably priced but tasty fall back, Whaler’s. I think this recipe, which is borrowed pretty heavily from Wondrich, minus an Esquire-mag typo or two, works pretty well with both rums — but with significant differences. More about that after the recipe.

The Mai Tai

2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce orange curacao
1/2 ounce almond syrup (aka orgeat)
1/8-1/4 ounce simple syrup
1 mint sprig (highly advisable garnish)

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice. Shake like crazy and pour the whole thing, ice and all, into a well chiled Tom Collins or large rocks glass. Enjoy with or without a lovely tropical breeze. Toss in a sprig of fresh mint, if you’ve got it, and maybe one of your spent lime wedges, too.

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The Mai Tai was not, we are told, invented anywhere really close to Tahiti but in the not-so-very tropical land of Oakland, California at the original Trader Vic’s and presumably by Mr. Vic’s himself. As presented here, it’s a lovely concoction but I can also say that your choice of dark rum will yield a considerable difference.

To be specific, Whaler’s Dark Rum is quite sweet — not quite like a liqueur but not far from something like Old Tom gin. A mai tai made with it is a lovely thing that will make you popular with a large crowd and will go down your own gullet very, very easily. On the other hand, Cruzan Black Strap Rum has a lovely molasses flavor and bouquet, but is much less sweet. The result is a more sophisticated and complex mai tai. It’s very nice, indeed, but sometimes a little sophistication goes a long way, so I’d consider upping the simple syrup quotient, though lord knows this thing has enough calories.

One more experiment you can try is toss in a very small amount of vanilla extract. The original mai tai was made with something called rock candy syrup, which was basically regular simple syrup with a tiny amount of vanilla flavor in it.

Oh, and as I finish this post, I know how the election turned out. It’s enough to drive an old bleeding heart like me not to drink, but I think I’ll have another mai tai anyway.

  

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