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 Suburban

The SuburbanToday’s beverage serves a dual purpose. First, it continues my ongoing interest in classic cocktails featuring more than one variety of hard liquor. Secondly, it highlights the fact that you’re erstwhile cocktail explorer will very likely be soon be exchanging one not-quite-urban home base for another. Yes, if all goes as planned I’ll soon be leaving the vast quasi-suburban enclave that is Orange County, California only to very possibly move to the  more centrally located, yet no less suburban, not-quite-city we call the San Fernando Valley — which is Los Angeles in the sense that you get to vote for the mayor of L.A.

As for the Suburban cocktail, it’s a very relaxing but ultra-sophisticated drink that won’t be too all tastes. You might call it “urbane.”

The Suburban

1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce dark rum
1/2 ounce port
1 dash aromatic bitters
1 dash orange bitters

The ingredients might be unusual but the methodology is as routine as can be. Combine your various boozes and bitters in your cocktail shaker or mixing glass with plenty of ice. Purists will insist on stirring the concoction but I say shaking will also work. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and drink a toast to Walt Disney, who envisioned fantastical wonderlands-cum-bedroom communities — most of which never came to be — in Orange County and elsewhere. (Uncle Walt’s company did finally build one planned community, Celebration, Florida, during the 1980s.)

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For this drink, I used my go-to rye, 100 proof Rittenhouse. Some recipes call specifically for Jamaican Rum, but I used the very decent (and more reasonably priced) dark Whaler’s Rum from Hawaii because that’s what I had on hand. For the exact same reasons, I also used the inexpensive tawny port I’ve been using for a number of drinks lately.

As for the history of this beverage, which dates back to the early 20th century, it apparently has more to do with horse racing than civic sprawl. Even so, for now, the self-indulgent question remains, will Drink of the Week Central end up in one of the bedroom communities of the San Fernando Valley, where my new day job is located, or will I be taking advantage of my beloved hometown’s growing subway system with a move to the vastly more cityish Hollywood/Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Koreatown axis, or will I split the difference and land in North Hollywood or Studio City?

All I can tell you is that, if suburbia be my destination, I’ll try to make it the laid back no-judgements utopian Never Never Land envisioned by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, who also sings, in his fashion, in the song below. Okay, that may be unlikely, but at cocktail hour there’s a little bit of Hasbrook Heights in every home. (The song actually starts at around 0:15.)

  

Drink of the Week: Eggnog

eggnogI have a confession to make.  Despite my enormous love of all things sweet and milk fatty, I was fully prepared to bale on what has to be the ultimate seasonal drink. I have to admit there were concerns for my waistline — you guys have no idea how much weight I gained as a child knocking back the carton based non-alcoholic stuff. Also, as I grew older, I usually was disappointed by the spiked nog I’d had at parties. Somehow, the booze always seemed to destroy the cheap and creamy charm of the store bought nog. It was like putting vodka in chocolate milk. (I’d rather have a shot and choco-moo chaser, thank you.)

Still, the real reason I was going to go AWOL on eggnog was that I was simply intimidated. I imagined fresh eggnog to be a very complicated drink to make; a drink that might even force me to break my no-blenders rule, classic drink though it be. The online recipes telling me that I had to start with a 6 or more eggs, separate the yolks from the whites and perform various operations on them only reinforced that assumption.

Then, however, I started Googling “eggnog for one” and a great revelation came to me. Really, all this drink is a raw egg — provisos and disclaimers to come — milk, sugar, vanilla flavor, and booze. I have to say that, even if I have a sentimental attachment for the gooey store bought stuff, this shockingly easy, if slightly messy, home made version beats that all to heck.

So, here goes, the drink recipe I never thought I’d post.

Eggnog

1.5 ounces of your choice of cognac/brandy, bourbon, Canadian whiskey, or rum
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 ounce heavy cream (optional)
2 ounces full fat milk if not using heavy cream; with cream use 1.5 ounces
4-5 teaspoons superfine or powdered sugar
Ground nutmeg (garnish)
1 cinnamon stick (optional garnish)

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Drink of the Week: Hot Buttered Rum

Hot Buttered RumButter…mmm…not the most common of classic cocktail ingredients but hot buttered rum is not your ordinary cocktail. A Christmastime favorite in many places, the history of today’s DOTW likely goes back as far as prior to the U.S. Revolutionary War, when New England was awash with rum due to the deeply unfestive Triangle Trade.

Now, I have to admit that, prior to this week, hot buttered rum existed to me only as an occasionally referenced warmer upper on 1970s sitcoms and 1950s rom-coms. The good news is that, I have to say, I’m sold on it. This version is simple and sweet and pretty surefire, though it’s definitely best if you can get it all down while it’s still hot.

One proviso: some ultra-purists may sniff at this recipe since it doesn’t call for you to heat this drink with, get this, a red hot poker removed directly from a fireplace. (I used a microwave.)

Hot Buttered Rum

2 ounces dark rum
2 teaspoons sugar, preferably dark brown or raw
5-7 ounces boiling water
1 pat of butter (unsalted or salted)
Ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and/or cloves to taste

Put butter, sugar, and a dash or two of any or all of the suggested seasonings in mug, ideally pre-heated. Pour about 1-2 ounces of your boiling water in. Stir until the butter is melted and the sugar and spices have dissolved. Add two ounces of room temperature dark rum and top of with your remaining not-quite boiling but still extremely hot water.

Stir again and sip gingerly. It should be about the perfect temperature but better safe than sorry. Try not to spill any on your Snuggie.

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A couple of quick notes. Most recipes call for unsalted butter, but I was too lazy, cheap and hateful of waste to run to the store for a product I would never use for any other purpose. Salted butter worked fine, though I would stay away from any other obvious substitutions. (“Hot margarined rum”?) Also, most recipes say to add the butter last, but I found it melted easier my way and I still got a nice buttery coating on top.

As usual, there are an enormous number of ways to make hot buttered rum. A lot of recipes substitute super-hot apple cider for water, which I’m sure is pretty tasty but adds a lot of calories. Some versions throw ice cream into the mix, which just kind of blows my mind. Seriously, though, if you use a nice dark rum and dark brown sugar or raw sugar — both of which include molasses, the stuff they make rum out of — this drink should be plenty sweet.

Speaking of dark rum, you may find that with all the light, amber, and spiced varieties available, regular dark rum might be a bit harder to find in your price range than you’d think. BevMo here in California’s OC offered only two varieties of true dark rum. Myer’s Rum which was about $19.00 for a fifth and Whaler’s Original Rum, which was about half that price and turned out to be perfect for getting all hot and buttered.

  

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