Drink of the Week: The Captain’s Blood

the Captain's Blood.You’ve never heard of the Captain’s Blood and, until about 24 hours prior to when I began writing this, it didn’t register with me, either. I stumbled over this variation..I’m tempted to say “improvement”…on the classic daiquiri in Robert Hess’s trusty 2008 “The Essential Bartender’s Guide,” though this precise recipe is actually from Hess’s vlog.

It’s apparently a fairly old drink, and it’s name — quite probably drawn from the 1922 Rafael Sabatini pirate novel and/or its swashbuckling 1924 and 1935 film adaptations — suggests a prohibition or post-prohibition provenance. Yet, even among lost beverages, the Captain’s Blood is a bit of a dark horse. Among the better known cocktail tomes, it only appears to have shown up in David A. Embury’s 1948 “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.” The Embury recipe is severe indeed — the sweetest ingredient is dark rum. Fortunately, the Robert Hess version has just the right amount of sweetness.

The Captain’s Blood

1 1/2 ounces dark rum
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1-2 dashes aromatic bitters
1 lemon twist (optional, but desirable, garnish)

Combine the rum, juice, syrup, and bitters in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake. (If you’re having a hard time measuring a mere quarter ounce, note that 1 and 1/2 teaspoons, i.e., half a tablespoon, is the same  as 1/4 ounce.) Strain into a chilled, smallish cocktail glass and add your lemon twist if you’ve got it. Try not to drink this one too quickly, as it has a lovely aroma, but it tastes good enough that you might find it gone in about 45 seconds anyway.


My first night out, I tried this drink with several different premium brands — Bacardi 8 (Robert Hess’s choice), Gosling’s Black Seal, and my old pal Brugal 1888, and the results were consistently very, very good. Later selections were a bit less stellar. Papa Pilar’s absolutely delicious dark rum seemed to overpower the thing while, conversely, Flor de Cana dark rum seemed a wee bit dry.

And there’s no getting around the seafaring connotations of this drink which has made it an occasional offering at tiki themed bars, though mostly in highly adulterated versions, I suspect. You can find recipes online that call for super-sweet Rose’s Lime Juice or maraschino. Who knows, they might not be bad. On the whole, however, I’m not in any mood to mess with the Captain’s Blood.


Drink of the Week: The Dominicana 1888

The Dominicana 1888. If you’re going to build a cocktail around a distinctive, high end spirit, I think it’s definitely better if you can still distinctly taste that spirit. Sure, a lot of cocktails benefit from a sort of alchemical reaction where flavors in various ingredients unite to create an entirely new experience, but it’s nice to leave room for the unique flavors of a particular product — especially if the drink was created largely to promote that product.

I raved here a few weeks ago about Brugal 1888, a high end darkish rum that mysteriously arrived at my house via the booze-promoting powers that be. It unites the appeal of a really good bourbon or Scotch with hints of the exotic sweetness of a more conventional quality rum. In some ways, though, I think I might like today’s recipe a bit more than the Old Fashioned variation we tried earlier. It’s a very simple drink that’s delicious and sweet, while letting the most intriguing aspects of this somewhat pricey-but-worth-it booze really come to the fore.

I did, however, rename today’s choice as there’s another rum-based cocktail called the Dominicana. I modified the name in honor of its outstanding base spirit. One more thing, I didn’t get quite the amount of froth you see on the picture — you probably need egg whites to get anything remotely like that in real life — but this is still a very delightful drink, presentation issues notwithstanding.

The Domincana 1888

2 ounces Brugal 1888 Rum
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
1 teaspoon turbinado or brown sugar
1 cocktail cherry (desirable garnish)

Add the three juices and, especially if you’re using turbinado sugar (aka, “raw sugar”), you can muddle it into the liquid to ensure it mixes properly. Next, add the Brugal and lots of ice. Shake very vigorously and strain it into a cocktail glass. Add the cocktail cherry, which really does seem to add a little extra something to this drink.

Sip and salute the power of sugar, both processed and naturally occurring. Rum might be the only drink made directly from sugar or it’s byproduct, molasses, but without some kind of sugar we’d have no liquor at all!


I shared the brown sugar version of the Dominica 1888 with a couple of test subjects and I can tell you that, apart from the fact that I like it a lot myself, it’s possible that it’s one of your more sophisticated crowd pleasers. Certainly with the combination of three great fresh juices — I even used fresh pineapple juice this time around, which is not always the case with me — and just a little bit of additional brown sugar/turbinado sweetness, it mellows out the Brugal 1888 about as far as it can be mellowed. At the same time, it leaves plenty of room for the high end rum to have its say, and that’s a very good thing. You’re paying for this stuff; presumably, you want to taste it.

Re: brown sugar and turbinado. I basically stuck to the original recipe, created by some clever but unnamed mixologist at Brugal, on all of my successful attempts at this drink. The only variation I tried turned out to be something of a happy accident. The first time I made this, I didn’t have any actual brown sugar around but did have plenty of turbinado, aka raw sugar. Since both brown sugar and turbinado share the same basic trait — they contain the molasses which is usually removed from conventional, processed sugar — using it as a substitute made sense; the results bore me out.

The next night, I went out and bought some regular C&H Dark Brown sugar (it was either that or “golden brown” which seemed lighter than the, er, classic brown sugar I remember from a few years back). I used that version on my test subjects and it worked extremely well, don’t get me wrong. On the other hand, the overall effect, strangely enough, was to make the Brugal’s sharper, almost leathery edges just slightly more obvious. I thought the turbinado sugar gentled the booze in a way I found to be almost perfect. I tried it again and found I really liked my original version best, but purists especially might prefer the regular brown sugar version best. Try it both ways.



2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Booze

Walk into any liquor store and you’ll see hundreds of options. You can zero in on someone’s favorite drink when picking a gift, or you can get creative and choose something they wouldn’t buy for themselves. Also, remember that you don’t want to come to a party empty-handed, so get in the habit of at least bringing a bottle.

And for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Craft Beer Club

If you have a beer lover on your list, you can give him or her the gift that keeps on giving. The Craft Beer Club discovers exceptional craft brews from around the country and delivers them each month direct to you or your gift recipient. Every selection is produced by small-production, independent brewers who use only traditional brewing ingredients and time-honored brewing methods. In addition to traditional bottled beers, they also embrace the hundreds of small craft brewers around the country that offer their hand-crafted beers in cans. It’s a great way to enjoy craft beers and it’s ideal for the holiday season.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

If dad, your buddy, your tomboyish gal pal or anyone else on your holiday list loves a very good bottle of Scotch, then consider this rather dandy, unusually enjoyable single malt. Outstanding on the rocks, with a splash of water or soda, or neat for you purists, the Laphroaig 10 Year Old is also more mixable than you might assume; on the other hand, it’s good enough that many will consider even the finest cocktail made with it a crime against nature. The website tells us that it’s got traces of salt and seaweed along with the usual peat and smoke flavors, but we don’t completely agree. It’s definitely got smoke – indeed, you might get hungry for barbecue after you take a good whiff and, yeah, that’s some salt in there, but that’s not all. Every good Scotch has its share of several indescribable tastes and smells of nature. We haven’t been to Scotland, but we wouldn’t be one bit surprised to find ourselves tasting the essence of this concoction in the clear cool air of the highlands. Cheaper than super-duper premium single malts but nearly double what you’ll likely pay for Chivas Regal, this is an outstanding gift for a true blue Scotch enthusiast.

Brugal 1888 Dominican Rum

If you’re in search of a bottle for the man or woman who’s drunk everything, Brugal 1888 is something genuinely new under the sun and it’s completely remarkable. An aged Dominican rum that thinks it’s a premium Scotch or Bourbon, it has the tantalizing, woody and astringent flavor you might get in very a high-end single malt, plus a hint of something that somehow reminds us of our dad’s old fake-leather chair. (That’s a good thing, believe it or not.) At the exact same time, it has a boldly sugary undertone that goes well beyond what you’re likely to find in the sweetest bourbon. We tasted more than a hint of maple syrup or maybe turbinado. Regardless, it’s delicious and probably not like anything you’ve had before. You can drink this on the rocks, with a bit of water, or neat. You can also put on your mixologist hat and go to town as this is a flexible beverage that won’t be out of place in an Old Fashioned, especially if you use real maple syrup in place of the usual sugar or simple syrup. High priced for rum but worth every gosh darn penny, this is one boozy gift that won’t be forgotten.

Cabo Diablo

This is the best new spirit we’ve tried in a long time. Cabo Wabo is known now just as much for its excellent tequilas as it is for its founder Sammy Hagar, and this new Cabo Diablo should attract many more fans. Cabo Diablo features a delicious coffee flavor and tastes amazing when you drink it straight. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and it’s not think and syrupy like some liqueurs. So it’s a fantastic sipping drink that men and women should both enjoy. But better yet, it’s a tequila, so it’s also a great way to get a party going, as tequila makes everyone a little nuts at times. It is made with 100% blue agave Cabo Wabo Silver tequila, then kicks in notes of fresh roasted coffee, vanilla and chocolate for a striking combination. It’s excellent served chilled or on the rocks. With the holidays around the corner, this makes for a great gift for men and women, and it’s a great bottle to bring to a gathering to get the party started!

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Drink of the Week: The Brugal 1888 Maple Old Fashioned

The Brugal 1888 Maple Old Fashioned.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.