August 16 is National Rum Day, time to celebrate the oldest distilled spirit, which originated in the West Indies. It is first mentioned in records from Barbados around 1650, where African slaves brought to the Caribbean to work in sugarcane plantations first distilled it from molasses.
According to Britannica, the spirit went by the name of “kill-devil” or “rumbullion,” and by 1667 the name was shortened to rum. It was the first alcohol to be manufactured and distilled, and the first that was drank for pleasure instead of medicinal purposes.
Today there are many styles, produced in dozens of countries and enjoyed the world over. Raise a toast to this historic spirit in your favorite tropical cocktail, in a unique modern creation, or neat over good quality ice.
Classic in Puerto Rico
Most people think of the Piña Colada first when thinking of rum based drinks, but not everyone knows who created it and where. It was Ramón “Monchito” Marrero, during his time as a bartender at the iconic Caribe Hilton in 1954.
After three months of experimentation, he finally settled on the recipe, which he felt captured the true flavors of Puerto Rico. He continued to serve the beverage at the hotel for the 35 years, and was rewarded for his efforts in 1978 when Puerto Rico named the cocktail its national drink. The resort also holds a government proclamation validating everything.
To commemorate, Caribe Hilton has just launched a new piña colada menu, including some fun twists such as a Piña Colada Martini and a Patron Colada, made with Patron Silver tequila. But purists will be pleased to know that the original recipe can still be enjoyed at its birthplace.
The Original Piña Colada
2 oz. rum
1 oz. coconut cream
1 oz. heavy cream
6 oz. pineapple juice
½ cup crushed ice
Mix rum, cream of coconut, heavy cream and pineapple juice in a blender. Add ice and mix for 15 seconds. Serve in a 12-oz. glass and garnish with fresh pineapple and a cherry.
Ron del Barrilito is another premium rum that has been crafted by hand in small batches using the same methods since 1880, making it the oldest rum in Puerto Rico. It’s distilled using sustainably harvested rainfall water and aged in vintage, Spanish white oak sherry barrels, with no caramel coloring, sugars, artificial flavor or ingredients.
Instead, distillers at El Barrilito use the ancient process of maceration, in which a small portion of the rum is infused with a blend of natural dried fruits and spices before aging, to impart its characteristic flavor profile and aroma.
The product line includes five expressions, from Two Stars which is great for cocktails, through the extremely limited Five Stars, a blend of rums aged for up to 35 years.
Modern in Copenhagen
In Copenhagen, high end cocktail bar Curfew is serving the Josephine Baker, a tribute to the legendary performer. Drawing inspiration from her iconic costume of a short skirt made of artificial bananas and a beaded necklace, it captures the spirit of the jazz age and the Roaring Twenties.
Curfew owner and cocktail mastermind Humberto Marques says that the choice of Havana Rum as the main spirit is significant. In January 1966, Fidel Castro invited Baker to perform at the Teatro Musical de La Habana in Havana, Cuba, during the seventh-anniversary celebrations of his revolution. Her spectacular show in April of that year broke attendance records, making Havana Rum a fitting choice to honor her connection to Cuba.
The cocktail combines Havana Club Selección de Maestros Rum with banana, parsnip, PX Sherry, anise seeds, orange and cocoa bitters. “These ingredients are clarified through our Lab centrifuge, resulting in a spirit-forward and strong libation with a delightful sweetness from the banana,” says Marques.
“The parsnip adds nuttiness to the flavor profile, while the anise seeds contribute hints of licorice. The combination of banana, parsnip, and anise creates a unique and harmonious pairing that complements the notes of Havana Rum and the nuttiness of PX Sherry. The cocktail pays homage to the extraordinary artist and her iconic image, offering a taste experience that reflects her spirit and the era she helped define.”
The world’s oldest running rum distillery
Mount Gay in Barbados is the world’s oldest running rum distillery dating back to 1703, although recent findings suggest it might have been as early as 1654. Made in the birthplace of rum for over 300 years, Mount Gay is the oldest commercial rum in the world and one of Barbados’s most famous exports, utilizing a variety of casks to provide a depth of flavor.
As an ode to summer, they introduced a limited-edition Après the Day Cocktail Kit with Cocktail Courier, featuring ingredients to mix up Barbados Peach Tea cocktails, including Mount Gay Eclipse, along with a customized City Bonfire and s’mores kit with a Nutella twist to complement Mount Gay Eclipses’ tasting notes. The cocktail kit will be available until August 19.
Barbados Peach Tea
2 oz Mount Gay Eclipse Rum
0.5oz Lemon Juice
4 oz Peach Tea
Garnish: Lemon Peel or Slice
Begin by using a peeler to create a lemon peel garnish or cut your lemon into slices. Juice the remaining lemon and set aside. Measure and add Mount Gay Eclipse Rum, lemon juice and peach tea to your glass. Top it off with ice and stir. Garnish with lemon peel or slice.
The age of sipping rum
While rum is typically thought of as a spirit solely made for tropical cocktails, Papa’s Pilar is an example of a rum brand that seeks to expand the consumers’ minds and palates.
Named after Ernest Hemingway and his beloved boat, Papa’s Pilar has an expression for everyone’s taste, including Papa’s Pilar Blonde Rum, a great base for cocktails like a daiquiri, or Papa’s Pilar Rye Finished Rum, the most recent addition to their flagship portfolio, ideal when you’re looking to sip on something neat.
It also makes for a perfect twist on the classic whiskey-forward Manhattan, like the 62nd St. Manhattan, inspired by Hemingway’s time living in the city.
Out of the box in Los Angeles
Matthew Belanger, bartender at celebrated Death & Co. bar in L.A., created this extraordinary cocktail inspired by summer melons.
“I’m a big fan of melons, especially in the summer – watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, you name it – they are delicious signifiers of the season and the flavor can be very transportive when used in a cocktail,” he says. “However, fresh produce can be challenging to work with due to their inconsistency throughout the season. Enter Aelred’s Melon Aperitif – produced from French melon de cavaillon, it tastes like the platonic ideal of cantaloupe every time you open a fresh bottle. We’ve been playing with that product for a while, and I had in mind to do something Mai Tai-adjacent since I imagined some affinity between aged Rhum Agricole and the flavor of melons.
The drink itself is basically just that, a Mai Tai with melon liqueur replacing the curacao, with the addition of St. George Green Chile – the big hit of green peppers and cilantro helps balance the sweetness of cantaloupe and create some savory intrigue in what might otherwise be a merely two-dimensional cocktail.”
Lone Wolf & Cub
1.25 oz Rhum JM VO Agricole
0.75 oz St. George Green Chile Vodka
0.5 oz Aelred Cantaloupe Aperitif
0.75 oz Lime
0.5 oz Orgeat
1 dash Absinthe
Shake all ingredients and pour into a Pilsner glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a cantaloupe slice.