Introducing The Warm And Easy

Valentine’s Day is upon us but–word to Rhett Butler–frankly my dear friends I don’t give a damn! I do give a damn about quality cocktails though;  and the way I see it the only thing better than drinking a quality cocktail is drinking a quality cocktail in the company of a quality woman. That’s a lot of quality for one sentence but all that quality is partially responsible for me indulging in a bit of quality Valentine’s love for 2014. Like my love, I’ve got a whole lot of booze to share and a lovely lady to share it with.

I’d been messing about with the alcohol at my disposal and eventually whipped up a lovely drink that ticks many boxes on my personal “is this drink worth drinking list?“; it is booze forward (yes, I said booze forward. It’s like fashion forward but more fun and less pretentious. If only slightly), rum is a key ingredient and my Missus likes it.

Here’s how this thing works:

Warm And EasyINGREDIENTS

1.5 oz Appleton 12 yr old rum

.5 oz Bols Creme de Cacao (white or brown)*

.5 oz Campari

Grapefruit bitters**

Orange peel

Fill a mixing glass with ice, add the booze and a few dashes of bitters. Stir with joy and vigor. Pour your bevvie (obviously) into your chosen receptacle–I’m partial to coupes–zest and/or garnish with orange peel et voila, a wonderful cocktail that’s a perfect way to begin or end any evening. (Especially the wintery-polar vortexy kind we’ve been having in these parts.)

Listen, the full bodied character and orange notes of the Appleton 12 are great compliments to the Campari and if you’re the type of drinker who enjoys Negronis–which sits alongside Manhattans, Martinis and Old Fashioneds on the Mount Rushmore of “booze forward” cocktails– then this drink should work for you. But if you don’t, well….what can I tell ya’, you came to the wrong place.

I was struggling to come up with a name for this bad boy when a friend of mine pretty much just said, “simple, it’s a Warm And Easy”. And just like that, this little blog got its own signature drink.

One more  thing before I go; as a nod to Valentine’s Day I want to share a little mix I put together that is perfect for entertaining that special someone. Check it out here.

 

*This is a matter of taste. If you prefer dark chocolate, go with brown.

**My grapefruit bitters are homemade. Feel free to replace with your something of your own choosing.

Advertisements

Summer Cocktail: ‘My Sweet Lady’

photo (6)With a haul that included Trelawny Gold Label, Appleton 12 and Coruba Mango Rum, among other selections, last year’s trip to Jamaica was a fruitful one. Down time in summer 2012 meant lots of rum and rum based cocktails; mango mojitos were particularly popular. The thing is, when the curtain went down on my favourite season and autumn took centre stage, my Coruba bottle was relegated to the back of my liquor cabinet.

Well, it’s summer again and guess who’s coming to dinner….

This year I’ve pretty much eschewed mojitos (I think I’ve made myself one all year) so I’ve yet to reprise 2012’s mango mojito madness. Instead, I’ve been whipping up something “original”**, something that encapsulates my cocktail philosophy, something simple, something fresh and something boozy: a drink I like to call My Sweet Lady.

Here’s how it works (god, I make it sound like I’m about to explain the mysteries of the universe or something):

INGREDIENTS

1.5 oz Demerara rum

.5 oz Coruba Mango Rum

.5 oz Sour Mix (fresh)

Lime

Combine ingredients and ice in shaker. Shake (duh). Pour over ice in a small tumbler. Garnish with lime. Et voila.

Like the lady who inspired it, this drink is a refreshing and wonderful mix of the sweet and the sour. Oh, and for those tempted to use Malibu Mango rum instead of the Coruba: don’t. It’s not that Malibu’s offering is bad, it’s just that I think the Coruba is better; its nose and its sweetness is rounder and fuller, if that makes any sense to you; and ultimately makes for a more pleasant experience. Trust me on this.

**Is anything ever really original?

Rhum Agricole Revisited

I tried and I tried and I tried. But I just can’t get into les Rhums Agricoles; at least not as much as I’m into molasses based rums. My first exposure to these French speaking rums came a couple of years back in NYC. My feelings were mixed but I vowed to give ’em another try. Well, as fate would have it the LCBO started stocking Rhum Barbancourt 4 year old dark rum from Haiti and a recent trip to an SAQ in Montreal allowed me to pick up a bottle of Martinique’s Saint James Royal Ambre Rhum.

RhumAgricoleNow, the Saint James Royal Ambre Rhum, was one of the three I tried in NYC so I won’t say much more other than it is as sharply flavoured as I remember. It wouldn’t be my first choice to sip, but as far as Rhum Agricole is concerned it is my favourite so far.

Barbancourt? I did enjoy the nose; it was fragrant and spicy and a lot smoother than the potency of its aroma suggests. There’s a hint of burnt something (rubber??? wood???) to the finish but that’s not a criticism or problem per se, it underscores this rhum’s distinctive flavour but I imagine it won’t work for everyone. Again, I’m not going to reach for Barbancourt before I reach for, say, Doorly’s but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it. Perhaps I need to give other rums in the Barbancourt family–like their 8 year old rum for example–a chance before really making up my mind.

One more thing; both of these rums are excellent in punches or add a different character to a rum and coke. But if you want to try something really exceptional with these, and any rums for that matter, try combining them with a little coconut water. Come summer time, nothing beats the heat and satisfies my yearning for rum like a little rum and coconut water. Here’s how I do it:

Ingredients – rum, coconut water, lime, honey

Mix half a teaspoon of honey in a tumbler with the juice of 1/2 or 1/4 of a lime (depending on how juicy your lime is). Add equal parts rum and coconut water (I tend to use 1.5 oz’s of each) and fill your tumbler with ice. Stir with a bar spoon. Add a lime wedge. Et voila. Summer goodness.

Simple Pleasures: Appleton Estate Extra 12 Year Old Rum

I’m not a complicated man. I enjoy simple things. Simple things make me smile, allow me to forget the frustrations of the day, enable me to drag myself out of bed and head to work each and every morning. Simple things bring me pleasure.

And very few things bring me more pleasure than sipping rum.

People often ask me for rum recommendations or try to ascertain my favourite rum but to be honest I’m not sure if I could choose one. Having said that, I am a sucker for Appleton rums, and not out of patriotic or jingoistic fervor. No, I believe Appleton rums (and I’m talking VX, Reserve, 12 yr old and older here) are perfectly balanced; not too much heat, just enough bite and the right amount of smooth to ease it down the throat.

My current bottle of Appleton 12 yr old rum was a recent purchase; I’d gone a long time without tasting this rum and had almost forgotten how good it is. Now, this is not meant to be a rum review but I had forgotten how the mere sight of its rich bronze colour in a glass promises so much. I had forgotten that it is that rarest of items that makes good on its promises.

I am writing this at the end of another in a long line of spectacularly unspectacular days. This isn’t a lament, it’s merely an observation. As is my belief that Appleton 12 yr old rum is one of (my) life’s simple pleasures; the kind to put a bow on the most unspectacular of days. This is a rum drinkers rum. And I am nothing if not a rum drinker. A simple rum drinker.

Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum

There are rums, there are white rums, and then there’s Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum. I know, I know, you’re thinking overproof rum might not be appropriate for a gift giving guide or you might be thinking that white rum’s aren’t for sipping blah, blah, blah, boom, boom, boom. But believe me, this rum is a killer. And I mean that in a good way.

First things first, this rum isn’t for everybody. It is potent, it’s nose is potent and it really lives up to the “guaranteed full strength” written on the label. I have friends who claim it smells like rubbing alcohol or petrol or embalming fluid. They exaggerate. The nose is powerful and distinct but for me it is fruity and tropical, perhaps because it reminds me of time spent visiting family in Jamaica. (Sidebar, this rum is ubiquitous in Jamaican households, even among non-drinkers. It is used not just for drinks but for cooking and baking too.)

Second, though my cousin Stitchy and I tend to drink this on the rocks with a twist of lime and maaaaaaaybe a splash of water, this rum isn’t a sipper. I repeat this isn’t a sipper. Did I already mention this rum is potent. How potent? 63% ABV potent. So unless you’re a seasoned drinker you shouldn’t even think about trying this neat or on the rocks. But if you must, I urge you to add a little citrus (lemon or lime is fine).

Now I’m sure you’re thinking this doesn’t sound like much of a ringing endorsement for a holiday gift giving guide. But you’d be wrong. This rum is perfect for holidays. Use this rum in a mojito and you’ll see what I mean. And don’t even get me started on rum punch. Just a few weeks ago I made punch for a party. I mixed Wray & Nephew with a dark rum, grapefruit juice, an orange mango juice, a smidgen of grenadine, cinnamon, nutmeg and a few splashes of bitters. The drink “sell off“.

As I write this I”m enjoying a mix of Wray & Nephew with guava puree, tonic, lime and bitters. Magic. The complex flavours of this rum add character, heft to any drink. I highly recommend it for your private bar or as a gift during the holiday season. Oh, and it is a most welcome gift for any Jamaican on your gift giving list.

Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Barbados Plantation Grande Reserve 5 Y.O.

It’s holiday time and around these parts that means a Holiday Gift Giving Guide. More specifically, it means a guide to quality rum. As an intro I was going to write something clever but then remembered that last year’s intro was pretty good. At least I thought so. So, I thought I would just cut and paste it here:

The holiday season is upon us and many are caught in the hustle and bustle that is holiday shopping. I myself have finely tuned my seasonal shopping habits in such a manner that it takes one or two outings at most to check every name from my list. My secret: highly personalized gift cards/baskets and fine spirits from theLCBO. I think the gift card/basket tactic is self explanatory, but the LCBO tactic may not be as obvious. But it should be. Unless you come from a family of teetotallers and/or all of your friends and acquaintances eschew alcohol, then the LCBO should be a no-brainer. Won’t you be attending countless parties and get-togethers after all? Isn’t alcohol the finest social lubricant?

Am I right or am I right? Anyway, the first entry in this year’s guide is Barbados’ Plantation Grand Reserve 5 year old rum. First, a little background; this rum is aged in the Caribbean before finding its way to the Ferrand estate in France where its flavour is further tweaked for several months in oak casks used for bourbon.

Sounds good doesn’t it. This is the part where you ask me if it tastes good. Then I remind you this is a gift giving guide and I wouldn’t be here sharing this rum with you if I didn’t feel it was worth it. Want more detail you say. Okay, well Plantation Grande Reserve is a warm medium bodied rum whose honey brown hue promises sweetness and delivers in grand style. The nose is fresh and slightly sweet as is the flavour whose hints of fruit and vanilla remind me of a less sweet version of the candies my mother used to give us in church to keep us quiet.

In fact the subtle sweetness and smoothness of the finish reminds me a little of Angostura 1919, except I think this rum’s flavours might be subtler and dare I say it might even be smoother. This rum is great for sipping neat or on the rocks. And though I’ve yet to try it in a cocktail I’m sure it would punch up any beverage. “That sounds great, but how much does it cost?” you say. Well, in my neck of the woods Plantation Grand Reserve retails for a reasonable $32.45 at the LCBO. And trust me (would I steer you wrong?) if you have a rum drinker, mixologist or cocktail enthusiast on your shopping list they won’t be disappointed with this very smooth offering.

Speaking of smooth, I’m a bit of a Marvin Gaye fan. This just might be an understatement. Anyway, I thought I’d pair this item on my gift giving guide with a little dose of Marvin (and James Jamerson on bass!). Enjoy.

Cienfuegos And My Neverending Search For Good Rum

I was in the Big Apple several months ago and I found myself quite satisfied with the sheer breadth and depth of options with which to entertain and occupy myself. Music. Food. Shopping. Girl watching. The city that never sleeps appeared to have everything I need to feed my inner insomniac. Except for rum.

At first glance it seemed that NYC, much like almost every place I’ve ever been outside of the Caribbean or my living room, didn’t really do rum. Vodka bars, whiskey bars, tequila bars, NYC and every big city I’ve visited has these in spades. But rum? For the most part bars and restaurants seem to think stocking Bacardi and/or Captain Morgan is sufficient.

I spent the better part of one afternoon wandering around SOHO and the Lower West Side, popping in and out of shops, restaurants and bars. I stopped at South Houston (which has since closed), a nice warm, modern spot with excellent bourbon and scotch selections. But I wasn’t in the mood for bourbon or scotch and had a Gin and Tonic instead.

I popped into Dos Caminos (in the Meatpacking district), which reminded me of a cross between the Drake Hotel and Reposado, two popular spots in Toronto’s west end. Predictably it had a great tequila and whiskey selections. I had a beer. I was beginning to believe that NYC was ultimately going to disappoint me on the rum front. I was prepared to tell anyone who would listen that rum doesn’t get any respect, how else can you explain an apparent lack of rum in such a world-class city.

Then I discovered Cienfuegos. A self-proclaimed “…technicolor Antillean retreat located in the heart of the East Village”, Cienfuegos is “home to everything Cuban and all things rum”. Apparently the sandwiches are very good. I wouldn’t know. I just cared about the rum. And in their cozy “Cocteleria”, Cienfuegos offers delicious rum punches (by the glass or bowl) and a wide range of rum flights. Guess which choice I made.

Continue reading