Archive for the ‘Rum’ Category

So. Nostalgic sentiments and memories of the many Miss. Venezuelas I met aside, the trip to South America did at least serve a few purposes.

Hell yeah.

Coupled with tours and talks with the award-winning blender Tito Cordrero – only the third master blender in the history of the distillery – and hanging out and making drinks for owner, proprietor and ambassador-at-large Jose Ballesteros, there was a another matter that needed attending to whilst on foreign soil…

A photo shoot had been organized in the almost-opened Martini’s Bistro in the Jirahara hotel where we were staying in Barasquimento. Along with Daniel Baernreuther, the current beverage manager at American Bar at The Savoy, who was showcasing the recently-revised ‘Savoy Daisy’, the two of us made our drinks as part of a photography event organized by DUSA and Diplomatico for their forthcoming cocktail book, which is to be released later this year.

The idea of the book, which came from Alfonso ‘The Host with the Most (The Fonz, for short)’, is to showcase the drinks that have been made with Diplomatico over the last few years years, with references to the bartenders, their current place of work and the reasoning behind the drinks.

With 21st century cocktail books becoming more common these days, from bars like PDT in New York to brands like Diageo releasing drink and cocktail-orientated books – Diageos book, for example, showcased the drinks and challenges from the World Class 2010 final in Athens – the Diplomatic cocktail book is there to pay homage to those on the frontline who have helped bring their style of rum to a wider audience by showcasing the most inventive and intricate drinks that have appeared within the cocktail scene over the last few years.

Such sentiments are rare in the bartending world. Indeed, while some brands use it as a marketing tool to promote and forward their brands, it’s nice to see an independently owned company to pay their respects to those who have worked with brand on consistent, daily basis.

And so with that, this blog, like the last, is dedicated to those who have helped work together to bring the Diplomatico cocktail book from a concept to a literary conclusion.


  • 50ml Diplomatico Reserva Exclsuive
  • 15ml Coffee-infused vermouth
  • 10ml Nardini Amaro

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Stir with ice until well mixed and well chilled, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with three cherries on a pick, twist an orange peel over the surface of the drink, and serve.

Coffee-infused Vermouth

  • 125g whole coffee beans
  • 500ml sweet vermouth

Fill a storage jar with coffee beans. Add vermouth until the liquid covers the beans, and store in a cool place for 24 hours. Strain, bottle and refrigerate.

The Emisario. Hells Yeah.

Savoy Daisy

  • 60ml Ruby port
  • 30ml Lemon juice
  • 25ml Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva
  • 15ml Muscovado sugar
  • 2 barspoons grenadine
  • 2 barspoons Bacardi 8

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake, strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

Daniel Baernreuther’s Savoy Daisy.

Like the one before, this post and the drinks are dedicated to those who looked after us during our stay in Venezuela. Sláinte!


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A couple of weeks ago, myself and Mike Aikman, one of the two owners of Bramble, endured a nightmarish seven-hour delay to our journey from Caracas in Venezuela to Edinburgh in non-Venezuela.

After the tanker dudes in Frankfurt decided to have a wee strike, the three flights we had booked were subsequently delayed and/or rescheduled, meaning our lovely arrival back in Scotland went from an early evening reintroduction to Scottish climate to a drudging after-midnight energy sapper of a journey.

Mike Aikman tried to keep himself occupied during the strikes.

Still, none of us can really have a right to complain, especially since we had just been on an all-expenses paid trip to the DUSA site in La Miel and a trip to coast that involved dancing with hot woman and eating fresh lobster, courtesy of the awesome dudes at DUSA – and, more to the point, Diplomatico rum – and those lovely folk at Speciality Brands.

The trip came about for different reasons; with Mike kidnapping most of the Speciality Brands staff with threats of violence and rape unless they gave him a freebie, I arrived at the trip after humbly winning a nationwide cocktail competition held in Leeds back in November, on the same day that Bramble celebrated its fifth birthday.

Still, the trip was a welcome distraction from the hectic festive period and the dark, cold days that followed us through thr months of January and February. Out went making 20,000 Old Fashioneds’ at midnight on a busy Saturday, in went rum on tap and intense humidity set against a backdrop of a rather dangerous South American country that was littered with a ridiculous amount of attractive Latin women. My first holiday in nearly two years and first weekend off in over 16 months was definitely a welcome distraction to, well, pretty much anything work related.

After spending two days in Barquisimeto, with consecutive day trips to the DUSA site, we headed to the coast for two days of over indulgence and brutal hangovers, though it was the first two days that caught my imagination.

The DUSA distillery boasts some impressive figures and a colorful history; initially set up by Seagrams, the company lists both Diageo and Pernod Ricard as previous owners, and has a production capacity of around eight million nine-liter cases a year, both of which fill export and domestic markets. The distillery also produces rums for the blending of Pampero, the best-selling rum in Venezuela Cacique (both brands of which are owned by Diageo) as well as gin and vodka, and also blends and bottles whisky for consumption within the country (for more info, check out Simon Diffords article in Class Magazine here).

Barrels of rum in a warehouse at DUSA. Awesome shit.

The enigmatic Jose R. Ballesteros Melendez, who also represents the Diplomatico brand on his travels abroad, now owns the distillery after purchasing the site and several bulk spirit-producing contracts in late 2002. Not only did we have the pleasure of meeting Jose and witness his generous and awesome hospitality, we also had chance to try and dry out his supply of rum – which we almost succeeded in – as well as trying the recently released Diplomatico Ambassador (more of that later).

Still, while it would be easy, if not boring, to talk about rum production and the range that the guys over there produce, it would skip entirely over the fact of how important rum is in the daily lives of modern day cocktail drinkers and bartenders who lean towards the mixed drink side of the industry.

As a young bartender, rum was both the first brown spirit and overall spirit category that got me thinking about drinking spirits neat and the effect of barrel ageing and mellowing. As I got more into gin and whisky, beliefs that were reinforced as I moved north of the boarder, my respect for rum diminished in the wake of fresh gin drinks and trying to make the perfect Rob Roy.

While gin and scotch still occupy my thoughts when it comes to serves and iced drinks, the bartender who shuns rum does so at his or her peril; not only is rum a great way to challenge an average drinker into trying new things, it’s also one of the more accessible. Sure there’s vodka, but that’s too easy, and not to everyone’s taste, while there are still some old-school prejudices about gin.

The drinking of rum and the good times that were had in Venezuela were a timely reminder of how important rum is in the daily lives of both imbibers and those that are involved in the industry. Not only does no other spirit have the ability to capture the party time atmosphere or the ‘fun in the sun’ experience that rum is inevitably involved in, it was also a timely reminder of the way that rum can capture a mood and lift the spirits of those who drink it, be at a beach party or street carnival.

Outside of being spoilt rotten and to educate those on the front line, brand trips exist to convince those who remain unsure about their product or to remind and reinstate the qualities that lie within a certain brand. The trip that Specialty Brands and those who work at DUSA managed to put together achieved both of these objectives and more. Therefore, this blog is dedicated to the people based in London, Leeds and Venezuela who helped make the trip possible.

Special thanks go to Declan McGurk, the current Speciality Brands manager who looks after the South and London, and Robert Jupp, who helped bring about this trip. A personal thank you is extended to the Diplomatico family, especially Jose Ballesteros, Tito Cordrero and Alfonso Gonzalez for their patience with us and the never-ending hospitality we received. This blog is dedicated to you.

Dedicated to you, ‘Fonzy’.

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Some of you may have realised, especially with the last post, that certain ‘subjects’ or ‘themes’ can come about at such an unexpected or odd moment, particularly when it comes to entries on this blog and drinks made in general. This will probably be a running theme as long as this site remains, simply because that when my mind is still racing at 3am after finishing work, I’m more likely to post an entry than during the day, or even on a day off.

Still, I’ll admit that the ‘El Presidente’ in my last post was cheating a little. Here’s my chance to do something cocktail orientated with rye (George Washington had a rye distillery at his Mount Vernon home, which was very successful indeed thank you very much), and I publish a drink not really associated to him in anyway shape or form. Coupled with no photos – bare with me here – and you’ll see why the next few posts may be a little more Washington-orientated.

So check out this one.


  • 45ml Rye whisky
  • 15ml Dark Jamaican Rum
  • 15ml Port
  • 1 Dash of Angostura bitters
  • 1 Dash of orange bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and express the oils of a lemon peel over the surface of the drink and drop into the drink.

George Washington's Inauguration. One day, there will be pictures of cocktails on here, instead of images stolen from google.

At his inauguration, Washington requested a barrel of the finest Barbados rum. OK, so Barabados rum isn’t used here, but you get my point. It’s a little closer to the theme of the whole thing.

The Suburban came to me via the pages of David Wonderich’s ‘Esquire’ book/magazine column. The name potentially originates in the late 1880s, where Wonderich speculates that James R. Keene kept horses, some of which ran at the Suburban Handicap, an event at the Sheapshead Bay track in Brooklyn

The drink itself, however, first appears to come to print in The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book, and is definitely a drink for grown-ups. So, if you get tired of your rum Manhattan, but still want a stirred, straight-up drink that marries at least two spirits – one of which is rye – and you want to go for a drink that’s doused with underestimation yet still drenched in a cool suaveness, ask your barkeep if he can knock you up a Suburban. Heavy, dense, complex and layered, Wonderich nails it when he states how it’s best suited for the autumn (and even winter) months. But don’t let that stop you ordering one in summer or after a meal, or on George Washington’s birthday. Or a combination of two or all of these things. Heavy, mature and deep – almost like a good woman – with a rum-heavy nose. The only thing that would improve this drink is a citrus garnish (the original called for sans garnish). Lemon is best here, especailly with rye, in terms of brightening the whole thing up.


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After taking a four-week hiatus of writing and blogging, it was nice to post something for February the other day. However, after being relatively self-indulgent with having sporadic access to a rotovap and looking at what could be drunk and written about over the next few months, it turns out that George Washington’s birthday slipped by without even a blink (apart from the national holiday they have in the US, that is).

Born exactly 279 years ago on this date, Washington turned out to be one of the most important figures in terms of the shaping of the Unites States of America.

However, even though his qualities of leadership, tenacity and resilience helped from a government cabinet which is still used in it’s current form today, along with loads of other important stuff which I don’t know much about, the singular most important thing in the history of the entire world is that he had a whisky distillery at his home in Mount Vernon where he distilled rye whisky.

George Washington. Liked distilling rye. A lot.

However, even though this is ultra cool and gives me an excuse to come up with at least one cocktail that has rye it, it’s currently 2:41 in the am, and I have no apparatus with which to construct a drink right now.

To make up for such a lack of awareness of US heritage and culture, I’ll be dedicating this next week to a couple of drinks focusing on rye whisky. This next week, however, may or may not be longer than seven days, and may stretch into May, depending on how ‘tight my shit is’ over the next few months.

For now, I’m going to take the easy way out, give a recipe for an El Presidente – the tenuous link here being the word ‘president’ – and get back to you guys within the next couple of days with a more modern drink.

The drink itself dates back to the dark days of prohibition, although it seems to have stemmed from American bartender Eddie Woelke, who moved overseas during the midst of the ‘Great Experiment’ after tending bar in Philadelphia, New York and Paris, amongst other cities. He set up Havana in the late 1920s, and made this drink for then-president Gerardo Micado.

El Presidente

  • 50ml Aged rum
  • 20ml Sweet Vermouth
  • 10ml Orange Curacao
  • 1 Barspoon of Grenadine
  • 1 Dash of orange bitters (optional)

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and express the oils of an orange peel over the surface of the drink and drop into the drink.

With the rum, a good latin rum such as Havana Blanco, their three year-old or Bacardi Superior would be a fine choice, although any none-crap rum will do. As for the curacao, Grand Marnier isn’t bad, although a decent triple sec will render the drink a little dryer, which is by no means a bad thing.

The great thing about the drink, apart from the fact that what looks a simple drink is actually a cocktail of decent complexity, is that it has a mature and ‘grown-up’ taste. Stiff and strong, dry, yet still sweet with a long fruity and orange finish. Further more, in a way that a Negroni or a Manhattan can be adjusted to become heavier and richer or lighter and easier depending on the base spirit and vermouth used (extend this to bitters on the subject of the Manhattan), the El President falls into this creative objectivity too, especially when we talk about the Rum (why not use white rum?), the vermouth (sweet, dry, or a bit of both), the triple sec/curacao debate, and even the bitters if you so wish to include them.

Happy birthday and happy drinking, Washy.

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I received an email from the UK Angostura Brand Ambassador for Angostura Rum and Bitters, Alison Gibb, telling me that I hadn’t won/been chosen for the Angostura Rum and Bitters International Cocktail Competition to be held at Rumfest in October this year. Never mind, I guess. However, congratulations to Martin Siska from The Donovan Bar, Browns Hotel, London, who won with his drinks ‘Two Little Roses’ and ‘Ruminez’.

However, despite not getting anywhere near the competition in London (not without buying a ticket for Rumfest, anyway), I thought I’d share my entries for the competition anyway.

Cocktail de Boissiere (Angostura Bitters-based cocktail)

  • Angostura Orange Bitters
  • Cinnamon Sugar
  • 20ml Angostura 1919
  • 10ml Orange Curacao (Mary Birzzard is a decent make for this)
  • Champagne/Sparkling Wine

Rinse the inside of the champagne flute with Angostura orange bitters. Discard. Fill the champagne flute with cinnamon sugar. Discard, as though to leave frostiness inside the glass. Next, pour in the Angostura 1919 and the orange curacao, and top up with champagne. Give the mixture a very brief stir and serve.

The idea of the cocktail is for the bitters to act as a solid, flavour-enhancing backbone for the other flavours and sensations, instead of being an undertone to the drink. Even though one can taste the delicacies of the champagne, the strength of the rum and the dryness of the orange, the bitters reinforce all of the aforementioned flavours, and remain barely detectable through the different transitions… but detectable nonetheless, and in a way that would suggest that it’s merely more than bitters that help platform the other flavours in terms of coming to the front of the pallet. A dry and slightly bitter orange flavour always persists throughout.

The name ‘de Boissiere’ takes it’s name from the de Boissiere family, of which Eric Williams, the first Prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago in the early 1960s, was a descendent of. The de Boissiere family made their fortune through trading and selling slaves after the official abolition of slavery in the early 1800s. Williams subsequently went on to write a book arguing that the abolition was motivated more for economic manifestations as opposed to the compassionate actions of the government and those involved.

As for the rum cocktail, this is slightly trickier in terms of executing.

Port of Spain cocktail (Angostura Rum-based drink)

  • 60ml Angostura 1919
  • 25ml Tawny Port
  • 15ml Oloroso Sherry
  • 2 Dashes of Angostura Orange Bitters
  • ‘Burnt spray’ of Angostura Bitters

Add Angostura orange bitters and Angostura 1919 to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into cocktail glass. Next, slide the port and the sherry down the side of the glass – make sure that these two ingredients have been added together in a separate, easy-to-use bottle to ease the mixture into the cocktail – and watch as the mixture settles at the bottom of the glass. For a garnish, spray and set alight Angostura bitters onto the surface of the drink. Serve.

The idea of using port and sherry only came to fruition when the only sherry I had at hand, a lovely 30-year-old Oloroso that a friend brought back from Spain several weeks ago, hadn’t been opened. After tasting it, I realised that despite it’s complexity and sweetness, it had a little bit of bitterness, even citric-acid style tartness, and put it down it down mainly to it’s aging as opposed to solely the style of wine it is. Cue the use of Port – which I had to go out and buy – and a slight mix-up in Port’s favour. Boom! The mixture of the two works a treat (in a cocktail at least). A balanced complexity yet strong as sin, a use of two fortified wines to sink to the bottom of the drink to incorporate the name of the drink to it’s ingredients, with a combined age of 40 years. Awesome.

The cocktail takes its name from the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, though with a double-entendre that is with a nod towards Port wine (and the Portuguese ethnicity) and the Spanish-style wine that is sherry (and the Spanish ethnicity). The inspiration behind the drink evolves from the Princeton Cocktail, a drink that first came into print in 1895 in George J. Kappeler’s Modern American Drink.

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