My month of rum continues today, with a couple of drinks featuring Cruzan Black Strap Rum. One of my goals for this project is to explore the depth and breadth of rum; there are very many different styles of rum out there, and yeah, that’s one reason I find the category a little intimidating, but frankly it’s also why it excites me. The idea of tasting my way across the category is pretty cool.
One thing I didn’t really explain last time was that I used Mount Gay Eclipse rum for the Royal Bermuda cocktail. That recipe calls specifically for a Barbados rum, as I mentioned, and I went with the Eclipse because, well, in part because it’s inexpensive, a good bargain at the 22 bucks my local pharmacy charges. (I think they’re overcharging a tad, but they’re so convenient that it’s worth an extra buck or three.) Also, in a rum-101 post, Matt “Rumdood” Robold recommends it as a good starter rum, in the amber/gold category. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now in various things and I find it to be a great mixing rum. It even sips fine, neat or on the rocks, although it’s a little simple for sipping; you’d probably want to go upmarket in the Mount Gay brand for that, and try the Mount Gay Extra Old, which is just delicious.
Back to the black, now. The Black Strap is an interesting beast. You may have seen black-strap molasses around at the grocery and you may have even used it in, say, baked beans, but let’s step back and look at molasses for a moment. To make molasses, sugar producers take sugar cane, extract the juice from it, and then boil the juice so the sugar crystallizes. The molasses this first boiling produces is very sweet because sugar still remains in it. So to economize and wring out as much sugar as they can, producers then boil the sugar out again, and then finally a third time. It’s this third boiling that produces blackstrap. Interestingly, blackstrap molasses is one sweetener that’s actually good for you. The boiling process concentrates all the nutrients in the molasses, so blackstrap is rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron.
Blackstrap has an important benefit for distillers. Because it ferments quickly, it doesn’t form as many fusel alcohols as other ferments do. Without delving too deeply into distillation-101, let me just say that a certain amount of fusel alcohols are necessary for certain spirits, but if you have too many, the flavor is rough. So they must largely be removed from a distillate before it can be bottled. (It’s the presence of these that in part explains the “rotgut” reputation of plastic-bottle spirits and mason-jar moonshine.) Blackstrap, because it lacks some of these fusels from the start, creates a smooth and easily drinkable rum.
Which also means it mixes well into cocktails, and isn’t that why you’re here? So let’s get on with it.
The first drink I have today is something called the Lytton Fizz. I’m not just drinking my way through the rum world right now, I’m also reading it. One of the books on my current reading list is Wayne Curtis‘s excellent And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. I’m probably the last cocktail geek on the Internet to read this book, shamefully, but that’s okay. The Lytton Fizz is not one of the ten titular drinks, but it does appear in an appendix at the back. It’s the creation of bartender John Myers of Portland, Maine. It’s the last cocktail in the book, and it appealed to me for its seasonal ingredients, mint and Thai basil, both of which we had on hand. There’s a problem with it, though. Here’s the recipe as it appears in Curtis’s book, skipping the herbs:
1/2 oz. falernum
1/4 oz. lime juice
2 dashes of bitters
1/2 oz. dark rum
Hm. Equal parts rum and falernum? That falernum stuff is sweet. Very sweet. And what makes this a fizz is that it’s topped off with fizzy ginger ale. Not to second-guess Messrs. Curtis and Myers, I knew this had to be a simple typo, or the drink would be unbalanced and overly sweet. I told Jen I thought the 1 had gotten lopped off somehow and it should be 1-1/2 oz. rum. So I hit Google and sure enough, the results of the 2005 Rum Fest were posted, and I was right. There, Myers’s recipe calls for an ounce and a half.
So, enough of that. Here’s the recipe from the Rum Fest page:
In a Collins glass, muddle
- 4 fresh mint leaves
- 3 Thai basil leaves
- ½ oz. Falernum
- ¼ oz. lime juice
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Fill with ice. Add 1 ½ oz. Cruzan Black Strap Rum and top with ginger ale. Stir.
Be sure to muddle gently, though. Press too hard on the mint, and you’ll open veins in the leaves that will express bitter oils into your drink.
Bonus: Corn ‘n’ Oil
- 2 oz. Cruzan Black Strap Rum
- 1/4 oz. Falernum
- 1/4 oz. lime juice
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Build over ice in an old-fashioned glass. Stir.
Cocktail photographs by Jennifer Hess.