Year Four

anniversary_graphics_a3As I noted in my previous post, last month marked the third anniversary of A Dash of Bitters. And although my wallet’s hurting a little right now, I still have every intention of keeping the blog going through the next year. I started this site as a way to simply record the new drinks I was mixing at home, and to talk a bit about what we drank when we’d go out. My goal was to use the fact that I had this blog to be an incentive to push myself to try new things, and to always stay fresh.

With that in mind, I have one big project in mind for this year, and I’m going to need your help. But first, an explanatory note. One question that cocktail novices often ask is, “Where do I begin with this hobby? There are so many brands to choose from in each category, and there are so many categories to explore!” A common bit of advice to these folks is to narrow your focus: choose a drink or a type of liquor and build from there.

Robert Hess expands on this in his Essential Bartender’s Guide:

Rather than starting with a shopping list of products to buy, why not select a cocktail you want to make. Look up the recipe for that cocktail, and pick up just the products you need for that one drink. Simple, straightforward and effective.

…[M]ake that drink over and over again. Reach a point where you really understand what each ingredient is doing to the drink, and how the way you prepare it comes into play. Play around with the recipe a little bit. Perhaps look up a few alternate recipes and see how the drink is changed.

So, that’s the plan. I want one new drink that I will play with and blog about over the course of the coming year. I might not need a whole year to do this, but we’ll see. What I want from you is, suggest the drink. I have a few ground rules, though:

  1. Rum. It must include rum. White, golden, dark, whatever. Rum’s a spirit I’m still largely ignorant of and it intimidates me a little. This project will allow me to cycle several brands of rum through the same drink so I can start to learn differences between brands. If I move on from this drink and do this a second time, that new drink will also be rum-based.
  2. The drink, obviously, should be versatile enough that it can work with more than one brand of rum. I doubt that’ll be a problem, but I suppose it could be.
  3. I’d prefer the drink to be relatively simple. I don’t mean daiquiri-simple, with rum, juice, and sugar (I’ve pretty much mastered the sour, which is what a daiquiri is), but I also don’t want a drink with something like 8 or 9 ingredients, 3 of which are various types of rum.
  4. I’m open to tiki drinks, but see point 3.

An excellent example of the type of recipe I’m looking for would be the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail, which Doug Winship wrote up last week. In fact, if the only comments on my post are the sound of chirping crickets, I might start with that drink. What I like about it is that it’s adaptable. You can try different rums in the base. You can swap out Grand Marnier for the Cointreau. If, like me, you’ve never made your own falernum, you can make some, and then judge the drink side-by-side against a version made with John Taylor’s Velvet, or another commercial product.

Please help. You know you want to.

15 thoughts on “Year Four

  1. I have two suggestions. One is somewhat boring, but is my current evening libation, and the other may be the single most-important rum drink of all time – and one that allowed me a full month of exploration through more than 20 different variations.

    * El Presidente Cocktail
    1.5 oz rum (white or gold)
    .75 oz dry vermouth
    .75 oz orange curacao
    .5 tsp grenadine

    Build with ice and stir. Garnish with an orange twist.

    * Mai Tai
    2 oz rum (or 1 oz each of 2 different rums)
    .5 oz orgeat
    .5 oz orange liqueur
    .75 oz lime juice
    .25 oz simple syrup

    Shake with ice, strain into glass with crushed ice, garnish with lime and mint.

  2. I’m currently working on a cocktail of my own creation made with rum, italian vermouth, and amaro — basically taking the concept of a Negroni and evolving it in a very different direction. I’ve played with about a dozen combinations already and have much more work to do before I’m done.

    That said, starting from something that is known to work and be good is probably a better idea.

  3. I would also suggest the El Presidente, it will allow you to get a taste for different rums, and allow the permutations you are looking for, using different rums, vermouths and orange liqueurs. It probably won’t take you the entire year, but in my opinion it is a good place to start.

    Cheers & Good Luck!

  4. What about a Periodista? Refreshing and simple, but can be drastically changed flavor-wise with just one or two quarter ounce shifts. You can also make it with dark rum as well!

    1.5oz White Rum
    .25oz Apricot Liqueur
    .25oz Triple Sec
    .25-.5oz Lime Juice

    Garnish with lime twist.

  5. I feel very strongly that you should choose the mojito. It’s the only rum drink I ever order. If I have to pick something else, I would pick the mai tai. But do the mojito. It’s a fabulous drink if made right.

  6. One thing on the El Presidente.

    I’ve been playing around with the recipe a bit, and I find that the orange liqueur seems to dominate the drink a tad. My current favorite approach is:

    1.5 oz gold rum (I’ve been using Mount Gay Extra Old)
    .75 oz dry vermouth
    .25 oz orange liqueur (using Clement Creole Shrubb)
    1 tsp grenadine

    I’ve even been playing around using a lemon peel twist instead of orange, which oddly enough was working beautifully last night.

  7. The mojito would be a good one, btu somethign I would liek to see you improve on is the Rum and Tonic, which I learned of from my Dominican Cousins. They make it with anejo rum, tonic, and lime. It would have a lot of rum variations open to it, though, and experiments with various tonics and citruses.

  8. I was going to suggest the Hemingway Daiquiri:

    1 1/2 oz. rum (normally would be white)
    3/4 oz. lime juice
    1/4 oz. maraschino
    1/2 oz. grapefruit juice

    It’s one of my favorite drinks, although not so much in early March. Frankly, though, I think either your original choice, the RBYC (I’m drinking one right now!), or El Presidente would work better, because there are more potential interesting/educational variations. Probably El Presidente would be the best, as you’ll be able to taste the rum a lot better than you do in the RBYC. (Homemade falernum is delicious, but it does mask the nuances of higher-level spirits.)

    If you do El Presidente, you’ll need to make your own grenadine (if you don’t already). That weird Rose’s stuff won’t do!

  9. A favorite rum drink of mine is :

    Half a lime, squeezed and dropped into the bottom of a glass, topped with plenty of ice, a good quality dark rum poured over and fill the rest of the glass with the “Mango and Passionfruit Juice” blend (you can purchase from Trader Joe’s. ) Stir and let sit 5 minutes (for the lime to incorporate it’s flavor).

    Great summer cocktail.

  10. Doug, I think I disagree. What I want to do is take the base spirit–in this case, rum–and try different bases in the process. The idea is keep all the other stuff the same and cycle in different rums.

    I can’t see that working with Bloody Marys. If you have your own Bloody Mary mix set up–your blend of Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, and whatever–I don’t know what you’ll learn from swapping in other vodkas.

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