Month of rum: El Presidente smack-down, part I

Are you ready for this? Are you hanging on the edge of your seat? After delays of the bad kind (an inability to find a certain rum without special-ordering it) and of the very, very good kind (more on that, I hope, on Wednesday, 9/16), I finally had the chance to run a couple of El Presidente recipes through their paces. Verdict? One recipe is excellent, and the other, not so much.

First, a reminder: the El Presidente has four ingredients–rum, curacao, dry vermouth, and grenadine. I’ve been using Martini & Rossi dry vermouth, and my grenadine is home-made. Those two ingredients are the same in both drinks. (I may in the future try a different vermouth; if so, I’ll note that in my writeup.)

Proportions will vary from drink to drink as I try various permutations.

El Presidente

photograph by Jennifer Hess

Version 1

Let’s start with the Not So Much recipe and explain what might have gone wrong. I started here, with the classic recipe. For the rum, I used Myers Platinum, as Paul Clarke recommends in that link. It was this rum that I had to special-order. I have no idea why; every liquor store I’ve been in in Providence carries the Myers Original Dark, but not one of them carries the Platinum. I wanted the Platinum for three reasons: first, I like the way Paul describes how it tastes in the drink; second, I’m not a huge fan of Puerto Rican rums, and even less a fan of Bacardi; third, and most important, one major point of this project is to get me trying new rums.

And the Platinum is good enough for mixing, I think. Let’s back up. Myers’s Platinum Rum is a white rum (obviously–platinum should give that away), pot-distilled, aged in oak, and charcoal filtered. The aroma’s not complicated, I’d say–tones of vanilla and caramel, of course, from the oak aging, plus a hint of chocolate. The flavor’s light and crisp, without the chemical aftertaste of some white rums. Some say it’s a bit flat; I don’t agree, but then I don’t have the experience with rum tasting that others do. This is a rum for mixing, though, not a rum for sipping.

For the curacao, I went with Grand Marnier. (Yup. If you have experience with this cocktail, you’re starting to see why this version didn’t work for me.) Orange curacao is strangely hard to find around here, so I decided to grab something from my shelf rather than getting a special bottle. And I had a feeling the Grand Marnier might not work for me, but I thought I would learn something about building rum drinks by trying anyway.

At the classic proportions (2 parts rum; 1 part each of vermouth and GM; and a dash of grenadine), the drink bombs. The Grand Marnier gallops over every other ingredient. You can taste the rum, but it’s not the centerpiece that it should be. You cannot taste the other ingredients, or at least I couldn’t. A Platinum Presidente merits further exploration, but it certainly needs work.

Version 2

The second version was built precisely according to Matt Robold’s comments and specs, left here in a comment:

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 [gee, Matt, ya think?]. 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.

Now this is  a much better drink. Delicately balanced and crisp, this version lets every ingredient express itself.

A note or seven on the ingredients: Mount Gay Extra Old is a brown rum, with aromas of caramel, toffee, warm spices (cloves, allspice, nutmeg). On the palate, it’s spicy and almost peppery. A great sipping rum, this one also mixes well, as this cocktail demonstrates. Rhum Clement Creole Shrubb is among the drier of the orange liqueurs, a little more subtly orange, and generally less of a hit on the palate. There’s a reason Grand Marnier is often sipped neat after dinner: it’s so viscous and sweet that it coats the tongue and palate, easing them to sleep after a great meal. The Creole Shrubb isn’t like that; I wouldn’t say it’s an eye-opener or an aperitif, but it’s certainly peppier.

I’ll be working through other variations in the next few weeks, but it’s safe to say, Robold’s version is the one to beat.

3 thoughts on “Month of rum: El Presidente smack-down, part I

  1. at least he didn’t recommend subbing Amaretto!

    I definitely agree with the use of Clement Creole Shrubb. Grand Marnier is a fantastic cocktail ingredient, but does have a tendency to steamroller its way through the other ingredients, and is best used lightly, or in drinks made around it.

    Honestly I’ve not played around with this drink much, but will most certainly have to soon.

  2. See? I’m not crazy!

    Actually, I tried this with a number of orange liqueurs and it seems that regardless of which one you use, that .75oz of curacao just crushes the rest of the drink into a sobbing mess.

    Reduced to a role-player though, the orange is a wonderful touch on a fantastic cocktail.

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