The Rum and Coke is often the first cocktail people order out when they reach legal drinking age. This was especially true a few decades ago when the drinking age in many states was younger, and drinkers still in or just out of high school wanted something simple and sweet. Plus, they didn’t know what else to order.
My early encounters with rum were the Tiki drinks served at a local Chinese restaurant. One of my favorite cocktails back then was The Volcano, which came in the namesake ceramic bowl, naturally, with a mini volcano bearing a flaming shot of rum in the center.
Young consumers today are probably a lot more sophisticated than we were about rum and cocktails in general, thanks to the craft mixology movement and the proliferation of new spirits and flavors. But while many have expanded beyond white rum into the dark, spiced and flavored rums (coconut in particular), most people are barely scratching the surface of what rum has to offer, not to mention similar spirits like cachaça and rhum agricole.
Our cover story looks at some of the perceptions, misconceptions and trends regarding rum. For instance, some mixologists are using premium aged rums in cocktails—in new recipes as well as in some classics that are typically made with other brown spirits. They’re also promoting concept of aged rums to be sipped neat or on the rocks.
Proper aging is a big deal with rum. “White rum is like a wild spirit—you need to put it in a barrel to tame,” says Roberto J. Serralles, vice president of business development at Destileria Serralles in Ponce, Puerto Rico. His family’s business, which has been producing Puerto Rican rum for more than 146 years and includes the Don Q, Caliche and Palo Viejo brands, has been experimenting with blending and aging.
“Anybody can make a spirit,” Serralles says, “but elegance is what we strive for” and what’s achieved via the purity of the ingredients and optimum aging time. A number of other rum producers are also aiming for and achieving elegance, and bringing new respect to the category.
Also in this issue, we look at favorite by-the-glass wines and top pairing wines, as well as tips for selling beer in the craft beer age and developing signature cocktails. A memorable specialty drink, the article points out, involves creativity, some showmanship and in many cases, a unique serving vessel.
It’s true: That’s why I loved ordering those Volcanos.