Recently in Spirits Category

Sleeping peacefully this morning, I was awakened by the sound of a Fed Ex van navigating the washed out riverbed that pretends to be my driveway. Barely concious, I managed to sign for a large package, with an Ominous and Foreboding sticker on the front:


Opening the package carefully, so as to not break anything, I discovered 3 bottles of Papagayo Spiced Organic Rum, resting safely in their individual cardboard nests. Pulling one out, I admired the sleekness of the bottle and the well done packaging for some time.

 My reverie was broken by an urgent message from my body, "YOU SIR, MUST HAVE TEA". So with a shout of "Chai Wallah, My Tea!" I sat down and rolled myself a hand crafted cigarette of the finest calibre and began the complicated process of waiting for my tea. Perusing my standard morning entertainment and sipping the almost (but not quite) perfectly brewed cup of Frontier Fair Trade Earl Grey which had been delivered quickly and professionally, I thought about the rum I would be sipping later this evening.

Rum is nothing more than fermented and distilled sugar cane, right? How can one rum be better than another? I now had a daunting task, one that would haunt me for hours: find out what makes different rums different

The first thing that makes rums different, as can be expected, is materials. Some rums start with already processed, sugar cane products such as molasses and sugar cane juice. Some rums start with the whole cane, and crush it to syrup right into the fermentation vessels. Papagayo is of the latter type (and as a bonus, uses organic sugar cane), and I think it shows in the full but not overpowering sweetness of the sip.

The main difference in the distillation process seems to be traditional, or "pot" stills, versus column stills (which, while allowing for higher output, don't retain some of the nicer flavours from the fermented syrup) . With batch processed rum, such as Papagayo, using the traditional stills imparts a fuller flavour to the rum. 

Finally, ageing is also an issue, and there are no hard and fast rules here, everyone ages in different types of casks, for different times. In fact, different types of rum are aged in different types of casks, oak casks for dark rum, steel (or other man made materials) for the lighter rums.

Having consumed several glasses, I can tell you it is quite consistent. A low scent of combined spice in the nose, very unobtrusively alcoholic, followed by the clove mellowed bite of the alcohol as I take my sip. the fire of the clove bite fades quickly to vanilla.

As my day winds down, I can see that an night smoke and another glass or two is in order.  This is an excellent rum, the spicing and sweetness are just right. At $25-35 a bottle, this isn't a rum for ruining with water. Sip it neat, and say Arrrr Matey!

Until next time,


Hand-crafted hot buttered rum

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Hot buttered rum has long been a favorite wintertime libation.  Recently I've noticed that many of my otherwise-worldly peers and acquaintances are not aware of this worthy warm-up, and it would be tragic if such knowledge were to pass into antiquity.  As I prepared to write this article, I was somewhat concerned that the time for it had passed as hot buttered rum is traditionally considered to be something of a holiday beverage.  On the other hand, the local weather report calls for snow on Monday (is there a better day for foul weather?) so I am somewhat more assured that now is as good a time as any other.

For the neophytes, hot buttered rum is a sweet and spiced beverage which as the name implies contains butter and rum, and is served hot.  A brief word of warning: alcoholic beverages served warm are much more potent much more quickly than their chilled brethren, so do start gradually if you have not previously enjoyed such a beverage.  Incidentally, this is one of the reasons sake is traditionally served hot (the other being that sake is only palatable when hot), but I digress.

The typical preparation of hot buttered rum consists of three components: rum, hot water, and "rum batter" which contains all that makes this drink so special.  While rum batter can typically be found at your local package store in small plastic tubs, my personal and somewhat extensive experience has been that quality varies from excellent, to highly-overprocessed (no, it is not called "hot-margarined rum"), to get-a-jackhammer, and all points in between. Therefore, I will offer a recipe for the basic ingredients, and encourage all and sundry to rumbatter.jpgexperiment with variations, substitutions, etc.  Show this recipe to your father or grandfather and he will doubtless exclaim that I have left this or that out etc., as recipes for rum batter are as varied, traditional, and heartfelt as those for pie crusts, except that men of all walks of life tend to be more profane in their expressions of opinion on such matters - so be prepared.  Keep in mind that what is offered here is merely the foundation upon which you are expected to build. 

In keeping with the premise of this site, it's worth pointing out that making a batch of rum batter takes approximately one minute by any gentleman worthy of the name, and a batch is sufficient for many an enjoyable evening by the fireplace.  Hot buttered rum is an excellent companion to a nice pipe or cigar tobacco, particularly those varietals which have hints of chocolate or berries.  It is, in all ways, a fine and very warming nightcap to counter the dark and cold of midwinter.

The Recipe:
1 lb dark brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoon ground cinammon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butter
1/4 C heavy cream (or half and half, or milk if need be)

Combine dry ingredients first, then add wet ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.  Seal any unused batter thoroughly and store in the refrigerator.  Serves 10-20.

Pour desired amount of un-spiced rum into a large coffee mug.  Add 2-3 heaping teaspoons of rum batter and mix well (will be slightly lumpy).  Add boiling water until desired concentration is achieved, and stir until all ingredients are dissolved.  Find a warm fire and enjoy.

Effen Black Cherry Vodka

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effen_black_cherry.jpgI'm not usually a big drinker of vodka, especially infused or flavored varieties, but the other night my curiosity got the better of me and I asked my favorite bartender to pour me a sample of Effen Black Cherry Vodka.  In appearance, it looked exactly like one would imagine: colorless, transparent, and very much like water.  The aroma, however, was shockingly filled with cherry.  At first I wanted to say that it smelled like Cherry Coke, but almost immediately it brought to mind the wonderful feeling of biting into a fresh cherry, right off the tree.  I was eager to taste it.

It's hot, of course, being 80 proof, and it tastes strongly of real cherries.  There's a sour flavor, perhaps some sort of acidity from the alcohol, but it can't mask the cherry completely, and the sweet, fruit flavors linger pleasantly in the aftertaste.  I tried it alongside another well-known brand's cherry vodka, and Effen easily won.  The other was saccharine, sugary, and fake.  Effen tastes like the real thing, and so for your next cherry-flavored drink, I'd advise giving it a try.
I recently learned about the Bloody Caesar, a cocktail related to the Bloody Mary which replaces the tomato juice with Clamato, a disturbing mix of clam broth and tomato juice.  It sounds odd, but odder still is that the Bloody Caesar is one of Canada's most popular drinks! I swear I'm not making this up.  Check out those links, particularly the one for the Clamato home page, which has a few very entertaining and upbeat songs about their clammy broth.

Well, instead of giving the clam-hand to our odd northern neighbors, I decided it would probably be more interesting to investigate their curious beverage.  I used Monopolowa, real name-brand Clamato, and this recipe:

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 4 oz Clamato
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes of Tabasco sauce
  • celery salt
  • lemon wedge
  • pepper to taste
  • celery salt
I was surprised to find that this drink was remarkably refreshing.  It tasted a little lighter than a Bloody Mary and it seems to me that the Canadians are really on to something here!  I never wanted to admit to drinking Clamato.  In fact, I was trying to avoid it forever, but I am now willing to say that I was in error.  With enough vodka, Clamato is indeed drinkable and enjoyable.  I'd recommend that anybody looking for a Bloody Mary give the Bloody Caesar a try next time.

Sipping in Style

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Without a doubt, the spirit of leisure is somewhere in the realm of, well, spirits.  The word itself invokes images of crystal decanters, pewter goblets, fine stemware, mysterious amber fluids, and seltzer bottles gleaming in firelight.  Leisurely enjoyment of spirits can be enhanced by finding the right glassware, but this can prove to be quite expensive and difficult.

Unless stumbled across in second-hand shops, cut crystal is typically a rather obnoxious expense for the new leisure class, so we are forced to turn to the realm of of lesser glassware, which can still appear quite classy and can be much sturdier.  Matching sets of fine tumblers can enhance the aesthetic appeal of even the most rotten moonshine, and so today we will explore a few alternatives for the tippler on a budget looking to make his bathtub bourbon appear a bit more palatable.

Our first example of good affordable glassware is this finely-shaped lead crystal old fashioned glass. Tumblers like this are perfect containers for a gin and tonic, a scotch and soda, or any other classy afternoon beverage that one might wish to offer a friend. The cut crystal appearance belies its extraordinarily reasonable price, making this a strong contender for a leisurely tumble in a tumbler.

Next we have a decidedly more modern old fashioned glass (a phrase which sounds quite self-contradictory), with smooth sides and a hefty appearance which speaks to the confidence and assertiveness of the drinker. Drinks that might be more appropriate for this glass might be a fine whiskey on the rocks, a single-malt scotch neat, or a measure of rum with a lime twist.

Finally, for the surrealist in all of us, we have this rather lumpy and misshapen old fashioned glass. As far as tumblers go, this certainly has a unique appearance and is likely to draw comments from guests, which one would be encouraged to answer in the most cryptic manner possible, all the while twirling one's absurdly-long handlebar moustache and standing on one leg beneath a cheap Dali print tacked to the wall.

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