Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Infusion #4: Why I'll Never Buy Spiced Rum Again*

*Unless I want to specifically try a new brand.

Spiced rum holds a pretty ambivalent position in the minds of most people who are truly interested in spirits and cocktails. While it is a mainstay in most "nightlife" venues and bars, it is a relatively new kind of spirit which has few salient uses aside from mixing it in your favorite soft drink.

Worst of all, many spiced rum products aren't very good, anyway. Quite a few of them ride the same wave as trendy vodka which is driven more by marketing than quality, and it shows. A fine blogger by the name of Dr. Bamboo has done a detailed rundown of many spiced rums here, here, and here... I admit that he's a bit more generous with his scores than I would be.

Captain Morgan is the "Bacardi" of spiced rums, and it dominates the market. Sailor Jerry is a better product which has been gaining steam over the past few years. Foursquare is a premium spiced rum from Barbados which many rum fans love, but for some reason I can't bring myself to agree. If I were pressed to tell you any spiced rum brands worth buying, they would be Cruzan's new 9 (which the Drinkhacker quite likes) and Captain Morgan 100, which is a 100 proof version of the original... but it actually has a different and improved flavor.

Much like I said in my post about falernum, it turns out that spiced rum one can make at home is much better than anything you can buy. For this reason, I will no longer regularly buy spiced rum.

The recipe I use for spiced rum is very simple, and mostly inexpensive. The recipe comes from, of all places, the Wall Street Journal, detailed in an article here.

Spiced rum is an infusion, as simple as any other that I've made on this site. My last infusion was a compound infusion done in multiple stages. This recipe is also a compound infusion, but it's done in one stage.

The overwhelming flavor in most spiced rums is vanilla, and we achieve that by using a whole vanilla bean, the rarest and most expensive ingredient in this recipe. However, vanilla beans are now becoming easier to acquire via supermarkets; check your store's spice aisle... you'll probably be able to find a small jar with a few vanilla beans for less than $10.

There are various other spices in the recipe, and even some fruit. What is most important in this recipe is that you use whole and fresh ingredients, not their ground counterparts. The reason for this is so that you not only ensure that you have the freshest and highest quality ingredients possible, but also so that you can remove ingredients at will, should a single flavor become overpowering as you periodically taste the infusion.

Infusing doesn't make crappy rum taste better, so pick a good rum. A gold rum is standard, and usually one without too much overpowering character. For example, Cruzan Estate Dark is a fine choice, while Appleton Estate V/X may not be. Today I'm using my favorite gold rum, Cockspur Five Star. Cockspur is on the fruitier side of gold rums, and so I will be tweaking the original recipe slightly to take advantage of that.

Pictured here are the ingredients for my spiced rum. I've changed the slice of ginger with a peel of lemon, and I've throttled down the number of black peppercorns. Also, I've been known to put a peel of grapefruit in my spiced rum infusions... it goes great with the allspice. Before starting the infusion, I sliced open the vanilla bean, and I sawed off a chunk of the nutmeg with a bread knife.

Here's why you should use as whole ingredients as possible: 1 day into my infusion, I realized that my rum was going to be overpowered by allspice. I strained out the mixture (pictured below... pictured above is the plastic container I used for the infusion) and removed 2 of the 3 allspice berries before putting everything else back in the rum. When it was done, I learned that I had saved the infusion.

Homemade Spiced Rum
(adapted for the rum used & the DJ's tastes... click the image to the right to get the original recipe)

1 bottle bottle gold rum (Cockspur Five Star)
1 vanilla bean, sliced length-wise
1 three inch piece orange peel
1 three inch piece lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole allspice berries
3 whole cloves
3 whole black peppercorns
1 quarter inch piece nutmeg

Combine all in container and seal. Let sit for 2-3 days. When desired flavor is reached, strain and re-bottle.

In order to whet your appetite on what a spiced rum drink can be, let us examine the recipe in the picture to the right. It is called the Henry & John, after (Captain) Henry Morgan and John Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola. Call it a fancy "Cap'n & Coke", but it tastes nothing like it. This drink is created by Martin Cate, a modern day champion and authority on tiki drinks and bartending. Cate just opened up a new bar called Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco, a joint specifically designed to celebrate rum. And I must say, Henry & John is a drink on the order of some of the best rum drinks I've ever had.

Henry & John

2 oz (homemade) spiced rum
3/4 oz lime juice
1 oz brown sugar syrup*
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes aromatic bitters
2 oz seltzer water

Wrap a long piece of orange peel inside a tall glass, then fill the glass with ice. Shake all ingredients except the seltzer in a shaker with ice. Open the shaker, add the seltzer, then strain onto the ice in your glass with the orange peel.

*Recipe is in the image above.

Final note: be classy and save your prettiest booze bottles to house your finished infusion masterpieces.

1 comment:

  1. You're becoming the infusion master. I came across a spiced rum recipe not all that long ago but never gave it a go. May need to re-think that.

    I too would put my goodies in a Zacapa 23 bottle.