A trial rum?

Set to over­take gin as our spirit of choice, there’s noth­ing like a rum cock­tail – or even a straight rum – to put a smile on your face, says Jonathan Ray. Why not give it a try?

The Field - - Country Estate -

So, there I was with Finn, Lily and Jonno, three gor­geous god­chil­dren, each one of whom was car­ry­ing a ter­rific thirst, as in­deed was I. By great good luck we met for a night on the town on what turned out to be Na­tional Rum Day (16 Au­gust, since you ask; for good­ness sake bung it in the di­ary for next year) and so where bet­ter to head than the Di­plomático Palm Ter­race at the Blooms­bury Club Bar in Lon­don?

The DPT is a glo­ri­ous spot and is without doubt my – nay, our – new favourite wa­ter­ing hole. The bar is in the lower ground floor of the achingly swish Blooms­bury Ho­tel and it’s as if we’d been whisked straight into a Gra­ham Greene or Som­er­set Maugham movie. Fairy lights, bare brick walls, can- dles on ta­bles, whirring fans, pot­ted palms, shut­tered win­dows, it had it all. I swear I saw Syd­ney Green­street and Peter Lorre shuf­fle be­hind a pil­lar as we en­tered. I could hear ci­cadas out­side and felt the sticky heat of the Caribbean. I should have been wear­ing a white linen suit, Panama hat and car­ry­ing a cane. The Di­plomático Palm Ter­race is noth­ing if not at­mo­spheric.

It’s more than a lit­tle wel­com­ing, too, for as we sat in a snug booth pe­rus­ing the cock­tail list a mod­est com­pli­men­tary iced daiquiri was placed in front of each of us, just to get us in the mood. Which it did in spades, so tasty was it. In­deed, by the time we’d moved on to the Ron y Cola, the Mango Bo­tu­cal, Ro­raima’s Peak (my favourite, made from Di­plomático Man­tu­ano Rum, orgeat,

pineap­ple, pressed lime, cane sugar and cam­pari in­fused with camomile and pas­sion fruit) and the Re­ver­sal of For­tune, we were all well away and there was no chance of stop­ping our ca­reer­ing horse and car­riage. We were happy as larks, though, beam­ing from ear to ear.

But then rum does that to you. I can think of no spirit other than cachaça from Brazil (which is a rum, too, re­ally) that lifts you up and cheers you so suc­cess­fully. Vodka, I find, drags you down to gloomy, Dos­to­evsky-like depths; whisky makes you in­tro­spec­tive and se­ri­ous; cognac is a fine post-pran­dial but not much use ear­lier in pro­ceed­ings. Rum brings a smile to your face, a glint to your eye and a spring to your step. No won­der the Caribbeans and South Amer­i­cans are such a jolly lot.

Tech­ni­cally, rum is any spirit made from sugar cane and its de­riv­a­tives us­ing ei­ther a pot still or a col­umn still; it’s pro­duced all along the equa­tor and wher­ever sugarcane is grown. The rum made in and around the Caribbean, how­ever, is the best and most prized. Rum made in ‘French’ ter­ri­to­ries – known as rhum agri­cole – is dis­tilled from fer­mented sugarcane juice; rum made in ‘Bri­tish’ ter­ri­to­ries (what we call rum and the French some­times call rhum in­dus­triel) is dis­tilled from mo­lasses, a by-prod­uct of sugar pro­duc­tion. Rum of ei­ther type can be ut­terly, over­whelm­ingly, se­duc­tively de­li­cious and, hav­ing vis­ited the Caribbean sev­eral times, I’m com­pletely in its thrall.

And so, it seems, is ev­ery­one else. I’m told that world­wide sales will hit £1bn next year and by 2020 it’s pre­dicted that rum will be out­selling gin.

Long­stand­ing favourites of mine in­clude the mighty Mount Gay from Bar­ba­dos (the old­est rum dis­tillery in the world, founded in 1703). Mount Gay Eclipse is its cel­e­brated en­try-level rum, beloved of mixol­o­gists and rum-lovers ev­ery­where, while at the other end of the scale is the mag­nif­i­cent Mount Gay Xo.

There’s River An­toine (pro­nounced: an­ntwine) from Gre­nada, which still uses its orig­i­nal 250-year-old equip­ment to pro­duce rums so com­bustible that at 75%vol they’re not per­mit­ted to be car­ried on aero­planes, no, not even those of the lo­cal air­line, LIAT, the Lee­ward Is­lands Air Trans­port (aka Leave Is­land Any Time).

There are Chair­man’s Re­serve and the fab­u­lous Ad­mi­ral Rod­ney, both herald­ing from St Lu­cia; Santa Teresa from Venezuela and, of course, the in­dis­pens­able Ha­vana Club from Cuba.

The cur­rent trend is to treat the finest rums as you would first-rate co­gnacs, ar­mag­nacs and sin­gle malt whiskies, and to sip them neat. And if you haven’t yet in­dulged in a large post-din­ner glass of, say, Ap­ple­ton Es­tate 21 Year old rum from Ja­maica, then you have one heck of a treat in store.

You might want to rus­tle up a daiquiri first, how­ever. In which case, sim­ply shake 60ml light rum (ide­ally Ha­vana Club Añejo Espe­cial), 30ml fresh lime juice and 20ml sugar syrup over ice and then strain into a frozen mar­tini glass. Add some mint leaves and top the glass up with soda wa­ter and you have a mo­jito. Ei­ther way, all will be well with your world.

It pro­duces rums so com­bustible that they are not per­mit­ted to be car­ried on aero­planes

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