Cheers

It’s Not Just for Mai-Tais

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - CON­TENTS - BY GINA BIR CH

With cooler tem­per­a­tures this time of year come warmer drinks, and rum is at the top of the list for many. In fact, Brian O’Neal, key ac­count man­ager for the bev­er­age com­pany Rémy Coin­treau, says, “Rum is the num­ber-two-sell­ing spirit be­hind vodka.”

If you think rum is just for high-fruc­tose cock­tails, booze cruises and beach par­ties, think again. It’s a spirit that has many faces, and while it has a near-per­ma­nent place with the party peo­ple, it also has a seat at the ta­ble filled with peo­ple of dis­cern­ing palates and re­fined taste.

“Be­cause of the crafts­man­ship go­ing into it and how some are made, con­nois­seurs love high-end rums to sip on,” O’Neal says.

That is in­deed the case at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille (Sani­bel, Cap­tiva and Fort My­ers Beach), where there are nearly 20 pre­mium se­lec­tions on the list. Kim McGon­nell, gen­eral man­ager of the Sani­bel lo­ca­tion, ex­plains, “Some­one comes in here who is used to a brandy or co­gnac to fin­ish a meal, and in­stead, they are try­ing a snifter of nice rum. It’s fan­tas­tic.”

A QUICK AND DIRTY RUM GUIDE:

• Rum is dis­tilled from su­gar cane or mo­lasses • The Caribbean is well known for rum pro­duc­tion • White rum is typ­i­cally best when used with mix­ers • Bar­rel ag­ing gives rum warm ma­ture flavors of vanilla,

smoke and wood

Mount Gay is the first doc­u­mented rum dis­tillery (1703), but O’Neal says ev­i­dence of rum mak­ing has been found dat­ing back to the 1600s. Made in Bar­ba­dos, from mo­lasses, Mount Gay is set apart from oth­ers in the world of rum be­cause of the wa­ter used in its pro­duc­tion. Coral lime­stone be­neath the Caribbean is­land acts as a natural fil­ter, pro­duc­ing pure, de­li­cious spring wa­ter for dis­till­ing.

In ad­di­tion, Tom Bocchino, with Repub­lic Na­tional Dis­tribut­ing Com­pany, says, “The cli­mate [in Bar­ba­dos] al­lows the rum to ma­ture faster, so it tastes like you’re drink­ing a rum with more age.” He is a fan of Mount Gay XO, which has a beau­ti­ful am­ber color and com­plex lay­ers of flavors that in­clude banana and tof­fee. Warm and com­fort­ing, this one is aged 8-15 years, but Bocchino says, “you can al­most dou­ble that when you con­sider the cli­mate.”

Mount Gay’s 1703 is full-bod­ied and tastes like win­ter, with flavors of maple syrup, cin­na­mon, pep­per, smoke, vanilla and ba­con. You could drink this in a snift er while eat­ing a steak.

Although some of the best rums are pro­duced in the Caribbean, there is no deny­ing the ex­per­tise with which Dos Maderas PX 5 + 5 is made. From Spain, it be­gins as two dif­fer­ent rums, aged sep­a­rately, then com­bined and aged again in a sherry cask, Bocchino ex­plains. It’s clean, with a lit­tle licorice, and it’s a fa­vorite of McGon­nell.

Th­ese rums are quite spe­cial and at their best when served neat or on the rocks.

Store shelves are lined with pre­mium rum se­lec­tions, and it can be con­fus­ing when choos­ing one bet­ter suited for sip­ping than mix­ing—or one that can sat­isfy both. A great way to learn is through a tast­ing flight, where sev­eral small pours of dif­fer­ent brands are lined up for sam­pling.

This is where you can taste the dif­fer­ence be­tween mo­lasses and su­gar cane, the amount of time spent in the bar­rel and other at­tributes. Many rum bars and restau­rants that spe­cial­ize in high-end and/ or small-batch spir­its of­fer flights, Doc Ford’s in­cluded.

Since rum mak­ing flour­ishes in tr opi­cal cli­mates, it makes sense that Florida has a few pro­duc­ers. Papa’s Pi­lar is a pop­u­lar brand, made in Key West and in­spired by Ernest Hem­ing­way. It comes in blonde and dark va­ri­eties, and is suit­able for sip­ping or mix­ing.

Wicked Dol­phin is South­west Florida’s first rum dis­tillery. Over the years the award-win­ning oper­a­tion in Cape Coral has added fla­vored va­ri­eties and bar­rel ag­ing to its port­fo­lio, as well as tours and tast­ings.

The natural su­gar in rum lends it­self well to mix­ers. On the flip side, this at­tribute makes it so easy to go over the top. The un­pleas­ant “morn­ing af­ter” has tar­nished rum’s rep­u­ta­tion over the years, mak­ing it the spirit you want to take home but not marry.

How­ever, there are many wor­thy of com­mit­ment.

A ma­ture, bar­rel-aged rum has just enough sweet­ness and depth of fla­vor to be sa­vored and cod­dled—much like a bour­bon or brandy—af­ter a long day, a ful­fill­ing meal or while solv­ing the prob­lems of the world with your best friend. Try it next time. Cheers.

SAILOR JERRY GIN­GER AP­PLE WIN­TER MIX

1½ parts Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum 2 parts sour mix 1 part ap­ple juice 1 part gin­ger syrup Pinch of ground cin­na­mon Add in­gre­di­ents into mix­ing glass. Add ice, shake and strain over ice into a rocks glass. Gar­nish with an ap­ple slice and a sprin­kle of ground cin­na­mon

Gina Birch is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor, a lover of good food and drink, and a well-known me­dia per­son­al­ity in South­west Florida.

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Rum flights are a good way to learn about this spirit. Left, rum afi­ciona­dos Tom Bocchino, Kim McGon­nell and Brian O’Neal at Doc Ford’s. Above, Mount Gay 1703 can be used in cock­tails or as a sip­ping rum, where its flavors shine.

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