Rum's road to the dark side

Sailor Jerry’s three-line whip when it comes to cocktails is not shared by all producers. For Martin Cate, many rum producers think more with consumers in mind than bartenders.

He says: “Most brands tend to push their products for consumers and they want to express to their buyers that their product has easy and versatile applications. So they tend to promote straightforward recipes. Nothing wrong with that – it’s unlikely most consumers will take a month in advance to custom-make and infuse an ingredient, so they want drinks that are easy and fast to make.”

At Smuggler’s Cove, good drinks take time and the minutes and hours pass not only behind the bar but also in the prep. Cate prides himself on attention to detail – vintage detail. The 80-strong drinks list makes use of 29 rums, selected for their historic accuracy, regionality, age or body differences to suit each cocktail.

“Our most popular drinks are the ones from either the tiki section of the menu or the modern section. One of the things that has made Smuggler’s Cove so well recognised has been the effort in faithfully reproducing vintage exotic cocktails using a fresh juice, in-house syrups and carefully selected blends of rums that most closely replicate the ones used historically. 

“This creates balanced drinks that are complex, engaging and just really enjoyable. The rums are never hidden in the mix. Most of our guests not only really enjoy these drinks, but find them the most appropriate for enjoying in our space – they most fit the décor and atmosphere.

“We see bends towards seasonal specials but otherwise most favourites have been pretty consistent.”

Seasonal influences are also apparent in London’s Skylon and, with the weather there turning to winter, Kutlesic has introduced a flaming rum Blazer. “We do interesting warmers and Blazers and in winter we go heavier on the flavour to warm people up. It is very seasonal. We have made a Blazer with Fair rum, Fair coffee liqueur and Luxardo Maraschino, blazed with cinnamon stick, cloves and orange peel, with orange zest through the flames.”

Fair rum launched in September to the UK and US and it is aged in oak for five years. It hails from Belize. 

In Greece, at Baba Au Rum – another of this year’s 50 Best Bars – top man Thanos Prunarus says a straight-up drink with tiki influence takes top billing at his bar. The Ray Barientos is made with Zacapa 23, homemade cinnamon syrup, cherry brandy, fresh lime juice, fresh orange juice and grapefruit bitters. “New flavour trends, at least here in the Mediterrenean/Athens are about the combination of aged rums with rich red wines, chocolate and olives.”

Despite the popularity of Prunarus’s fruity little number, he swears by one classic in particular. “When it comes to the future, experimentation will show us the way but, after tasting fine rum cocktails at bars all over the world, I believe a pure classic Daiquiri is the best rum cocktail I’ve ever tasted.”

Whether you’re erring towards the dark side or you simply want to try rum in your whisk(e)y drink – rum consumers’ hearts, minds and mouths are open to anything.