Rum. There are many luscious spirits that lend themselves to cool summer cocktails, but the most under-rated in the catalog has to be those made with rum. Vodka and Gin reign supreme, for sure. We've seen the incredible market that exists for vodka, with flavors that range from orange, raspberry, grapefruit and blueberry to red pepper, and the latest rage, whipped cream. Gin has only recently begun to experiment with flavor infusions, with lime as the first, and certainly not the last. But, rum stands out in the crowd for it's versatility.
The most common is white, with gold (or aged) following next in complexity, and then there is dark or black rum. Primarily distilled from sugar cane juice, either from the molasses created as part of making sugar (Rum Industrial) or directly from the sugar cane juice (Rhum Agricole and Cachaca), it is only made in countries that grow sugar cane.
One of the newest dark rums on the market begins in the Caribbean and is finished in the states. Named after the mythical beast that lives beneath the sea, The Kraken is without a doubt the most well-thought-out brand to be released in years. With it's full mythological history to back it up, Kraken's motto is "Put a Beast in your Belly". When it comes down to it, Kraken Rum is of good enough quality that it stands up to its hype. I bought a bottle while on vacation after reading up on it, and we kracked one open for happy hour. As someone who tastes for a living, I immediately began to think of fun and appropriate mixers that might make good cocktails.
We began with tonic. One of the most refreshing cocktails I enjoy in summer is Mount Gay rum and tonic, with loads of fresh lime. In fact, if you have access to fresh key limes, the difference in flavor is significant. On the East coast, Trader Joe's usually sells a small bag for about two dollars. If you don't have key limes, just double up on what you would normally put in your drink.
The second mixer we chose was another traditional mixer, this one from Bermuda, ginger beer. While Goslings Black Rum owns the copyright to the legendary cocktail Dark and Stormy, dark rum, ginger beer and lime is another delicious concoction which was said to be invented by the locals as they would watch a hurricane roll in and watch the tourists roll out. A veteran of several hurricane parties myself, I love this in a big frosty mug, again with multiple wedges of juicy lime and loads of ice. There never seems to be a shortage for specialty sodas which claim to be the best in show. Rootbeer has long been a summer favorite for refreshment of all ages. And, there are dozens of regional rootbeers, often made from various spices and ingredients, mainly the licorice root that gives rootbeer its distinct flavor.
Lastly, cream soda is a Mid-Atlantic favorite, with the appropriate amount of vanilla, cinnamon and spice that makes it the perfect pairing for light-hearted, spiced rum adult beverages. Rum and cream soda? Huuhyeah?! It's like a liquid spiced wafer. Easy, though. The sugars compete in these cocktails, and they go down easy! Keep plenty of salty snacks on hand, and if you decide to experiment with cooking, think of using rum as a "sugar" element. When needed to glaze it is perfect. As a marinade, use fresh herbs of the summer variety.
The Kraken Rum is available in just a handful of shops in Delaware right now, at about $20 a bottle. I've only seen it in one or two restaurants, but mark my words: once the beast is unleashed, expect the spoils to be sweet. If you've had Kraken and recommend any recipes you'd like to share, share with Fork 'n Cork readers!