Time to elevate your bartending skills – look to rum to help you make the most classic cocktails
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Kasturi Banerjee, Founder and Director of Stilldistilling Spirits, details everything you need to know about rum, and shares the recipe for a firecracker of a mixed rum punch
Daiquiris, Mojitos, Mai Tai, Pina Colada, and the good old Cuba Libre. Pick a cocktail, and rum is or has been used in it. Class-agnostic, delicious and versatile, this spirit originated in the West Indies in the 1600s. It came about as a creation of fermented molasses and raw cane juice. Fermenting molasses was nothing new; India and China had been doing it for decades at that point, but converting it into a buzzy, boozy creation from its original recreational use was when everything changed for the better. Rumbullion, or Rumbustion, quickly shortened to just ‘rum’, became a hit due to its complementary nature and ease of production. Abundant water, sugarcane and warm weather made producing rum in India a breeze, and, to this day, that stays the same.
Rum’s two most common forms are white or clear and dark. While dark rum has been a staple in countries such as India and the Caribbean Islands, the real cocktail hero is white rum. Ingredients for both can remain roughly identical, but the way it’s matured can decide the shade. White rum is filtered multiple times and stored in stainless steel casks, keeping its clear and sharp character. Dark rum, on the other hand, is aged in charred oak barrels, often taking longer to mature due to the barrels’ porous nature. Clearer, sharper flavours come through white rum, while dark rum takes on the smokey, woody flavour, aroma and overtones.
White rum provides a smooth, sweet base to the spicy aftertaste we all love. This duality makes white rum the perfect cocktail base. Rum’s strong alcohol content, endless versatility, and the ability to enjoy a peg on its own make it a robust and bold contender for the new Indian landscape.
A Drink For Every Season
The simplicity of a daiquiri tells you all you need to know. With rum, a squeeze of lime, and the bartender’s choice of some brown sugar or another sweetener, this drink is the peak of summer refreshment. But it’s not always sunny and beachy in the world of rum. Throw in a handful of spices, some warm water and honey, and you have a hug in a mug – a hot rum toddy. Seasons change, but rum keeps its composure and blends into what you need it to be. Rum’s duality also allows it to play host to a variety of mixers, be it sweet sodas (we see you, rum and coke lovers!) or a smoky mix filled with spices and herbs such as rosemary and chillies.
India comes through with its native spices to bring a new facet to rum. Ever heard of a watermelon mojito? Well, now you have. The standard white rum, fresh lime, mint, sugar, fresh watermelon chunks and carbonated water. If that’s a little too experimental, start your craft cocktail journey with this recipe for a firecracker of a mixed rum punch:
Mixed Rum Punch
600 ml fresh pineapple juice
300 ml fresh orange juice
300 ml white rum
300 ml gold rum
120 ml lime juice
120 ml black tea syrup (make 100 ml of black tea, add 100 g sugar and dissolve)
- Fill the punch bowl with ice.
- Add the pineapple juice and orange juice.
- Add the white rum and gold rum. Stir well.
- Add the lime juice and black tea syrup. Stir well.
Innovations such as carbonation and clarification in cocktails and constant re-creation like this naturally expand the market for the drink, bringing new fans and old flames to it. A growing appreciation for neat rum has also brought about infused rums, with clear and dark rums gently distilled with flavours such as coffee, coconut, ginger and berries. Initiatives like these bring rum to the forefront, and, with a growing breed of craft alcohol appreciators in the fun and fresh Indian atmosphere, rum is ready to make a big splash.
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