Episode 023 - The Rum Episode
It’s an intriguing, tropical spirit with a dark and sordid history, and I had the happy privilege of digging into all the weird and wonderful details with my friends Ben Lyon and Jaime Windon of the Lyon Distilling Company, makers of all things yummy and rummy.
They’ve been good friends, role models, and supporters of mine for a few years now, and their rum is one of the great pleasures in my life, and so, I think we should take this as an invitation to make ourselves a drink before we dive in.
In this interview with Jaime and Ben, we discuss:
- The differences between all those rum varieties you never knew existed
- How distillers make rum that tastes grassy, funky, and every flavor in between
- The surprising history of rum in the United States and abroad
- Classic Rum cocktails and spinoffs you should try at home
- Why Bananas belong in dunder pits
- And much, much more.
Ben (@whiskeypatrol) and Jaime (@blondeboozehound) are the people who first sparked my interest in rum as a premium sipping spirit and cocktail component, and I couldn’t be more excited to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with you, so without further ado, please enjoy this curious, slightly silly, and potentially over-proof conversation with Jaime Windon and Ben Lyon.
Featured Cocktail: The Tiki Tricycle
Today’s featured cocktail is a Modern Bar Cart signature cocktail called the Tiki Tricycle. And this is something I developed when trying to take the complex, nuanced flavors of tiki drinks and eliminate some of the tricky steps and ingredients. So, whereas most tiki drinks have a laundry list of ingredients, including multiple rums, juices, and syrups, this recipe only has four. So you can think of it like a Tiki cocktail with training wheels.
To make a Tiki Tricycle, all you need is:
- 2 oz of Dark Rum
- ½ oz of Hot by SLY (our Cinnamon-Chili Syurp),
- ½ oz Lime Juice
- a healthy dose of Embitterment Aromatic Bitters
The Cinnamon Chili Syrup and the Aromatic Bitters lend a lot of complexity to the drink, while the lime juice melds with the syrup to give it that velvety, tangy texture that is the signature of so many wonderful tiki drinks.
So you shake that all up in a cocktail shaker with ice, and then you enjoy it however you prefer--on the rocks, straight up, or even in a highball glass with ice.
We covered a lot of really interesting factoids about rum during this interview, so we'll leave a few of the highlights here for you to revisit if ever you need to.
Definition of Rum
Rum is any spirit distilled using a bi-product of the sugar cane plant, which can be raw cane juice, sugar, or molasses. You can use any type of still, and you can even add outside flavoring if you'd like. The other rule is that it has to be 40% ABV or greater, so it HAS to pack a punch.
There are two basic takes on rum: the British version and the French Version. British colonies in the West Indies (like Jamaica) used primarily sugar and molasses, and they are notorious for having a signature "funky" taste.
French rum is known as "Rhum Agricole," and is distilled using sugar cane juice. This style is famous for its savory smell, but luscious, grassy flavor.
Dun...Dun...Dunnnnnnnder. What the heck is this stuff? Well, if you've ever encounterd the solera method of aging, where old spirits are blended with younger spirits, the incorporation of dunder into a rum is kind of similar, but it happens at the mash level, before the spirit is distilled.
Dunder is basically a master sauce comprised of small portions of old mash boils that all get mixed together in a "dunder pit." Then, when the distiller is ready to make the next batch, a small portion of that dunder is added to the new mash to help impart flavor characteristics.
According to Ben, the reason why this dunder doesn't go rancid is because of how acidic molasses tends to be before distillation.
- 2 oz Rum
- 1 oz Lime Juice
- 1/2 oz Simple Syrup
Shake all these ingredients over ice, and then strain into a coupe glass and enjoy.
- 1 oz Rum
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
Stir these ingredients over ice, then strain into a coupe glass and garnish with an orange twist.
The Stopping by Woods
- 2 oz Dark Rum
- 1 sugar cube
- Embitterment Aromatic Bitters
- Fresh Rosemary Sprig
Muddle the sugar, bitters, and rosemary in the bottom of a mixing glass with a splash of water. Then add ice and rum, stir until chilled, and strain
Jaime: The Negroni.
Ben: Maryland Rye Whiskey
Cocktail with Anyone, Past or Present
Jaime: Myself in the future.
Ben: Arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton
And a Bottle of Rum - by Wayne Curtis
Advice to New Home Bartenders
Don't let the idea of a cocktail recipe get in the way of a drink being a culinary experience. Don't think within the confines of what's normally in a glass. Think about flavors that you like, and then use those to inspire your cocktail experiments.
Also, not all rum drinks should be sweet.
Rum and ginger beer is a great starting point for anyone who wants to start getting into cocktails but might be intimidated by complicated cocktail recipes.