Episode 109 - Saint Benevolence Rum
What’s shakin, cocktail fans?
Welcome to Episode 109 of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast!
Let us ask you a question:
When you’re making a cocktail at home or enjoying one at your favorite bar, do you ever wonder if the money your spending on that drink ever goes toward a good cause? Is it possible to make the world a better place with every sip you take?
Honestly, the idea of charitable drinking was a completely foreign concept until we were introduced to this episode’s guest, Chase Babcock, who created Saint Benevolence Rum to work hand-in-hand with his father’s established network of charitable schools and medical clinics on the island nation of Haiti.
In this inspiring conversation with Chase, some of the topics we explore include:
How Chase’s childhood visits to Haiti - the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere - inspired him to create a rum brand that could enhance and catalyze the great charitable work his father began doing in Haiti back in the early 2000s.
What it takes to source and import rum that tells a story and inspires bartenders to make great cocktails.’’
The legacy that Clairin has in Haiti as essentially a family moonshining tradition, and why this open fermented rustic agricole product is making a huge splash in the spirits industry today
What different sugar cane varietals can bring to the clairin making process
Why Chase and his dad Calvin publish their tax returns on the internet
How to order rum like Ernest Hemingway at a Parisian cafe
And much, much more
During this conversation at Tales of the Cocktail 2019, we taste through Saint Benevolence’s two keystone or flagship products: their five year aged caribbean rum, and their clairin, which is just now hitting the market in Florida, California, and Louisiana, so if you’re based in one of those states, be sure to request Saint Benevolence next time you visit your favorite bar or liquor store.
Featured Cocktail: Ti’ Punch
This episode’s featured cocktail is the Ti’ Punch - the national drink of Martinique, an island (like Haiti) known for its French influenced Rhum agricoles. Now, it might sound like we’re talking about tea (T-E-A) here, but Ti is actually spelled T-I and means “little” in French creole.
To make the Ti Punch cocktail, which is essentially a proto-daiquiri, you’ll need:
2 oz of Rhum Agricole (or Clairin, which we’ll dig into later in the episode)
1 bar spoon of cane syrup (or a rich demarara syrup)
1 fresh lime wedge
The Ti Punch is built right in a rocks glass, so add your cane syrup, squeeze that lime wedge over it, add your rhum or clairin, and then stir or swizzle gently to blend the ingredients.
Because ice requires a lot of infrastructure in the balmy Caribbean, this is an ice-optional drink. So if you want it chilled, add a few cubes, and if you’re looking for a garnish, keep things simple. Either chuck that lime wedge right in there, or maybe get fancy and add an extra lime wheel.
One of the most important things to note about Saint Benevolence is the dedication to improving the lives of the people of Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. By channeling profits to Living Hope, a philanthropic organization founded by Chase’s father Calvin and native Haitian pastor Reverend Gueillant Dorcinvil.
A little bit about the charity:
Since 20002, Calvin and Geuillant have opened 5 Schools (K-12)
As of 2019, over 1500 Students have been educated through the system, which also includes a trade college that teaches practical skills like welding and brick laying
Each school doubles as a primary care clinic to improve overall health and combat infant mortality and maternal morbidity.
Visiting surgical teams from south Florida conduct around 350 free surgeries per year
The charity also donates over 3 million meals per year
Hailing from the legendary Clairin town of Saint Michel de l’Attalaye, Reverend Dorcinvil and his family own sugar cane and also operate a still, like many traditional farmer-distillers in Haiti. As a kid, Chase recalls visiting Haiti and seeing people producing and selling this clear spirit, which he recognized simply as “moonshine,” but really Clairin is so much more.
Produced in the tradition of Rhum Agricole, Clairin is traditionally made using pure cane juice (as opposed to molasses) - although the legendary “methode Saint Michel” processes that cane juice into a syrup, which alters the process slightly. Clairin in this fermented in open vats, using native yeasts to kick off the process and lend their unique terroir to the product. The distiller’s wine is then distilled in rustic (often French-style) pot stills and bottled un-aged.
Saint Benevolence’s Rum Portfolio
We tasted through Saint Benevolence’s two keystone products, which are a 5-year blended rum, drawing product from both Barbados and the Dominican Republic (which shares a landmass with Haiti), and a truly unique Clairin. The Clairin is produced using a hybrid pure cane juice/Methode Saint Michel fermentation style, which pays tribute to both traditional Clairin styles.
If You Were a Cocktail Ingredient, What Would You Be?
Lime juice. I was born and raised in Miami, where lime finds its way into everything - even sweet tea.
Cocktail with Anyone, Past or Present
I’d visit Paris with Ernest Heminway (author of A Moveable Feast). We would walk to Place Saint Michel, sit down in a Cafe, order a glass of Saint Benevolence Clairin, a glass of Sancerre, and some oysters.
Mountains Beyond Mountains - Tracy Kidder (Haiti, charity work, healthcare)
Advice for Rum or Clairin Enthusiasts
Asking questions is one of the best ways to learn as much as you can. Ask good questions, take good notes, and form meaningful relationships with people who know more about these subjects than you do.
Regarding making a difference in any sphere, Martin Luther King famously said that everyone can be great because everyone can serve, and adding onto that (in the words of my father Calvin), the purity of your purpose is what gives you power.