Nine months out of the year, I'm a wine drinker, with an occasional foray into bourbon nightcap land. But when sultry breezes, late sunsets and humidity come to town, my beverage choices veer from the cerebral to the coquettish.
Summer sipping is all about cocktails, and in my opinion, that means rum. Sure, I know the school of drinkers who think that summer revolves around the G&T -- I grew up among those people, and believe me, their idea of a good time is watching a grass tennis match at the country club. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
But come on, let's live a little! Allow that dusty, computer-addled brain of yours to turn off and break away from the same ol' routine (and those Bermuda shorts). Rum takes us to an island -- any island we wish, giving us permission to let our hair down, break the rules and be anywhere but here.
Rum is made from sugarcane, which means sweetness from the start. Although its history is tied to the Caribbean slave trade and is complex and painful, rum is also a symbol of celebration in the Caribbean. August on the rum-producing island of Barbados is "Crop Over," when the sugarcane has been harvested for production and the fields are burned to prepare for the next year. It's also a time for parades, calypso competitions -- and lots of rum.
And if you remain skeptical, assuming that rum is only for girly daiquiris, it's time to check the attitude. Because of its sugar base, rum needs less sweet stuff to make a swell cocktail. The recipes below (with the exception of the very potent Mai Tai) are spritzy and refreshing, just like the breeze by the Caribbean Sea.
Dark N Stormy
2 ounces (1/4 cup) dark rum (try Goslings, Myers, Mount Gay, Bacardi)
5 ounces ginger beer (Reed's Ginger Brew is one of my favorite bottled brands)
Pour the rum over ice in a highball glass, then fill with ginger beer. Squeeze in a lime wedge. Stir to mix.
2 ounces (1/4 cup) dark rum
3/4 ounce orange curacao
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 ounce orgeat syrup (also known as sirop d'amandes, this is an almond-flavored syrup)
Dash of Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients. Shake well with ice and strain into a glass with ice. Garnish with lime and a sprig of mint.
2 ounces (1/4 cup) white rum
1 ounce fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
4 sprigs fresh mint, leaves removed from stem
Place mint leaves and sugar in a tall bar glass and using a pestle or end of a wooden spoon (or a muddle, if you're in the know), mash sugar into leaves until sugar dissolves.
Add lime juice, rum and ice. Cover and shake. Top with club soda. Garnish with mint sprig and lime wedge.
Ultimate A-to-Z Bar Guide by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst; King Cocktail (www.kingcocktail.com), a Web site from Dale DeGroff, author of The Craft of the Cocktail
Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at email@example.com.