New concoctions are evolving for popular rum drink



There is a reason they used to call rum "Kill Devil."

Lake Fong, Post-Gazette
Cucumber basil mojito made with brown sugar.
Click photo for larger image.

World history teaches us that rum was a commodity that changed international commerce forever. During the 17th and 18th centuries, sea powers, merchants and slave traders became rich. People used rum for everything from medicine to currency.

However, for many of its early years rum tasted absolutely horrible. Thus the "Kill Devil" moniker. They also called it "Devil's Death," which is a rather strong characterization as well.

So it is odd, and yet fortunate, that we likely have the harsh taste of the spirit in the 1600s to thank for one of today's most refreshing rum drinks and one of that spirit's trendiest applications -- the mojito.

It is speculated that what we call a mojito started out as the drink of cane field workers in Cuba. The rum was harsh, the day long, and flavoring options were limited. However, with sugar cane, limes and mint all being accessible, some enterprising laborer made the connections and then the concoction, and here we are.

The basic form of a mojito -- sugar, cane juice, or simple syrup "muddled" (mushed in the bottom of a glass) into rum and lime juice then topped with soda -- is now fairly well known. Three years ago, you couldn't walk into a bar without someone offering you one or asking you to try one.

But that trend has evolved beyond being a handy fad for rum sellers and bartenders. Summer sippers want not only a taste of the Caribbean, they want the freshness and herbal base of a mojito, the crisp depth of an iced rum drink, and now they want it with a "tropical" flair.

Hernando Luiz Jimenez, the vice president of Parrot Bay and Captain Morgan's flavored rums, said of the trend toward more adventurous mojitos:

"Mojitos were a phenomenon. But I think that, at the end of the day, consumers drink what they like. People have started, just like with the martini, with a certain drink, and then they take it to places that make sense for them.

"There are drinks that are going to make sense when you make drinks sweeter and fruitier ... [but] not everything is going to give you a good mojito."

Parrot Bay makes coconut, mango and passion fruit rums; Cabana Boy offers ten flavors, and Cruzan, eight flavors, including orange, banana and raspberry.

Bacardi, which beat out Captain Morgan's to be the world's largest rum brand, offers O (orange) and Limon (citrus). Pritchard's Rum even makes a cranberry-infused rum.

The move to add flavors to rum, much like the move to add flavors to vodka, opens up a world of new drink ideas that are not your average bartender's mojito. We've included three of the best. Remember that slight adjustments (like using brown instead of white sugar to get more authentic cane flavor) can add to the drinks.


CLASSIC MOJITO

  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 sprigs mint
  • Club Soda
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces white rum
  • Lime half, cut into two wedges
  • Mint sprig, for garnish

Place sugar, mint and a splash of soda in a pint glass.

Use a spoon to muddle the mint and dissolve the sugar. Add ice, lime juice, rum and two lime wedges.

Stir and strain into an ice-filled pint glass. Top with club soda and garnish with a mint sprig.


MANGO MOJITO

  • 4 mint leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 1 1/2 ounces mango rum
  • 3 ounces club soda
  • Mango nectar or juice (Walnut Acres and Goya nectars are excellent. Ceres offers a mango juice.)

Muddle the mint leaves, sugar and lime wedge in the bottom of a tall glass with the rum. Add ice cubes, then club soda. Top with mango nectar and serve.

-- Philip A. Stephenson


CUCUMBER-BASIL MOJITO

  • Four basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoon sugar (brown or white)
  • 1 1/2 ounces rum
  • 1 cucumber rind, julienned
  • 1/4 fresh lime
  • Soda water

Tear the basil leaves in half and place in bottom of tall glass. Add sugar and 1/2 ounce of the rum. Coil 12 inches' worth of cucumber julienne in bottom of glass. Mash together these ingredients. Squeeze lime and drop in glass. Add remaining rum. Top with soda water.

Leave sugar muddle and lime as undisturbed as possible. As you enjoy the drink, stirring the sugar or prodding the lime with your straw will add tang or sweetness as you like and as you progress through the drink.

-- Philip A. Stephenson


Philip A. Stephenson can be reached at pstephenson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1419.




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