Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Latest Rum Lab was a Great Success

The Denizen Gang
     Another day of suffering through the heat here in Key West, but it was a very successful visit to the Rum Lab yesterday.    The bulk of the work was aimed at developing new cocktails using Denizen White Rum,  .   The real purpose of this work was to showcase Denizen Rum in our upcoming Denizen Rum promotion at the Rum Bar on August 13th from 2 to 5 pm.

The Lab Mice
     We were able to create several new cocktails that were well received by those there for the tasting and commentary.     We will be showcasing a new Denizen Swizzle, Denizen Punch, and Denizen Rosy at the event.      It is through this research and the able help of friends that makes these  new cocktails possible.     It is the honest and sometimes brutal feedback that allows us to make some changes that will improve a so-so cocktail to a quality one or just toss the idea and start in a new direction.     Some cocktails that are close to being something good only need a subtle change to make them good, others you have to take one ingredient at a time out of the mix in order to find the one that is giving it a funky taste.    Then it is an "A B A" approach in order to fix the problem.

     This is not all work, there is some enjoyment and feeling of accomplishment when you get one or two right.     Yesterday was one of the most successful of the labs.    Having the input from a knowledgeable and professional group is what really makes these labs work.     Another Rum lab is scheduled for next Friday to complete some of the ideas that we weren't able to get to and start on some new ones.     ;o)

Friday, July 29, 2011

What can I do with an Agricole?

Agricole with its nutty grassy tastes lend itself to some of the more unique tasting cocktails out there.     One of the most popular is the "National Cocktail of Martinique and Guadeloupe", called Ti Punch.
This is a simple concoction that I recently was asked to make at the Rum Bar in Key West last week, and was really surprised at how tasty it was.

     Ti Punch
  • 2 oz. of Rhum Agrigole
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 oz Cane Syrup
Place all ingredients in a shaker with Ice shake until chilled and strain into an old-fashion glass with a couple of ice cubes.      Garnish with a mint leaf or two.

     After some Experimentation, I found that you can make this neat little cocktail with a good little spiced rum as well like Brinley's Gold Shipwreck Spiced Rum.

    Island Planter , a fruit based cocktail is also very popular in the French West Indies.

     Island Planter
  • 1 1/2 oz Rhum Agricole
  • 1 1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
  • 3oz  Orange Juice
  •  1/2 oz Cane Syrup
Place all ingredients is a shaker with ice and shake til chilled and strain into a cocktail glass filled with ice.    Garnish with a slice of lime.

These are only a couple of the great cocktails that can be created with the amazing varieties of Rhum Agricole.

      Today we are back in the Rum Lab again this time to create some new cocktails using Denizen Rum,
for a promotion on behalf of Denizen on Saturday August 13th from 2 til 5pm at the Rum Bar on Duval Street in Key West, Florida.    This is another day that we have set aside to create some new cocktails and enhance some old one with the liberating taste of Denizen Rum.    Let you Know soon what we find.    ;o)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What is an Agricole?

      Agricole refers to rhums (the French word for rum) that are made from crushed sugar cane and aged in french oak barrels.     This is the physical difference, but what difference does it really make in the product?     Because of the way that the Rhum is made it can only be produced when the sugar cane is at it 's peak of maturity.    The cane must be harvested and crushed in a very short period of time to preserve the flavor of the cane syrup.    Cane syrup does not have a long shelf life, and there for must be gotten to the fermentation vats quickly.    It is then distilled in the single column stills to a level of approximately 70% alcohol.    The rhum is then aged as little as one month or as much as six months before being bottled as a rhum blanco (white rum)   The remainder of the rhum is then placed in French Oak barrels (new, used, or charred) and aged to maturity.     The French Oak barrels give the rhum a more nutty flavor unlike the American Oak barrels vanilla notes.

     French West Indies law  determines that after at least 3 years in French Oak barrels, it can be called an "Appellation d' Origine Controlee" ( protected designation of origin) for Rhum Agricole.   Foe example, "AOC Martinique" is for rhum agricoles made in Martinique that meet the standards of the law.    

     Most agricoles are distilled to 70% alcohol (140 Proof) and then watered down to 40% to 55% for bottling and distribution.    Much of the rhum agricole is made in Martinique, Guadeloupe, and some in Haiti.    

There is some discussion about whether or not Cachaca is really an rhum agricole.       Cachaca is made from the crushing of sugar cane, fermented, and distilled, but only to a 38 to 54% alcohol and bottled at 38 to 48%, this is one of the primary difference.    Better Cachaca still has much of the sugar cane flavor due to the special distillation process involved.     Brazilian Law requires that Cachaca be aged for at least 1 year in order for it to be called "aged" Cachaca.    One other difference is the addition of corn meal, corn flower,  or rice brand during the fermentation process.     These grains also add some flavor to the end product.

     Both of these spirits have similar qualities, but they really are different .     It is my feeling that just because something is made from the same raw materials, doesn't really make the end product the same.     I also understand that because of importation laws that it is important that cachaca be considered a rum.   Politics again instead of being able to call these spirits just what they are.    ;o)  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lobster Mini Season is Upon Us

    This is the annual event that clogs our waterways with people that tend not to use much common sense nor do many of them practice any courtesy toward the people that live down here.     As a rule, divers are a very cautious group of people, but during mini season, they park and dive in the middle of marked channels and dive unmarked more than 100 feet from their boats causing a dangerous situation for the rest of the people here in the keys that use these waterways for transportation.     This "lobster mania" that happens every year for 2 days is the single most scary time to be on the water during the year.     Every year there a people killed and injured through the stupid actions of the boaters and the divers.     It is not uncommon to see boats loaded to the gunnels with people more interested in the party than paying attention to what is going on around them.

     The good side of the event is that it gives families a chance to get together and go out on the water and play.     This is a very good thing here in the waning part of the summer vacation time before school gets back underway.     It is this residents hope that this year the "bug chasers" use their heads and they all survive this wonderful little outing here in the Florida Keys.   

     The one thing that I ask as a resident that spends a considerable amount of time on the water each day is to be aware of your surroundings and follow the boating safety rules, they are their for your protection and mine.     Like most of us we don't want to be involved in an unfortunate event and ruin the mini season for every one.   ;o)      

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Black Roberts Has Arrived

     The Florida Caribbean Rum Distillery has gotten Black Robert, a new spiced rum out on the market.     This is a new spiced rum that has some very different and enjoyable flavors when compared to the current batch of spiced rums that are out there today.    I had a chance to sample the rum on a recent distillery tour to the Auberndale, Florida plant.     I feel like this will be a good addition to the shelf at the Rum Bar and on the boat.     If you are of the spiced rum persuasion, you can stop by the Rum Bar here in Key West and enjoy this new addition after Wednesday.

      This is a darker spiced rum that has a nose on it that says Caribbean all the way. and the palate and the finish are equally attractive.     This can be sipped or mixed with your favorite mixers, like coconut water, ginger beer, or even cola.     Take a few minutes and search out your liquor stores or bars to find this new addition.     It is distributed by Republic National if your store doesn't have it yet you can tell them how to obtain it.     ;o)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday Morning

     Things have really slowed down finally here in the Keys.     The season that didn't want to end looks like it is finally going to relent and things are slowing down.     Today is the end of the Hemingway Days events with the finals of the look a like contest at Sloppy Joe's, and the Running of the Bulls.     Next week is Lobster Mini Season, an event that the locals just run for cover and stay out of and off the water while the crazies terrorize the bugs and the rest of us trying to enjoy the water.     This event doesn't usually cause much to happen on Duval Street, but rather on the water.

     This is the time of year after the mini season when most of the locals take their vacations and the rest of us just get to out out on the water and enjoy the "loneliness" of few people around.     I love to take the dinghy and explore the places that are usually crowded with people during season now that the crows are gone.        It is a time when the stress of the season is behind you and you get to get out and really just float through time as you let the currents carry you along.      I guess that I'm telling you to just kick back and really spend some time unwinding and slowing to the speed of the currents and enjoy yourself.     You might want to have a glass of fine rum to enjoy this time with.     ;o)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happy 112th Birthday Papa Hemingway

Hemingway in Key West
     It is only proper that we take a moment today to give some thought to one of America's more colorful characters.    Born Ernest Miller Hemingway on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois and died on July 2, 1961 in Ketchum, Idaho.      Famed for his writing, a World War I soldier,and his world wide adventures, Hemingway found the seeds to grow his stories and novel from.    

Fishing off Bimini
      Famous equally for his bravery during both world wars and his ability to do anything that he found interesting to him.    In Africa he was in a plane crash and the next day got aboard another plane that blew-up on take-off and survived to get to Entebbe to recover and read all the accounts of his death and his obituaries.       His love of fishing and hunting took him all over the world and little made him happier that spending days with his friends out on the ocean fishing.     

Hemingway aboard the Pilar off Cuba
In his later years following the plane crashes from which he really never full recovered.  In October of 1954 Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for Literature, a prize he truly coveted, but later he felt that the stories of his death and the obituaries that had been circulating had swayed the panel to vote his way.     He spent most of his time working on "A movable Feast" a book he finally finished in 1959.     His focus would then be on several other books that he was working on until he finally left Cuba in July, 1960. 

     After being admitted to the Mayo Clinic in November of 1960, there were stories of Hemingway receiving "electroconvulsive therapy" as many as 15 time.    He was described as a wreck upon his release in January of 1951.     It has been told that Ernest Hemingway's behavior was similar to that of his father's in the days before his suicide.    Even though the stories of his death were said to be accidental, he had died as a result of a self-inflicted with his "favorite shotgun".

     Like so many famous and very talented people Hemingway suffered from many of the pains of over indulgence and too much of a good thing til it trips you up and it brings you down.    His stories of adventure and socializing, most of which seem to be true were what dreams are made of, when your body slowed down and you have to become a "normal" person, can cause the end of a great life.     ;o)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hemingway Days Start Today in Key West

For a complete schedule and information on the event check this web site .

    Earnest Hemingway's presents in Key West has left an indelible impression on this city, from the time he spent at Sloppy Joe's to the fishing, to his house on Whitehead Street.     This week is the 31st annual Hemingway Days here is Key West and another chance to get out and either be or act like "Papa" for a week.     Tomorrow is the celebration of his 112th birthday, there is a three day marlin tournament, a zany version of the running of the bulls, "Papa Hemingway Look-a-Like Contest", and many other special events celebrating Earnest Hemingway's time in Key West.

     Having written many of his more enduring work while living here in Key West it is only proper that Hemingway Day be celebrated during the week of his birthday, and right here in Key West.     Hemingway's other claim to fame was his socializing with "The Mob" at Sloppy Joe's and other Key West bars.     This is said to have been the inspiration for the writing of "To Have Have and Have Not" in 1937, probably his wost endearing work.     Depression ear Key West people referred to a "Conchs"  who were suffering from depravity and hunger and other social issues of the time.    The novel received mixed critical reviews, but like so many other literary works, this one just doesn't go away.    Howard Hawks made a movie adaptation in 1944 based on the novel, that by the way Hemingway felt was "his worst book" and "a bunch of junk".

     Take the time to help celebrate with us in Key West and get out and have a Hemingway Daiquiri to get into the spirit of the week.    
     Hemingway Daiquiri
  • 1 1/2 oz White Rum
  • 1 oz Grapefruit Juice
  • 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • 4 drops Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur
Place all ingredients in a shaker and shake till chilled and strain into a cocktail glass filled with crushed ice.  Garnish with a lime wheel.

     Enjoy the day.     ;o)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

National Daiquiri Day

Jennings Stockton Cox
     It is only fitting that "National Daiquiri Day" be just 2 days before Earnest Hemingway's birthday, even though he didn't invent the daiquiri, he is credited with the widespread popularity of the cocktail.     Jennings Stockton Cox, a mining engineer working for The Spanish American Iron Company, a small iron mining town of Santiago, Cuba.     There are stories that still exist that Cox invented the Daiquiri when he ran out of gin  while entertaining American guests.

El Florida Bar where
Hemingway drank his daiquiris
     This very simple drink consisted of 3 parts rum, 1 part lime juice, and 1/2 part sugar.      All the ingredients were placed in a tall glass with ice shaken and served.     This cocktail evolved to be made in a shaker and strained into a cocktail glass later on, but basic still the same recipe.     This wonderful drink was later introduced to the "Army-Navy Club in Washington D.C. in 1909 and the popularity of the cocktail grew during the next few decades.    The drink became even more popular with the outbreak of World War II and the rationing of whiskey, vodka, and gin, linked to the easy of getting rum in large quantities.       Constantino Ribalagua the famed bartender at El Florida blended the drink with shaved ice creating the "Frozen Daiquiri" for his friend Earnest Hemingway for whom he named the cocktail "Papa Dobles", who was know to be able to wade through a dozen or so of these in a sitting.

     The cocktail has survived very well through the years, although today most people thing of a "slurpy machine" concoction with strawberry syrup and a little rum as a "daiquiri", but in many quality bars throughout the U.S. you can still get a fine daiquiri.   ( see my blog of June 16, 2011 for recipes and the complete history)       Make a point to get out and have a daiquiri today at your favorite cocktail lounge and raise a toast to "The Daiquiri" you will enjoy it.     ;o)


Monday, July 18, 2011

Destileria Serralles and Don Q Rums

     Destileria Serralles was founded by the Serralles family in the mid 1830's when they moved from Cataluna, Spain to Ponce, Puerto Rico.     The Serralles family founded and successfully ran a sugar plantation that grew, harvested and refined sugar to send to the United States, Great Britain, and France.    The Sugar Plantation eventually grew into a "Company Town", complete with a railroad line,worker housing and eventually an airport, most of which have been annexed into the town of Ponce.
 In 1865 the family opened their rum distillery on the plantation, "Hacienda Mercedita", named for the family matriarch Mercedes Perez.

     Juan Serralles Colon imported a still from France and he was able to produce his first casks of rum.     The Serralles plant produced many local brands, most of which were very short lived .     It wasn't until 1932 when the Don Q  Brand was launched that the company became competitive with Bacardi.     In 1985 the with the guidance of Felix Juan Serralles, Sr,\. Puerto Rican Distillers Inc. was purchased from Canadian liquor magnate Joseph E. Seagram and Sons LTD.     After the purchase, the company grew rapidly.     Serralles acquired Captain Morgan, Palo Viejo, Ron Llave, Ronrico, and Granado for production and distribution in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.     The loss of the Captain Morgan brand to Deageo means that they will shift their promotion to more traditional local brands  like "Palo Viejo" and Ron Llave.     The current President and CEO, Felix Juan Serralles, Jr, the great grandson of Juan Serralles, has lead the company to a position of having produced over 60% of the rum produced in Puerto Rico as well as several other enterprises under "Grupo Serralles".     This company is one of America's 100 oldest family owned businesses.  

     The Don Q brand itself has done very well throughout the world in it's targeted middle price rum category.    Produced from molasses, water, and mash fermented with yeast,  and distilled in a continuous 6 column still and aged up to 1 year in oak barrels.    The proprietary recipes of Destileria Serralles provide the distinct taste that Don Q is known for.     Don Q is distributed in the United States, Mexico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Spain and various other countries throughout the world.    

     The name is in honor of the famous literary character that tilted at windmills, Don Quixote.        The top of the line is "Don Q Gran Anejo", which is a fine blend of rums that range in age from 3 to 12 years in bourbon casks.     The light mahogany color and fine legs lead straight to the sweet aroma that matches the taste you get on the palate.    The finish starts off smooth, but turns harsh at the end.   This is an ideal rum for higher end cocktails that beg for a sweeter and spicy flavor.   The flavors are great to bring many of the tiki era drinks to life in place of several other of the Jamaican rums.      Give it a try and you won't be sorry, enjoy.     ;o)


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Muse

Sunday is always the best day for relaxation and a serene setting in which to enjoy the day.     ;o)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Demerara Rums

     The Demerara Distillery of Guyana is one of the oldest and famous for it's rich flavorful rums.     Demerara benefits from its unique stills unlike any others that are operating in the world today.     They have  what is believed to be the last operating wooden Coffey stills in the world.     It is a direct relative of the first continuous still constructed by  Aeneas Coffey in 1832 for whom the still gets it's name.     The still was purchased from the Enmore Sugar Estate which was founded about 200 years ago .    

     In addition to the wooden Coffey Stills, they have a Single and a Double Wooden Pot Stills that originated in the Port Mourant Estate that was founded in 1732.    These stills are more than 200 years old and were used to produce the Demerara Navy Rums.   Today they are often called the Demerara Vat Stills, an old name for that type of still.     It is the use of these unique stills and an age old process that the rums produced by Demerara owes their bold and wonderful flavors.     Their experience making bold navy rums  and deeply aromatic, heavy bodied and flavorful rums to the use of these very special stills.

     The Third type of still employed by Demerara Distillery is the French Savalle Still.     Demerara to this day uses it's original four column  metal French Savalle Still.     This still is know for it's sweet nose and a medium bodied, dry rums.    This still is the one that produced the "single barrel" rums for the El Dorado Brands and is used in the blending of other El Dorado Rums.   

     The newer more modern version of the Savalle Still is very versatile and can produce rums that range from the very heavy bodied to the very light and delicate.

     The El Dorado and Lemon Hart brands are probably the best known in the United States, and deservedly so.     These rums are some of the finest anywhere and the long list of awards is a good indication of the quality of their products.     If you go back to the "Tiki Era" you would almost always see the Demerara Brands called for in the famous cocktails of "Don the Beachcomber" and "Trade Vic", this wasn't a coincidence, but by design.    Both of these men had a sense of taste that made their cocktails so special that they live on today some 60 years later.  

     Take a little time and try one of the El Dorado Brand Rums, my favorites are the 12 year old and 15 year old ones.    Enjoy sipping the special unique flavors of this wonderful style found in the rum making techniques of Demerara.     ;o)

Friday, July 15, 2011

So Little Time with So Much to Do

     Today my friends Mike and Julia from North Carolina headed home, and I have a day off.     What can I do?      The weather is touching on the 88 degree mark and the breezes are for all practical purposes calm.     This could be a perfect day to head out on the water and do some exploring of some of the many keys that I haven't been to.     The other side of the coin says maybe to the Rum Lab and do some research with the two new rums that I have gotten this week.      There is something that keeps calling me on days like this one to go out on the water and find new things.

     I guess that I could compromise and take a bit of rum and go out on the water and still fulfill all of my obligations to do research of all types at the same time.     Water days are a real rumstyler's dream days, they make you feel like a pirate or maybe even a touch of Robinson Crusoe, as you move away from "civilization" and explore some of the mangrove keys that lie all around Key West.     The best part is that I get to enjoy some really nice rum, explore some really beautiful seascapes, and when it is over go home and relax in the comfort of my home at the dock.     Best of all worlds.

     I think the water and rum day is what is really called for today so I grab my camera, my rum and a chart and heat off on another high seas adventure in my mind as I explore the calm and beautiful waters around Key West.     I'll bring you back the pictures and the story.     ;o)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Making a Pretty Good Mojito

The Mojito is a simple drink that was originally created by the cane cutters of Cuba and made famous by the likes of Hemingway and others.     This is a wonderfully refreshing cocktail that when made right, is a wonderful tasting cocktail that you can not put down.

The Mojito
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime
  • 1/2 (More or Less depending on taste) Cane Syrup
  • 5 to 7 Mint Leaves
  • 1 1/2 oz Rum (Your Choice of Blanco, Gold, Dark or Flavored)
  • Club Soda
The ingredients are simple, but the making of the cocktail is critical to the taste.     The biggest mistake that I've seem people make when making Mojitos it "over muddling".    Mint is a herb and only needs bruising to release the flavors, shredding and crushing only serves to release the tars and ruin the flavor of the cocktail.

First you squeeze the lime juice into the cocktail glass.

Second is to add the Cane Syrup and Mint to the glass.

Third you muddle very lightly.

Fourth you add the Ice.

Fifth is the most important, add the Rum.

Pour into a Bar Shaker and shake until chilled.

And finally pour back into the cocktail glass and top with Club Soda and garnish with a lime and a sprig of Mint if you like.

Photos by Tom at Island Hopper Photos

Sit back and enjoy this wonderful cocktail from the wonderful people just 90 mile to our south.     The Mojito is a wonderful and simple cocktail that is so often the victim of an over zealous bartender, and the Mojito is the loser every time.   KISS couldn't apply more when you make these simple little cocktails.   ;o)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Another Day on the Water

     Yesterday was a picture perfect day to be out on the water in the little boat.     Having friends in town from North Carolina is the perfect excuse to sneak off to the quiets of the mangrove keys that lay just north of Key West.     Sharing time with nature is one of the real benefits of living on the water down here.    To be able to just head off and float down a Disneyland like channel that runs through the mangroves is my idea of heaven on earth.     This is almost like falling down the rabbit's hole and visiting wonderland where you can just drift where the currents take you and once in a while come upon some unique and different sight.  

      Yesterday was all about stingrays and birds that seem to be following us everywhere we went.     As we traveled from one mangrove Key to another we saw very different things, sort of like going from one planet to another.     We ran across a group of cormorants sitting at the top of a mangrove tree and seemed very intent on what they were staring at.   It was like a panel of judges sitting and scoring an event.     The stingrays were every where yesterday, probably say 6 or 7 of them all ranging in size from 2 to 4 feet.     This is a beautiful creature to watch as it seems to be gliding effortlessly through the water just off the bottom.

     Our next stop was at a very uninhabited beach that I've visited several times as I floated through the Mud Keys.     Here we just sat neck deep in the 85 degree water and watched as all the little almost transparent fish swam around our feet and legs.    This is a very peaceful place also where we could just be and enjoy all that mother nature has made for our enjoyment.     A walk up the beach found that in a month or so many of the flowers will be blooming and just another excuse to revisit  this nice quiet beach.

     The sun has take it's toll on all of us and the sunscreen isn't doing that well so it is back to the "Mothership" and have a few cocktails as the sun sets on another fantastic water day in the keys.     The trip back is so cooling as we cruise along at about 20 knots on our way home.    Along the way home we see several others that have been out to their secret places of relaxation and all seem as happy as we.

     The day like all really fun things has to come to an end on the back of the "Mothership', as we enjoy our rum cocktails and watch another fantastic Key West sunset as we watch through the rigging of the sailboard behind us.   ;o)