Friday, January 11, 2013

Barbancourt Haitian Rum

By Warren Bobrow

I can tell you the first time that I tasted Barbancourt Rum from Haiti. It was after a lovely meal on the island of Jost van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. Dinner was usually the freshly caught fish of the day cooked with lime, rum and butter - (because butter makes everything taste better and rum preserves the delicate flavors in a place with poor refrigeration) - and this night was no exception. The drinks flowed as nicely as the conversations about wooden yachts, the upcoming Antiguan Race Week and more lousy days in paradise. Rum was usually served before the meal in the form of a frosty, cold Piña Colada, during the meal - mixed with cola, and after the meal - neat in a snifter. Sure there are other liquors available on the islands, but they can be fiercely expensive. Rum is from the Caribbean and it actually costs less than water!

Rhum Agricole is one of my favorite varieties of island rums and this night was different in many ways because the rum in my snifter was from the island of Haiti! I'd never tried Haitian rum before and I was intrigued. Digging a bit deeper I discovered that Haitian rum is made not from molasses (as is the method of most of the rum distilled in the world), but with freshly crushed sugar cane juice aged in French White Oak from Limousin. Haitian rum is similar in many ways to the rhums of Martinique. There is a grassy, white flower nose and a very Cognac-like finish from the used Cognac oak barrels. This is very classy stuff.

Barbancourt has been produced in Haiti since 1862. La Société du Rhum Barbancourt still uses the original recipe and is stylized more like a Cognac than a rum meant for mixing. That's not to say that Barbancourt is not delicious in a mixed drink, I just prefer it with as few ingredients as possible.

Fresh squeezed juices take the background to the subtle aromatics of Haitian grown sugar cane. If you were going to mix this highly expressive rum, I'd think of ingredients from the tropics. Coconut water frozen into ice cubes, freshly cut pineapple seared in a cast iron pan, orange, lime and coconut milk all combine together to soften and harmonize Barbancourt into a flavor-driven slurp. Rum comes from many different islands in the Caribbean, but few are as sophisticated as Barbancourt.  There are several different varieties of Barbancourt with my favorite being the Estate Reserve. Rumor has it that the Estate Reserve was held for the private enjoyment of the former presidents of Haiti. This is not so far from the mark. I never saw the older versions of Barbancourt in the United States until the mid-1980's.

When Barbancourt finally made its way to our shores only a small amount actually was available, adding to the mystique. I used to bring as much as I could carry back from the islands. With DrinkUpNY carrying the older versions of this venerable brand you too can drink like a wealthy local from Haiti.

A simple way to drink Barbancourt is to do very little to it, but let me tell you, if you use some fresh juices that are grilled first, the rum takes on a haunting spirit of its own.

• 4 oz. Barbancourt
• 1 oz. Simple Syrup of Cane Sugar
• 2 tablespoons juice from a grilled pineapple
• 2 tablespoons juice from a grilled orange
• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (not grilled)

1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir together.
2. Serve over Coconut Water ice.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

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