Thursday, April 27, 2017

Milk Punch with Denizen Rum

By Warren Bobrow

The Miami Rum Fest is the premier event of the rum world.  A gathering of personalities who flock from across the globe to experience the calling that only comes with rum.  I just spent the better part of three days sharing my experiences in rum with nerd and tiki heads who speak this unique language of sugar cane spirits.  Unlike whiskey or gin- or Scotch- and all its derivatives, rum-heads are a colorful bunch.  They are decidedly un-serious about their craft surrounding the mystique of rum. Many of these aficionados are former scientists, blue-water sailors, pilots and abundantly, self-made adventurers who follow the Rhumb line around the globe in search of this precious, yet misunderstood elixir.  Whisky tends to be more snobbish in its personality although these spirits do share a certain synergy.  That would be the aging medium.  You see, the ex-bourbon casks that they age rum- are also used for Scotch Whisky and dare I say- the tempestuous cousins, Tequila- and Mezcal.  They share a symmetry that cannot be ignored.  There is bourbon in there- the trick is to imagine how much is revealed with each subsequent charring.  But I digress. 

I believe to learn about rum you have to attend events like the Miami Rum Fest.  There are more years of rum expertise in the room than in many of the events I’ve been fortunate to attend.  Rum Geeks, Rum Heads, Tiki Heads, Shrunken Heads... They’re all there.

Spending time in the company of so many passionate people teaches me great lessons about what I know and do not know about rum.  I watched how they tasted the spirits- the measure of sipping, the attention to detail- when to sip and when to spit- and what to eat within each tasting.  You don’t want to get blasted- that wouldn’t be cool.  And your palate?  That’s another story entirely.  I’m a professional, but even I get palate fatigue, so eat a cracker.  Normally I’d have a plate of real world food- barbeque comes to mind.  Something Pan-Asian in character- fish sauce- fermentation- food meant to awaken my palate and bring the rum into another space.  A place of history when sailors plied the unknown oceans of the globe- finely twisted on rum.  The perfect foil against the doldrums, when your nose is stuffed full of salt air and everything tastes like the sea. 

That is why I drink rum.  There is this product on the market that can approximate the experience of being out at sea.  It’s a saline spray- about five blasts of this stuff and your nasal passages are in the cut between Jost Van Dyke and Anegada.

Rum tastes better out at sea.  I know- this is where I learned about rum.  Heading out to uncertain waters on a yacht far too ambitious for my young self. 

Rum should be unforced.  I learned from the rum-fest that the best rums are the ones that speak a language.  A science would over intellectualize the process.  When you think of rum, you imagine an inexact science.  It’s not pretty- the distillation of rum from molasses.  The yeast is essential, the time in the barrel also important.  Too much rum is colored with caramel for my taste.  I understand the reasoning though.  I can’t wrap my hands around manipulation of the sugar, but again- commerce is a powerful determinate- one that I can only surmise. 

That leads me to the cocktails that I enjoy with rum.  Classic drinks sometimes sing a deeper tune and rums that are not overly manipulated speak more clearly in this regard.  I’ve found that the rum, simply named Denizen.  It’s something of a secret, this rum.  At least in the US market.  The company that created it has been around for hundreds of years.  Quietly performing their art for a very well-heeled audience without fanfare or pretentiousness.  Just like rum itself- passion in the craft of blending and securing the finest base spirits and doing the very least to reveal flavor.  Denizen is crystal clear in color- perhaps for my taste a bit too clear- since I prefer my rum to have some stuff left in it.  However, for the American consumer- Denizen is far better than most of the ‘clear’ rums on the market.  And it actually has lineage behind it of roughly four hundred years in the rum business!  They know a bit about rum I’d say. 

I cannot divulge the actual source of rum; I can say it is produced in Trinidad.  The nose is fruity and the mouthfeel is creamy and full.  There are bursts of starfruit and wet stones. The finish is richly textured and reminiscent of roasted plantain and freshly crushed nutmeg.  I often mix Denizen with coconut water ice, a touch of vanilla paste and a splash of heavy cream, shaken hard and served with a slice of grilled pineapple.   This is rum that speaks to my optimistic nature.  Rum that excites my palate through its simplicity- the way it tastes without color added to approximate age.  I think it’s about eight years old- and absolutely no color added.  Nice touch if you ask me.  And it’s elegant.  Certainly elegant enough to serve as a digestive in a snifter for dessert.  Gorgeous stuff.  Lucky me to have a bottle to sip on- although it’s getting low!   I do recommend tasting in a Neat Glass.  It offers something that no other glass offers on the market.  That is a different opinion. 

Pretty Much an Optimistic Milk Punch
4 oz. Denizen Rum
½ teaspoon vanilla paste
2 oz. Coconut milk
2 oz. Coconut Cream
Coconut Water ice- that is regular coconut water-frozen and crushed in a Lewis Bag-canvas to wick off the moisture...
Bitter Truth Chocolate Bitters

Grilled Pineapple- Slice a pineapple into the appropriate size spears, grill over hard wood charcoal until caramelized- set aside to cool

Fill a Boston Shaker ¾ with regular bar ice
At the same time- prep your serving glasses by adding about 10 shakes of Bitter Truth Chocolate Bitters to some funky looking glasses, then topping with the coconut water ice- set aside

Add the vanilla paste, the coconut milk and the Coconut Cream along with the rum to the shaker.  Cap and shake hard for 30 seconds
Strain into your funky glasses filled with coconut water ice
Garnish with the charred, grilled pineapple spear
Serve and immediately start another batch for quick service on the uptake.  Brilliant!

Get yourself tickets next year to the Miami Rum Fest.  It’s a lovely way to spend the weekend with friends, and friends not yet met. 

Cheers from all of us at DrinkUpNY!

Warren Bobrow is the celebrated author/bar man and mixologist responsible for the 1st book on the topic, Cannabis Cocktails.

Warren has written to date four books, Apothecary Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktails and Bitters/Shrub Syrup Cocktails.  His first book, Apothecary Cocktails was nominated for a Spirited Award at the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail. Warren has been a dishwasher, and a pot scrubber- a cook- and a saucier.  He cooked professionally around the country, Portland, Me., Charleston, Sc., Scottsdale, Az., New Hope, Pa., He owned and lost his fresh pasta manufacturing company located in Charleston, SC in 1989- Hurricane Hugo.

Then came a twenty-year career in Banking.  Don’t ask!  Demoralizing yet, essential.
Fortunate to do what he is passionate about, Warren has five books in May 2017 and more ideas on the way.  Ministry of Rum judge, Rum XP associate, American Distilling Institute, Saveur 100, Oxford Encyclopedia, Sage Encyclopedia, Whole Food/Dark Rye,, Barrell Bourbon.   He taught a deep dive on rum at the Moscow Bar Show, taught at Stonewall Kitchen, Attended the Fetes Gastronomie in Burgundy, traveled to Abruzzo in Italy for wine and Michelin starred foods, just to name just a few.  From failed-executive assistant in a bank to tastemaker to the world.
Never working yet never not working.  Smoke and Mirrors.  Authentic.

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