Given my recent obsession with Tiki cocktails and culture, I don’t think it would surprise anyone to learn that I’ve been drinking quite a bit of rum these days. In all kinds of ways: classic rum cocktails like the Mojito and Daiquiri and Tiki staples such as the Zombie and Hurricane.
I’ve also been trying variations of classic cocktails with a rum twist. How about a rum Old Fashioned? Or a rum-based Negroni ? The variety of rums lends itself to endless possibilities – it’s just a matter of finding the right rum for the job, which is harder than it sounds, because they come in all varieties (and spellings). That’s how I justify to my wife the amount of storage dedicated to rum alone – they are all important and distinct. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with Rhum Agricole.
If you’ve never partaken, it may surprise you. Rhum Agricole has a unique grassy taste, a flavour unlike any other rum or spirit category. A prominent bartender once described it as the ‘mezcal of rums’. I think that’s a very good parallel.
Rhum Agricole AOC is made only on Martinique, the tiny French island in the West Indies with a tropical climate and laid-back lifestyle. Rhum originating in Martinique is protected with an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée or an AOC. This is the same protection the French government affords to its provincial wines and cheeses. It doesn’t just demarcate the region, it establishes production standards for anything bottled with a Martinique AOC label. The most defining trait of Rhum Agricole is that it is distilled from sugarcane juice whereas almost all other rum is distilled from sugarcane byproducts (such as molasses). The sugarcane grown on the island and all aspects of production (from harvesting to bottling proof) are controlled.
Some producers outside of Martinique make Rhum in the Agricole style but these need to be clearly labeled. Some of these are quality products but if you want to be safe, stick to those with the AOC designation.
Most cocktails in the Tropical/Tiki pantheon derive from a relatively small set of ingredients. At the end of the day, most recipes within the genre lean heavily on some combination of basics – rum, sour citrus (lemon or lime), and flavoured syrups/liqueurs, (e.g. orgeat or falernum). It can be a challenge to craft a compelling recipe that’s not a twist on something already invented. That’s not what I’ve done here. Although I originally started with a blank slate, I ended up with a cocktail that I would consider a distant cousin of the Chartreuse Swizzle.
After a few iterations, I think this is a cocktail that really highlights the freshness of the Rhum.
1 ½ oz Rhum Agricole
1 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Falernum
¼ oz Green Chartreuse
¼ oz Pear Brandy (Eau-de-vie)
Garnish: Mint, cucumber and lime peel.
In a shaker, add 4 slices of cucumber and muddle. Add remaining ingredients with a little bit of crushed ice. Gently whip shake. Double-strain into a Collins glass with crushed ice. Top to the rim with crushed ice and garnish.
Do yourself a favour and get your hands on a bottle of Rhum Agricole. Hopefully this will be your gateway to a very tasty spirit and provide an appreciation for the sheer variety and uniqueness of rum.