What is rum? I ask myself this question nearly every day.
At times, rum is many things to many people. It is friend, confidant, mother, father, wife, and country. It comforts you in times of need, and celebrates with you in times of great success. For others, rum goes even deeper; it is an obsession. The subject, in one way or another, of their life’s work. And for some, like me, it’s a delicious thing to drink.
In truth, rum is an alcoholic beverage produced by the distillation of sugar cane product or byproduct. Mostly, it is distilled from the fermented byproduct (that is, molasses). There’s a history lesson to be had in this, but understand: any rum islands that were once colonies of England or Spain or the old USofA are probably making molasses-based rum. This has a lot to do with the fact that those countries were very interested in sugar, and the molasses left over from sugar production had to be used for something. Why not alcohol?
France, however, had a bevy of sugar beet refineries at home, and no real need for the sugar they were growing on the French colonial islands. So it was that those islands (Martinique, Haiti, and Guadeloupe among them) started producing rhum (in the native French) from the juice pressed directly from cane sugar. As you might expect, the results are markedly different. They call it rhum agricole, and so do we.
Speaking in unfair generalities, rhum tends to be drier than molasses-based rum, and often with a stronger fruitiness and/or a distinct grassiness in the nose. There’s also a very common “gasoline” quality to the stuff right out of the still, though it typically calms down after some quality time in a barrel.
Aged rhum agricole might be the most delicious category of spirit known to man, but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about a drink; that drink is made with white rhum agricole.
2 oz Clément Première Canne
.75 oz lime juice
.75 oz pineapple syrup
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
Shake it all around. Serve up in a cocktail glass. Maybe drop a rum cherry in the bottom, if you’re feeling frisky.
This is not a spirit for the faint of heart, white agricole. Merely pass the open bottle under your nose, and you will know what I mean. There’s lots to love: plenty of banana, mango, other yellow fruit, cut grass, sweet almond, citrus. All good things. But there’s also a dominating presence of gasoline or acetone or something equally unpleasant (if you’re unprepared). As you spend some time with it, you’ll learn that the gasoline element is perhaps what you love best about it. Which is to say, you’ll understand when you’re older.
Thank you, Sir. May I have another?
And the drink is not designed to hide it. Why would it? If you don’t want to taste nail polish remover, just use some Puerto Rican white rum and get on with all the adventures you’re not having.
As for pineapple syrup, I don’t do mine like most people say you should do it. I just get equal parts (actually I normally do 4:3, but whatevs) of white refined sugar and pineapple juice (by volume), put them in a bottle, and shake the shit out of it until the sugar’s dissolved. Fuck waiting.
In reality, this drink is just a daiquiri. Sure, you’re using rhum instead of rum, and the simple syrup is actually pineapple syrup, and there’s bitters in there. But is it really that different from a daiquiri? Not when you write the recipes down right beside each other. But you make the drink and tell me it tastes anything like a “normal” daiquiri. I dare you.
The resulting drink is perhaps cleaner than you’d expect, tasting the spirit. That pineapple really shores up the intense aromatics of the rhum into a fruit-forward pleasantness. The lime, of course, does its thang. But I think the real clencher is the Peychaud’s—the subtle cherry and anise quality gives the rest of the drink a kind of upward momentum, and opens up the palate for the next sip. Try it, you’ll see what I mean. And then there’s that lovely pastel pink color. What’s not to like?
Today’s shitty, dimly-lit picture featuring: Dirty Counter!
So, yes, it’s a daiquiri. But it’s a daiquiri that is importantly different from other daiquiris, and took some real time and consideration to construct. You’ll know when you taste it.