Editor's note: On Wednesday afternoons, Paul Clarke (The Cocktail Chronicles) stops by with his weekly cocktail column. Today, rum.
"While it's hard for many rum drinkers to get too excited about mass-market spiced rums, the beauty of the situation is that spiced rum is so easy to make at home."
Despite the fact that Henry Morgan was a notorious brigand--with all the vicious unpleasantness that comes along with the job--many rum drinkers find it hard to consider the spirit named after him as much more than a joke. As Eric Felten noted in last weekend's Wall Street Journal, the popular Captain Morgan's Original Spiced Rum has typically been associated with imbibing more for quantity than for quality, and long before its release in the United States, "It was so associated with serious drinking in Canada that Maritime Provinces slang for a bender is to be 'out with the Captain.'"
Spiced rums are dodgy creatures. True, the sweet, vanilla-tinged Captain Morgan has an agreeable enough flavor, but for rum fans the Captain's appeal is not unlike that of fast food--satisfying on a certain level but ultimately disappointing and altogether forgettable (though like fast food, it's also immensely popular: Felten notes that in the rum category, sales of Captain Morgan are second only to those of Bacardi). The only other spiced rum in wide distribution, Sailor Jerry, is somewhat more appealing, though the flavor profile doesn't differ significantly from that of Captain Morgan or its higher-priced colleague, Captain Morgan's Private Stock.
On a smaller scale, Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum takes the concept in a different direction, lacing a blend of aged rums with spices such as ginger, clove, nutmeg, and cayenne, creating a unique and pretty interesting result.
While it's hard for many rum drinkers to get too excited about the mass-market spiced rums, the beauty of the situation is that spiced rum is so easy to make at home. Felten notes a recipe from Forbidden Island owner Martin Cate that includes vanilla, orange peel, allspice, and other ingredients soaked in aged rum for several days; Saveur also lists a recipe for the "44 Cordial," a sweetened rum flavored with orange peel and coffee beans.
These recipes are good starting points, but there's a lot of room for individual tastes when making spiced or flavored rum.
Have you taken a crack at making your own flavored rum (or other spirits, for that matter)? If you've had good luck with a recipe, share it in the comments.
About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.