Serious Eats: Drinks

Barritt's Ginger Beer: The 'Stormy' in the Original Dark and Stormy

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[Photograph: Jed Portman]

Earlier this summer, I fell in love with the Dark and Stormy, so named because the dark rum in the drink—the "Dark"—looms over the thin ginger beer beneath it like storm clouds off the coast of the cocktail's home country, Bermuda.

The Dark and Stormy is just rum and ginger beer, really, though some drinkers finish it with a twist of lime. It is quintessentially colonial English—Bermuda in a cocktail, though you'll find it now all over the world. The drink has trickled back to England, and on to Australia. Sailors carried it up and down the eastern shores of North America, dropping it on seaside menus from the rocky shores of Maine to the white sands of the Caribbean.

The liquor in a Dark and Stormy should be Gosling's Black Seal, an oil-dark rum made in Hamilton, Bermuda since the mid-1800s. Not only does it taste best, but, now that Gosling's has trademarked the cocktail, it is a legal requirement.

The brand of ginger beer remains the bartender's choice. And though Gosling's sells a canned "Stormy," generations of Bermudians have chosen Barritt's Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer, a drink with 138 years of history on the island.

Barritt's is cloudy, like ocean water churned by swimmers' feet. Shake it, and it bubbles like soap—the recipe includes the foaming agent quillaia, made from the twigs and bark of the soapbark tree. Remove the cap, and the unmistakable smell of ginger eases up the bottle's neck. The taste of ginger is strong, but it is a neutered ginger—like pickled sushi ginger—heavily sugared and augmented with just a squeeze of citrus.

In a Dark and Stormy, the ginger beer's bright flavor helps to loosen the sludgy mass of Gosling's atop it. By itself, though, Barritt's is quite sweet. So I drink it as a mixer, and recommend it as one, recognizing that a person with a more pronounced sweet tooth than mine might enjoy the saccharine ginger-candy flavor.

Barritt's can be hard to find here on the mainland. It surfaces in unlikely places. I bought a six-pack at my local Harris Teeter just after moving to Charleston, and have seen it there again from time to time. I came across shelves full of the glass-bottled variety, which is made with real sugar, beside the two-liters of Coke and Sprite at a little grocery store just off a nearby beach.

The drink is worth a try for the sake of tradition, at least, as you look wistfully toward the calendar and fantasize about your next vacation.

About the author: Jed Portman is blogging his way to that cabin in East Tennessee, one six-pack of soda and barbecue platter at a time. Follow him on Twitter @jdportman.

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