Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Ron Botran Anejo Oro Rum

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.


[Photograph: stargatechris on istockphoto]

A lot of the women I know have recently divested themselves of perfectly adequate boyfriends. I mostly don't care, because what does any of that have to do with me or college basketball, though I do appreciate the opportunity to pass along my sister's advice to the newly single: When a man tells you he likes history, it means he likes getting stoned in front of Hitler documentaries.

I don't know what the female equivalent is and I'm in no hurry to find out, so I've spent the past week working on rum drinks, because my otherwise reasonable girlfriend has heartbreaking affinities for beach trips and Allman Brothers concerts.

Now, I would rather bathe with the Allman Brothers than watch them sing, so that means my only shot at being accommodating during this dangerous upcoming Summer of My Girlfriend's Girlfriends' Discontent is to suffer through a few weekends on Cape Cod. So I need an expanded rum repertoire, just in case we're lucky enough to be rained in and I get to play heroic problem-solver and say, "Sorry that we can't spend the day sitting on hot dirt and hiding beers from whatever special unit of the state police is deployed to make sure I don't accidentally enjoy myself; would you like a rum drink?" Despite her perverse affections for dangerous bodies of nonpotable water and bands of 60-year-old brothers that I can smell from here, Emily was raised right. She will say yes to the rum drink.

Let's figure out what it should be.

We already know our light rum is Castillo. My favorite dark rum is Barbancourt, but that's no good when you write a column about cheap booze or when you're spending $250 a night to sleep in a cot in the lighthouse of the mini-golf course across the street from the fried clam stand across the other street from the parking lot that's not all THAT far from the back side of the ocean. A proper beach drink needs two colors of rum, and if I'm already in the hole $9.75 for a liter of light, that doesn't leave much left over for the dark.

Castillo makes a dark rum that costs the same as the light. I'd never tried it. I figured best case scenario, it would be a credible dark rum with clean flavor and passable complexity; worst case, it would be the simple and satisfying Castillo Silver with a shot of caramel. Turns out it was an unforseen third case: an overwhelming jumble of mismatched flavors dominated by weird lemon and dairy. I was almost impressed by how aggressively bizarre it was. How does a $9.75 liter of rum manage to contain so many different shades of disappointment?

20110311ronbotranrum.jpgGood thing my liquor store asks but $9 for a 750ml bottle of Ron Botran Anejo Oro. I bought it because I needed something to compare the Castillo to and because I'm a sucker for anything Guatemalan.

The Botran is far subtler than the Castillo. It's pretty much a one-note drink, but the note is a pleasant and unobtrusive butterscotch that goes down without a fight when taken neat and plays well with others when called in to rescue a rainy day at the beach.

I don't like to interfere too much with another man's drink, but I must insist that you don't drink rum and Coke on vacation. I've got nothing against rum and Coke, but it functions best as a whatever-gets-you-through-the-night drink. If you're going to rent a car and fight through Friday afternoon Cape traffic just to sit in the rain or worse yet the sun, you're going to want something a little more festive. Let's say two ounces of Botran Anejo Oro, one ounce of Castillo Silver, some pineapple juice, some orange juice, more lime juice than you'd think, and a little squirt of almond syrup. Yeah, it's not a real mai tai, but it's also not an $8 paper cup of Bud Light at an Allman Brothers concert.