Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Admiral Nelson Coconut Rum

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

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


Who's attending their local International Serious Eats Day convention on February 25? Each and every one of you, and the better-looking among you twice? Good. I'll see you at the one in Boston. I'm excited. I look forward to hoisting a beer and, god willing, a meatball with you scoundrels, but that means I won't make it to the one in New York (as I am not among the better-looking, double-booking of us), so Bottom Shelf research fiancée Emily and I had to make a quick run south last weekend to get our fill of afternoon drinking with the SE office ladies.

We went to Neff's bar, Ward III. Nice place, highly recommended. This was my first time meeting our Behind the Bar columnist, and he's every bit as cool as you'd imagine. He has assembled an excellent cocktail list and also a highly competent staff to prepare these cocktails while he undertakes the exhausting work of drinking beer and telling stories.

After that we went to my favorite sports bar to see my favorite sportsbartender and also the tail end of the Giants/Packers game. I don't like to root for current champions or Mannings, so I didn't really have a dog in the fight, but the Giants' surprise victory translated to generous tips for sportsbartender Rhea, and after her shift she translated those generous tips into a Hornitos-sponsored blackout for your correspondent. Fortunately Em held it together enough to order pizza twice, so I had something to vomit in the morning. Then we ate fried chicken sliders and oysters and went home.

We traveled, as is our custom, by discount bus. This time I think it was MegaBus; sometimes it's Bolt Bus. Fung Wah and the other Chinatown buses are good, too, if you're going to the Serious Eats office or Brooklyn or someplace like that. We're usually aiming Midtownier, so we take Bolt and Mega. Anyhow, these buses are not nearly as bad as you'd think if you listened to all the media fear-mongering about how they blow up sometimes. I mean, they DO blow up sometimes, but you never hear about the dozens of trips in between explosions, when the worst hardships you'll encounter are traffic in New Haven and too many people eating McMuffins in closed quarters.

This is the part of the rum review column where I finally get around to blabbing about being engaged. Sorry you had to slog through the first 50 paragraphs to get to the real point. We've got the wedding cake matter pretty much settled, thanks to your suggestions last week and also to Emily's mom, who's going to make us a cake because she was scandalized by your ideas. If we served strawberry pie, it could fall off Emily's fork and stain her bright white dress! Oh yeah, about that...wait, we'll deal with the impending dress scandal some other time. This week we're talking about our honeymoon.

We made a couple silly little noises about Paris, but you can't take a discount bus across the ocean, so we're pretty sure we'll just go to New York for a week. But before we arrived at that inevitable conclusion, we kicked around a couple of more exotic options, including the sorts of warm, lazy places where you drink rum out of coconuts. I've never been to one of those places (again with the bus) and I'm not sure I'd like the lifestyle, but the rum drinking part has great appeal.

When was the last time anyone invented a new category of spirit? There's that very nice St. Germain elderflower liqueur that's in everything these days, but for the most part, the new stuff I see on the shelves is just reflavored versions of the old stuff. Vodka was the first, but it seems that now they've come for our rum. In the case of Malibu, they've now come for our rum thrice: First we had the original coconut Malibu, then we had all sorts of cranberry-cherry perversions of that, and now we've got imitators of these adulterations.

Admiral Nelson is one of the more prominent Malibu knockoffs, so I got a bottle of the Admiral's coconut to compare to the original Malibu. They're both 42 proof. Malibu goes for $17.99 per 750 mL at the store where I got Admiral Nelson for $10.99. Emily poured me an unlabeled shot of each and I set about to drinking and guessing.

It was pretty interesting. I was convinced that the Admiral Nelson was the Malibu, because it turns out that the Admiral actually out-Malibus the original. I smells very heavily of vanilla suntan lotion, whereas Malibu—which everyone always derides (or I guess praises) as tasting like suntan lotion—was subtle and reserved by comparison.

The major distinction between the two is that Malibu is what it is, and Admiral Nelson is that but more so. But there are some differences beyond just degree. Admiral Nelson smells a little boozier, and Malibu offers the tiniest bit of bright, almost berrylike fruitiness along with the coconut. Malibu also comes across as cleaner and more closely resembles rum. You could tell me Admiral Nelson was flavored anything, but I might be able to guess that Malibu was rum-based.

I had a very slight preference for the Malibu, but that's because I don't like "Malibu," if that makes any sense. My hunch is that if you like Malibu, you'll love Admiral Nelson, and if you don't like Malibu, you'll prefer Malibu.

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