Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dark 'n Stormy

The Dark 'n Stormy - Bermuda's national drink - is a refreshingly different drink worth checking out. Made exclusively with dark rum and ginger beer (and garnished with a lime wheel only as an option), it is a simple highball which is easy to put together and enjoy.

Trademarked by the Gosling's brand, their website lists the following recipe for the drink:

Dark 'n Stormy®
2 oz Gosling's Black Seal Rum
Gosling's Stormy Ginger Beer
In a tall glass filled with ice add 2 oz Gosling's Black Seal Rum and top with Gosling's Stormy Ginger Beer. Garnish with lemon or lime wedge (optional).

The drink is indeed very good with Gosling's Black Seal rum as required by the trademark, which the company takes seriously. In fact, Gosling's has apparently been pursuing legal action against Zaya rum which ran an ad in Imbibe magazine recommending their 12 year old rum as the preferred ingredient for a top notch Dark n' Stormy.

While Black Seal rum is good, I have found that there is an even better rum for a Dark n' Stormy. And if using this rum causes the drink to be called something else, then so be it - I'm willing to pay that price. That rum, incidentally, is El Dorado 5 year old Demerara rum from Guyana. Not designed to be a sipping rum (unlike the fantastically complex, otherworldly El Dorado 15 year) it has a spirity, youthful nature which makes it perfect for mixing and it has much more flavor going on than Black Seal. Specifically, it has the classic Demerara burnt sugar, caramely, smoky notes that really play well with a topper of a good quality ginger beer.

This discovery came after trying the drink with a number of different rums that I had on hand for mixing. Coruba, a dark rum from Jamaica, was a little too dark and sweet and lent the drink too much of a molasses note. Mt. Gay Sugar Cane Rum (an excellent rum) was pretty good, but not quite as convincing a performer in the mixed drink as the El Dorado. Its lighter flavors just didn't stand out enough for my taste.

Another great thing about the El Dorado 5 year old rum is that its price is on par or even less than Gosling's Black Seal at around $17.

So how about the ginger beer? Barritt's, a Bermuda brand, was the mixer of choice (officially, that is) prior to Gosling's recent launch of their own Stormy Ginger Beer. It appears to remain the ginger beer that Dark n' Stormy connoisseurs prefer based on some limited web browsing. Another fairly well-known Bermuda brand is Regatta.

The Bermuda ginger beers tend to be fairly light in color, cloudy and to have a medium-strong ginger flavor, but without the lingering burn which characterizes the stronger Jamaican-style ginger beers.

Barritts is my clear favorite. Next to it, the Goslings is slightly harsh with a more musty flavor. Regatta is very good, but it is lighter in style, more like a ginger ale and for that reason does not perform as well as a mixer.

A non-Bermuda replacement that I have found works well is Bundaberg from Australia. It's lighter in ginger bite than Barritts but has a round, sweet flavor. And it is reasonably priced and readily available at your local Bevmo unlike all of the others, which can be difficult to find.

As far as a recipe goes, I tend to use approximately 2:1 ginger beer to rum. And regarding the optional lime garnish - I omit it altogether.

Give a Dark n' Stormy a try and let me know what you think. Feel free to experiment with the ingredients, but just remember that if you're not using Black Seal, you'll have to call it something else.

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