Stirrings Mojito Mixer

It’s very unusual for me to drink enough to reach a level of intoxication. I don’t see much use in getting smashed, and barely ever go further than a simple buzz. My wife of 10 years says that she’s seen me drunk only once – a night of excess involving most of a bottle of Ron Zacapa Centenario. I love the taste of a good rum, or a good cocktail, but believe in moderation.

Usually.

There are times when I like to tie one on. Sure, I’ll drink a few Mai Tais now and again – when someone else is making them – but generally if I feel like getting buzzed I’m lazy. I’ll have a few shots of the good stuff while my taste buds still function, but once my brain gets rattled I’ll switch to something easy, like Rum & Ginger Ale. Occasionally, very occasionally, I’ll go so far as to make a quart of some cocktail and nurse it, like a baby. A hungry, angry baby.

Quality Ingredients
One day in a liquor store I grabbed a bottle of Stirrings Mojito Mixer, caught up in the propaganda of the display which spoke of quality. Bottled mixers generally taste like crap – because they’re full of crap. Here’s the list of ingredients from one unnamed bottled cocktail mix:

Water, corn syrup, citric acid, natural flavors, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate, cellulose gum, polysorbate 60, gum arabic, glycerol, abietate and FD&C Yellow No. 5

Ugh.

Here’s the list of ingredients from the Stirrings Mojito Mixer:

Triple-filtered water, cane sugar, key lime juice from concentrate (water, key lime concentrate), citric acid, natural mint and lime flavors, ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

That’s a hell of a lot closer to the real thing.

The Taste
Given that I like to try all rums neat, I felt it was appropriate to do the same with the Mojito Mixer. I found the taste to be extremely natural, without those obnoxious tastes found in most pre-made mixers. It was sweet, like a good simple syrup though much lighter, with a lot of key lime taste and a hint of mint. It was obviously high quality stuff, and very good. I have to say that I wasn’t so pleased with the key lime taste – I guess I like “regular” limes much more. But I deemed it Worthy, and grabbed a bottle of rum and a jigger.

A Mojito
Call me a sinner, but I grabbed the Havana Club Añejo Blanco for my first Stirrings Mojito. What better way to try it, with a known high-quality rum like this, one almost made for Mojitos? OK, enough rationalization – I’m a sinner.

I mixed it up according to the directions, and sipped. It was quite good – hardly a real Mojito made up fresh, but it was tasty and easily drinkable. Granted, it was a hot summer day, so a Mojito was perfect. The Stirrings Mojito wasn’t perfect, but it was quite good.

A little later, when it was time to catch a buzz, I made up a quart of Mojito using Ron Matusalem Platino. It too was excellent – for a while. By the time I reached the bottom of the mug I had had more than enough of the key lime taste. It was a bit much.

Summary
The Stirrings Mojito Mixer is very high quality, and pretty darned good and tasty. It won’t beat a real Mojito made with fresh limes and yerba buena, but it’s good enough for those lazy times. Recommended – but 2 minutes making a real one is even more recommended.

Call me a sinner. I’m guilty.

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The Rum Experience

When I first started getting into rum a few years ago, the first book I bought was The Rum Experience by Luis K. Ayala. I desperately needed some information about rum, particularly some reviews, tasting notes, hints of flavors to expect, a list of the best rums… Anything, really, to ensure that I did not start spending too much money on the wrong rums. My biggest fear was of buying 3 bottles of rum that all sucked, and going back to drinking vodka.

I did what research I could on the Internet, of course, but I have a certain love of books so I hunted and finally found The Rum Experience by Luis K. Ayala.

I actually purchased the softcover edition, not the hardcover Collector’s Edition that’s shown. Judging from the info on the RumShop website, there’s no difference between the two. I went cheap I guess.

Nit-Picking The Printing
My very first impressions of this book were fairly terrible. The photos in the book were far too black – an image of the Gosling’s Black Seal label is barely visible, being a black logo on a very dark gray background. Much of the detail in the photos is not very visible because of this. The layout of the book is not very good at all, IMHO. A single font is used, at 3 different sizes – and two bold. It makes it difficult to tell were the headers are for each section. Overall, it’s not very pleasant to read.

This nit-picking is what I get for spending years working on high-end printers, doing desktop publishing, and doing digital photography as a hobby. I get very picky about such things – and in a book about rum what is more important – the info, or the printing?

The Info, Of Course.
The book starts off with a brief, but very good introduction to rum. It starts with the origin of rum, and the word “rum.” It goes into some detail about the process of making rum – from sugarcane to distillation methods to aging. It describes different categories of rum (white, gold, premium, etc.) and has some very good information on tasting rums and taking notes. This is followed by some history – a timeline, a section on rum and the British Navy, followed by information on rum during the prohibition. This information and history section covers over 50 pages, and is very nicely done.

Rums By Country Of Origin
The next 70 pages contain a number of rums (492 according to the book info) listed in order of their country of origin. Generally, there’s a paragraph or two about the country. In most cases some information is listed about certain distilleries found in that country, though in many cases this distillery info is not to be found. I can imagine that it would be extremely tough to find some info about every distillery, so I don’t feel that this is a bad thing at all. Instead, I relish the info that does exist about the distilleries.

Rum Descriptions
Following all of this are short lists of various rums made by each distillery listed. For many of the rums some info is listed, but a good many basically list the name of the rum only. I really don’t see much sense in this, other than to list that the book contains info about 492 rums. A quick flip through the book shows that maybe half of the rums listed actually have any information specific to that rum. When it exists, the info is usually quite brief – lightly describing the rum, its basic tastes perhaps, or perhaps mention of an award it’s won.

While I had expected (more likely I hoped, so therefore expected) reviews of all these rums, these are more like the most basic of descriptions. Here’s one, as an example, picked because I reviewed it last night:

Appleton Estate 21 Year Old Jamaican Rum (86-proof)

A smooth sipping rum that will please the palate of even the most discerning liquor connoisseur. A careful blend of different rum, all aged for a minimum of 21 years produces a powerful yet delicate rum with remarkable finesse and aromatic complexity. Enjoyed neat, one the rocks, or with a splash of water.

Well he certainly hit the nail on the head, summing up this rum very well in 3 sentences. But I am left wanting for more info, more description, perhaps an opinion… But I have to quickly admit that my hopes and subsequent expectations are what let me down. The author did what he did, and certainly didn’t set my expectations so falsely – I did that to myself.

However, I’m still a little let down by the description that this book “…covers: 492 rums…” since it really doesn’t cover many beyond the name of the rum.

Invaluable Information
I’m sure that my comments above make it sound like this book doesn’t contain much information about the rums. This is far from the case! The information that is here is quite valuable, a hell of a lot more valuable than buying blind. At least there’s some information to be had about hundreds of rums, and can give someone a bit of a clue about a potential purchase. I scoured this book when I got it, and read every single rum description carefully, adding many to my list of rums to buy and try. It was one of my bibles when it came to buying rum.

Caribbean Week
Following the rum descriptions and information is a chapter about Caribbean Week and its Rum Tasting Contest. It has a little bit of info about the contest, and then lists 11 years’ worth of winners. In ways, due to my overwhelming lack of patience, was extremely valuable information. I checked the Gold Medal winners, found more information about each rum and distillery, and made a list of rums to buy and try. This chapter was responsible for my purchases of Ron Zacapa Centenario 23-year-old and Ron Pampero Anniversario, as well as my lust for Santa Teresa 1796. Well done!

Drink and Food Recipes
The next 2 chapters contain over 50 pages of food and drink recipes – centered around rum, of course. I can’t say that I have ever really perused these sections, since I have mostly been interested in sipping rums.

Company Listings
The next section contains contact information on about 60 or more distilleries. I still use this when trying to find some websites for distilleries.

Index
As a lover of books and a career in computers I have developed a high regard for a good Index. They are generally one of the first things I check when considering a book full of information such as this. The Index here is pretty darn good.

Summary
When one looks past the printing quality and layout, this book has a wealth of information. It’s easy to recommend since it contains so much information about rum. Sure, the rum descriptions may be a little light, but it’s hard to find so many packed into one location like this. It was the first rum book I ever purchased, and I still refer to it – constantly. Definitely recommended.

Purchase
This book, and a couple more from the Ayalas, can be purchased from their web site The Rum Shop. Since I had a bit of a hard time finding the exact purchase page, it’s here. The softcover is $29.99, while the Collector’s Edition hardcover is $49.99.

The Rum Shop
Luis Ayala’s website, The Rum Shop, is worth a visit for any rum lover. Be sure to check out his “Got Rum?” articles as well as The Rum University for a free course in Rum Appreciation, in downloadable PDFs.