Awesome mug to benefit the MS Society

I have to pass this on for a friend (SBiM), a worthy cause (The MS Society), and a very cool tiki mug. This article is by Jon Bartholomew.

MS Mug

Why a mug to benefit the MS Society?
An explanation of motivation by Suffering Bastard in Maine, aka Jon Bartholomew

Traci I met Traci ten years ago while living in Tacoma. Besides an instant physical attraction, we quickly found we were the absolute best possible match for each other. It didn’t take long for us to fall in love. About a year after we met, we moved into an apartment together and one of the first things we added to it was a really cool bar we found in an antique/retro shop in town. This bar had a fantastic shape to it, but needed something. I bought some bamboo and added it to the exterior, and voila, a tiki bar! I already had a couple of tiki mugs but this was really the start of our mutual enjoyment of the tiki culture.

Since then, the bar has come with us as we moved around the country (currently in Portland, ME) and we have had a great time participating in the tiki world. We have traveled to Tiki Oasis in San Diego, we have gone on the first Northeast Tiki Tour (and will be on the second!) and have met tons of great people through all of our activities. Many of those great people are here in New England where I have been honored to be part of the Queequeg Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Moai.

About three years ago now, we were delivered a blow. Over a Thanksgiving weekend, Traci rapidly lost sight in one of her eyes. After going to an eye doctor, we were referred to a neurologist who soon confirmed that Traci has Multiple Sclerosis. MS is a strange disease that nobody knows the cause of, but at least today there are some treatments. Unfortunately those treatments involve regular shots she has to give herself. Every other day. And Traci hates hates hates needles!!

MS is basically the body’s immune system attacking the coating of nerves. Therefore the impact can be many different things. It can be a lack of balance, it can be numbness or tingling in a body part, it can be blindness, lack of energy, or forgetfulness. You don’t see someone and say, “Oh, that person has MS,” as it’s not that obvious. However, many people with MS end up in wheelchairs because of the permanent damage it can cause to the nervous system.

For my part, it’s difficult to watch the woman I love so much have to give herself shots, suffer from symptoms, and have the fear that she may one day lose her mobility. And there’s nothing I can do.

But there is.

The National MS Society was there right from the beginning offering a support group for Traci. They provided information that made this easier for both of us. They have been advocating for increased research into the causes and treatments for MS. The MS Society does a great amount of work to make those living with MS have better lives.

So the one thing I can do to battle MS is to support the National MS Society. And what do I have at my fingertips to help with that? I have a connection to the big ol’ Tiki Ohana!!

I proposed the idea of doing a mug to benefit the MS Society to my fellows in the FOM Queequeg Chapter. Everyone thought it was a great idea. We hashed out a design and I took it to Holden at Tiki Farm. Holden was happy to work with me and has bent over backwards to make this work out! He wanted to make sure it was great, so he connected us with Squid who took our ideas and turned them into this freaking awesome mug! Both Holden and Squid have reduced their rates as they are truly part of the Ohana as well. Thank you guys!!!

The mug itself has a few interesting features you might not realize right off the bat. The basic design is that of a Moai, because, well, we are the Fraternal Order of MOAI! And our Queequeg Chapter was named after the character in Moby Dick who had Maori-style tattoos all over him. Therefore, we included tattoos that symbolize health and life (the sun) and rebirth/renewal (the “koru” swirls). Since this is to benefit the MS Society, we figured that symbolism was appropriate. Another little bit is that the mug has feet. We know Moai don’t have feet, but these Moai in New England have walked together in the MS Walk, so we figured, hey! We’re the walking Moai! Give the mug some feet!

So today, we offer this mug to you in the spirit of fellowship, friendship and love. We hope you will buy at least one, perhaps donate a little extra and tell a friend.

And to you I say a humble MAHALO! for supporting the cause.

You can buy the mug from the link below, and help a worthy cause.
http://www.northeasttikitour.com/msmug/

Orgeat

Orgeat is an almond-flavored sweet syrup with a little orange flower water, most often used in Mai Tais. I’ve made several batches of it over the last year, but I’ve never really studied it. I made it, tasted it, gave half away and made random Mai Tais for a while. Recently I decided to do some serious studying of the Mai Tai – more on this later – and needed some orgeat. I grabbed the ingredients and followed this recipe over at FXCuisine.com. When I was done, I compared it to the memory of my last batch, which was Darcy’s recipe over on his Art Of Drink blog. And I thought further back to the experiences I documented the first time I made Orgeat. That experimentation was based on KukuAhu’s thread about Home Brew Orgeat over on Tiki Central.

And these memories made me feel unhappy about the batch of orgeat that I had just finished.

Every time I made orgeat, I felt that it was too sweet and that the almond flavor was too weak. These thoughts were after tasting the orgeat, on its own, not in a cocktail. I also didn’t care for the mouthfeel or texture, since these recipes made for a mildly almond-flavored simple syrup. A Mai Tai made with any of these orgeat recipes always seemed to have very little almond taste, to the point of being unnoticeable. I wanted more.

A part of me struggled with this. The recipe at FXCuisine cites some old French cookbooks, so it’s a historical (though the author does mention that the recipe is a modern interpretation). Darcy is a professional bartender with a chemistry background and knows what he’s talking about. KukuAhu and The Gnomon have made more orgeat than I probably ever will. A part of me felt that it was wrong to break away from these orgeat recipes, and thus break away from a classic, “correct” Mai Tai recipe.

So I took a batch of the FXCuisine orgeat and made up a Jeff “Beachbum” Berry $100 Mai Tai. My first thought was that there was way too much lime (I just don’t like overpowering lime or tartness, and tend towards sweeter cocktails). My second thought was that the cocktail was too sweet, though it might have been because of my homemade Rock Candy Syrup, following The Gnomon’s recipe. Finally, on my third sip, I was studying the tastes contained within, and I could not detect any almond.

After making 5 more Mai Tais using slightly different variations, I came to a couple conclusions. The first was that the $100 Mai Tai was not the Mai Tai recipe that I liked. Oh, it’s a damned fine recipe, very authentic, and makes for a damned fine cocktail. But I grew up on very unauthentic Mai Tais made in New England Chinese Restaurants, and those taste very different from the $100 version, so this was simply not the Mai Tai that I loved. (Call me a heretic, its OK.) The second conclusion that I came to was that I wanted an orgeat with more almond flavor, less sweetness, and a better mouthfeel (even though I’m not so sure that last point will affect the cocktail very much).

So I bought some more almonds, replenished my supply of Orange Flower Water, and got to work in the kitchen.

Ingredients

1 lb whole blanched almonds (slivers don’t produce as much almond taste)

3 cups filtered or spring water

1 cup sugar (preferably organic cane sugar)

1 teaspoon high-quality almond extract

1 tablespoon orange flower water

You’ll also need

3 more cups filtered or spring water (for cleaning/soaking)

1 medium (1.5 liter or 2 quart) saucepan

1 medium plastic bowl, with cover

Stirring utensil

Cheesecloth or nylon straining bag

1-liter bottle for finished product

My Orgeat Recipe

Take 1 pound of whole blanched almonds. Let them soak in 3 cups of filtered or spring water for a half-hour, swish them around a bit in an attempt to clean them, and drain (throwing out this water). Grind them up in a food processor until they’re about as fine as coarsely-ground coffee (or something close to that if you have a cheap food processor and a lack of patience, like me). Toss the ground almonds into a plastic bowl that has a lid, and heat 3 cups of filtered or spring water heated to about 150F. Add the water to the ground almonds, cover, and let sit for about 2 hours.

Strain the mixture through a piece of cheesecloth or a nylon straining bag, saving the liquid (almond milk) in the saucepan. (By the way, I highly recommend nylon straining bags. They are a washable, reusable form of cheesecloth that are far stronger and far superior to cheesecloth – all this for $1 more. You can get them at most wine-making stores, whether walk-in or online. I get the Small Coarse Bags from beer-wine.com – they’re plenty big enough and fine enough for this.)

Squeeze the almond mash to get every last drop – or until your hands get tired and you give up. Toss out the almond mash. Heat the almond milk on a very low flame until it reaches about 105F. (If you don’t have a thermometer, stick your finger into the liquid. When it’s so hot that you really want to pull your finger out, that’s hot enough.) Pour in 1 cup of sugar – preferably organic unbleached cane sugar, but you could use the highly processed, bleached stuff if you want a pretty white orgeat. Stir constantly until all the sugar has dissolved.

Cover the pot, remove it from the burner and let it cool for an hour or so. Add 1 teaspoon of high-quality almond extract, and 1 tablespoon of orange flower water. This will yield almost exactly 1 liter of orgeat. (You can add a couple ounces of vodka or white rum as a preservative, but even without this the orgeat will keep for many months in the refrigerator – as long as everything used is very, very clean.)

Summary

This recipe is similar to those listed above – I’ve mainly reduced the sugar and increased the almond extract. In my opinion this results in an end product with more almond flavor and a very nice balance of almond, sugar, and orange flower water. The mouthfeel of this is interesting, and doesn’t feel like a simple sugar syrup like the others did.

Though I started with the exact $100 Mai Tai recipe, I tweaked things from one Mai Tai to the next, and ended up reducing the lime to 3/4 ounce, eliminating the rock candy syrup, and using a  full ounce of this orgeat. That strays a bit from the recipe, but produces a Mai Tai that is slightly less tart and has slightly more almond flavor. I still have experimenting to do though.

Rum Season 2008 Started

It’s been a while since I posted, and that was a bit of a cheap post, really. I kinda had a crappy winter – not a horrible one, just one of those winters when lotsa stuff went wrong. The worst thing about it was that I was not able to build my Tiki Bar due to the fact that several more necessary things which decided to crap out, requiring every penny in my Tiki Bar fund. Oh well, there’s always next year.

Summer is here now, the “summer home” is opened for the season, which means that my Rum Season has started. I’ve certainly had plenty of rum over the winter, generally in the form of tiki cocktails with the FOM ohana, but Memorial Day is when I get together with Phil and we start our summer-long concentrated effort of rum exploration. This year has been no different, and the last three weekends have had a good deal of rum. So far I’ve tried 5 or 6 new rums, made a few syrups for tiki cocktails, explored a bunch of cocktails from the Beachbum books, and put some time and effort into perfecting my Mai Tai. It will take a few posts to catch up on all this, so bear with me.

Pyrat Pistol
Once the summer home was opened and cleaned up, I grabbed several bottles of rum and headed over to Phil’s. Over the course of the next few hours we shot the breeze, caught up on each other’s winters, and sipped rum. We started the night with an old favorite, the Pyrat Pistol. One of the first excellent rums that Phil and I found, many years ago, was Pyrat XO, and Pistol is its little brother. Well, the bottle is smaller – 375ml – but the price is not much smaller at all . The tastes are very similar, but I find the Pistol to be a small step up in quality and smoothness. I’d say that you’ll like the Pistol if you like sweet, apricot/orange tastes of the XO, and want to go a little better and a little smoother. However, I have to say that I don’t find the price difference to be worthwhile. I’ll generally pay $36 for a bottle of Pyrat XO in Massachusetts, and the Pistol is generally about $30. These prices are insane, since they’re about 2/3 the price in the rest of the country ($22 and $13 respectively). The bottle of Pistol is half the size of the X0 (375ml vs 750ml) yet the price difference makes the Pistol 1.5 times more expensive for me. I don’t think the price difference is worthwhile – stick with the XO – but I’d have to say that I’d buy a lot more Pistol if I could find it for $13.

Brinley Gold Coffee Rum
I had high hopes for this bottle from St. Kitts, since I had heard good things about the entire Brinley line. When I first heard about this rum the idea of mixing coffee and rum seemed a little strange, but I started to think about some of the coffee tastes that linger in background of some older, fine rums. Some rums – Khukri and Maui Dark come to mind immediately – have very noticeable coffee tastes, and it works quite well. I was able to find this rum last November, when I attended the Rum Fest in New York.

This rum has some mild coffee aromas lying behind a stronger toffee smell, and the combination certainly smells delicious. The first sip shows a lot of sweetness, buttery toffee tastes, very little rum, and a finish that contains hints of coffee. It’s is very smooth, mainly due to the sweetness and the fact that it’s only 72-proof. Well, that’s really not very far off from the 80-proof that I’m used to, so this is still a strong rum, though your tongue and throat will never realize that. This goes down very easily, and is practically a dessert. Sweet, smooth, butter toffee and hints of coffee… Yep, “dessert” fits the bill quite nicely. This is definitely a delicious rum, and is highly recommended as long as you like sweet rums. But I have to say that I have a hard time calling this a “Coffee Rum” since the coffee tastes are so mild. I’d lean more towards calling it a “Butter Toffee Rum.” Whatever it’s called, this rum is highly recommended.

Brinley Gold Vanilla Rum
Given how much I love vanilla, I was really looking forward to this rum. I came close to cracking this bottle over the winter, but I held back – several times – and I’m not sure why. When Phil and I cracked it, the first smells and sips made me realize that somehow I subconsciously knew that this rum is meant to be shared. Keeping this rum to myself would go against everything I strive for in my attempts to evangelize rum.

The initials smells are of of sweet vanilla, rum and – get this – coffee. Yep, this has more coffee smell to it than the Brinley Gold Coffee Rum, easily. A small sip is thick with sugar and sweetness, coffee, dark rum and hints of vanilla after the swallow. I find this to be a little more harsh than the Coffee Rum, but we are splitting hairs since they are both very smooth. The flavor lingers for a while in the mouth due to it’s thickness, and this is a very nice taste. In a nutshell: Delicious. Like the Coffee Rum, the tastes of rum are very mellow in this, but there is no doubt in my mind that Brinley has created a fantastic product here.

Phil and I stayed on this rum for about an hour, sipping, pouring, sipping and talking. Generally we will go through all the rums, one at a time, slowly tasting and enjoying each rum in its time. Eventually we’ll go back and hit a couple again, or compare a couple side-by-side. Not with the Brinley Vanilla. I think we ended up having 4 shots each, and finally had to put it away or we would have finished the bottle. This extended tasting was a first for us – we have simply never had a rum hit us like this. I think some of our desire to continue sipping was due to the way the taste lingers after the swallow – it must cause a type of addiction.

The next night I brought this rum up to the weekly dance at the campground, and offered it to people that I knew would appreciate it. It was a unanimous hit. About half of the people liked it a lot, and the other half loved it. One couple was not too happy with the idea that it was only available in New York City, so they went online and found a website that would ship it. They bought a bottle based on a single sip. I love this job.

Pango Rhum
I bought this bottle last fall, when I was hunting for Foursquare Spiced and developing an unusual yearning for spiced rums. I got into a conversation with the owner of a large liquor store, and we spent 15 or 20 minutes talking about rums. We somehow got on the subject of spiced rums, I mentioned Foursquare, and he showed me the Pango Rhum and told me that some rum connoisseur always bought it. I almost never buy a rum on a whim, but the recommendation seemed sound. I was also intrigued by the words on the label – “Pango Rhum – Rhum Barbancourt – Rum With Natural Fruit & Spice Flavors.” So I bought it.

My hankering for spiced rums went away for several months, but I saw this bottle when I was packing stuff for the summer home. I generally try to bring a variety of rums for opening day, so this ended up in the box with the others.

Phil and I cracked it, sipped, and we both sat back for a moment in pensive silence. I finally broke the thoughts and said “This is weird.” Phil agreed quickly, and wholeheartedly, and we both talked about it for a bit trying to figure it out. We even poured some more, trying to dive into the rum and identify the tastes. We couldn’t. Even now, sipping it again, I can’t think of a way to properly describe Pango Rhum. Sweet and smooth at 70-proof, there are definitely some mild spices in there, and at least a fruit or three. But all I keep thinking is “mango.”

Don’t get me wrong here – this is most certainly a quality product, just one that I can’t describe. The flavors in this rum are high quality – there’s no cheap artificial flavors here. The spices are mild and complement the fruitiness. The balance of those background flavors is great, but the mango dominates too much. I have to admit that it doesn’t suit my tastes, and didn’t suit Phil’s, but this is not unexpected with such a unique product. If you get a chance, try it, but I can’t recommend buying a bottle.

Santa Teresa Rhum Orange Liqueur
This is another rum that I got in NYC last fall. As you might know by now, I love orange liqueurs, and this makes #14 or #15 or something mildly ridiculous like that. Initial smells showed a lot of orange flavor, almost no rum, and a good deal of sweetness comes through. The orange is strong, but not quite to the level of some of the bitter-orange liqueurs that I have. It certainly does have a taste of bitter oranges, and is sweet, leaving a bit of stickiness on the lips. It’s not quite as smooth as the Senior Curacao, or so my taste-memory seems to remember. I let some linger in my mouth before swallowing, trying to get a better idea of the rum underneath, when Phil blurted out that it tasted like Chinese food.

Well, that did it for me. All i could think of was General Gao’s Chicken, and that line of thinking simply destroyed my concentration.

Whatever Phil might think, I definitely do not consider this to be any less than excellent. It’s definitely a high-quality product. I like it a lot and it’s definitely on my “Recommended” list of rums. But, due to Phil’s silly comment, my concentration was destroyed – it still is – and I can’t give this a thorough review at this time.

I do plan on re-visiting my “Orange Curacao-type” liqueurs soon, since I also managed to find some Marie Brizard Orange Curacao over the winter, and some Bols. I only had 3 “Orange Curacaos” when I did my Orange Liqueur Throwdown review a year ago, and I know have 7 it seems. An “Orange Curacao Throwdown” is imminent.

Temptryst Cherrywood Reserve
I tasted this rum last fall, and gave it a quick review in an early post, A Rum Tasting at the Desmond Aloha Lounge, but Phil had never tried it so I brought it up for him to try. Tasting this rum after trying all those flavored ones was not the correct thing to do, though. All those varying tastes threw off our palates, and we had a hard time diving into it to discover all its nuances. There is no doubt that this is a superlative rum, but saying more than that would not be fair. This needs a proper tasting with a clean palate, and I will certainly return to it soon since I truly love this stuff.

In The Upcoming Week Or Two…
I have many other posts floating around in my head right now, and a lot of notes to go through. It’s actually been over 2 weeks since Rum Season 2008 actually Started, and I have a lot to cover. I’ve made Orgeat, Passion Fruit Syrup, Rock Candy Syrup, several Grog Log drinks. I bought some new bar tools, started a serious expedition trying to find my perfect Mai Tai, and I’m sure I’m forgetting 2 or 3 smaller things right now. I’ll do my best to cover this stuff this week… Hopefully.

Forum Love

I spend a decent amount of my free time perusing several forums, chatting with others and posting occasional experiments and comparisons that don’t make it here. Of course, I get a lot of info and insight from other posters in these forums. And they’re often used for research when I desire info beyond a single person’s opinion. Google, including its Blog Search, is great to find an opinion or recipe or a point of info, but generally such a search yields information from one person’s point of view. Forums, on the other hand, can contains discussions between many people, and this set of opinions and info will often produce much more insight into the subject at hand. This is balanced – sometimes – by what might seem to be a lack of “expertise” of the posters. Not all experts write books or blogs though, and I’ve often been astounded by the knowledge found.

Though I do frequent a number of forums, I’ll present the spirit- and cocktail-related ones here.

Rum Lovers @ the Ministry of Rum
Started by the Minister of Rum, Ed Hamilton, this site is the preeminent site for the discussion of my favorite spirit, rum. For many years Ed posted in a rum-dedicated subforum on eGullet, but a recent change merged the Rum subforum into the Spirits & Cocktails subforum. This sparked Ed to create an entire site to the discussion of rum. Quite a few folks – experts & enthusiast alike – frequent this site now, covering all aspects of rum and types of rum. The passion for rum is quite palpable at all times.

Refined Vices
These forums lie behind the rum review blog of a gentleman who calls himself Count Silvio, and delves into the finer spirits in the whiskey and rum world, with some emphasis placed on brandy and cigars, too. Though quite new at the time of this writing this site has already attracted a number of rum enthusiasts from all over the world. Of particular interest are the opinions of others concerning the pairing of cigars with both rums and whiskeys.

Tiki Central
This is a site for all things Tiki, from the lifestyle and restaurants and music and crafts. But this place holds another special place for me, since their Food and Drinks subforum contains not only info about rum but also a wealth of details on some of the more exotic ingredients that can be found in tiki drinks and other cocktails. Discussions of orgeat, passionfruit syrup, pimento liquer and falernum abound, and many of these discuss homemade versions. These threads can get quite long as many folks here dive deep into such ingredients and all their aspects. Many discussions about liqueurs exist here, too. There are numerous posts comparing cordials such as Curacao and Triple Sec, and even details about subjects like simple syrups with details on the various types of sugar. There is a ton of expertise within this forum, and detailed explanations of the homemade experiments provide a wealth of information and insight.

eGullet’s Spirits & Cocktails
This subforum within the eGullet umbrella covers all aspects of spirits, from the liquors themselves to cocktails and all the possible ingredients. The forum is visited by a slew of true experts – mixologists, cocktailians, bartenders and enthusiasts – and the discussions can dive quite deep into any given subject revolving around spirits. This is a great site for researching vintage cocktails and ingredients, or digging into a particular spirit. One thread about absinthe has been going for over 5 years, with more than 350 posts. This is the ultimate discussion place for all spirits.

Chowhounds Spirits Forum
Though a bit slow with new threads – less than 10 day on average – I appreciate this site because it often gets into local details due its large number of regionalized forums. Looking for an odd liquor in Seattle or Texas? You’ll probably get a few locations in reply. These localized discussion groups are also a great place to find the great bars in your area, or even the gourmet found stores which might stock a particular ingredient.

Drinkboy’s Community at MSN Groups
This is a collection of forums started by Robert Hess. Compared to eGullet’s forums, this site is much slower getting posts but contains much of the same type of info. Subforums break up the information into a variety of subjects, from bar equipment to bitters to spirits and cocktails. While this site is not frequented as often as the eGullet, note that the Bitters forum has over 400 posts discussing various types of bitters. This yields a great deal of information about a specific subject.

Am I Missing Any?
Do you know of any other spirits-related discussion forums that I’m missing? If so, please let me know! Leave a comment with a link with some info. I’m always looking for more good discussion groups.

Reminder – Pittsburgh Whiskey Festival (with rum, too)

Just a reminder that the Pittsburgh Whiskey Festival is tomorrow night, from 6:00 to 9:00 in the West Club Lounge at Heinz Field.

They say there will be rums. That’s a good thing.

I know that Clement and J. M. Rhums will be there. Say hello to Ben (he’s the tall fellow) and ask for a Ti Punch if he’s making them. A bit of simple syrup, a lime wedge, some ice and a healthy splash of agricole. Simple, but a fantastic way to enjoy agricole, and an absolute must if you’ve never had agricole. If you’re lucky, they’ll have the Rhum J. M. 1997, an aged agricole that rivals the finest cognacs in complexity. This rhum was one of the hits at the Rum Fest in New York City a couple weeks ago. Very highly recommended.

Zaya will be there also. This is one of my favorite rums and is simply fantastic. This Guatemalan rum is slightly sweet, rich with flavor, and aged 12 years. Delicious.

The festival will also include a boatload of whiskeys, along with a smattering of bourbons, ryes, brandies, and vodka. The food menu looks quite nice, too.

It looks like quite a shindig. I just wish it wasn’t a 10-hour drive…

Rum Field Training

Just passing along some info about a good thing… I wish I could make this event! Somebody go and have a good time for me, please?

RUM FIELD TRAINING SCHOOL OFFERS ONE-DAY COURSE AND TASTING WITH LOCAL RUM EXPERT AND VISIT TO OLD NEW ORLEANS RUM DISTILLERY

NEW ORLEANS – October 8, 2007 – Tales of the Cocktail, with support from The Museum of the American Cocktail, presents a one-day rum course and tasting titled The Rum Field Training School, on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 11:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. The course includes a historical review of rum by local author Wayne Curtis and a tour of the Celebration Distillery, makers of award-winning Old New Orleans Rum. Tickets are $150 per person and can be purchased at www.TalesoftheCocktail.com or at 504-558-1840. The course has a 30-person maximum.

The Rum Field Training School is a one-day boot camp dedicated to understanding everything about rum – its raucous role in American history, how it is made, how geography and aging alters how it tastes, and how to drink it: straight up, in cocktails, and paired with food.

Rum was once the drink of the disreputable, but Wayne Curtis affirms that the spirit is today appreciated by true connoisseurs. The author of “And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails,” Curtis will begin the Rum Field Training at the Swizzle Stick Bar at Café Adelaide, 300 Poydras Street with an introduction to the spirit while students enjoy a welcome punch crafted by Curtis and Swizzle Stick bar chef Lu Brow.

“I think people will be surprised at how complex and versatile rum can be in mixing contemporary cocktails,” says Curtis. “And compared to the high prices for premium scotches and bourbons, rum offers outstanding value for buyers in today’s market.”

Next, students will board a luxury bus for a short trip to the Celebration Distillery, makers of award-winning Old New Oleans Rum, where Wayne will set the stage with a capsule history of 350 years of rum history. Ben Gersh, general manager of Old New Orleans Rum, will then take his guests step by step through the processing of making fine rum. Everyone will receive a signed bottle of the newly released Old New Orleans Spice Rum, a timely spirit for the holidays.

The course ends back at Cafe Adelaide for a spirited lunch paired with rum cocktails. Drinks will be specially prepared by nationally noted bar chef Lu Brow who will share her expertise on making three rum-based cocktails for the holidays. Guests will also receive a signed copy of Curtis’s “And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails,”

The lunch menu will include the Adelaide Spinach Salad with island spiced pecans, goats cheese, shaved red onions and Nueskes bacon-molasses vinaigrette, paired with the New Orleans original lime daiquiri. The next course, Walker’s Wood Jerked Bob White Quail with mango-braised cabbage, smoked pork dressing and tobacco rum syrup will be paired with a Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail. Dessert is a West Indies Rum Cake featuring Hawaiian Gold pineapple, drunken raisins and vanilla bean ice cream and will be paired with the Between the Sheets cocktail.

For more information on The Rum Field Training School on Dec. 8, contact Ann Rogers at 504-343-4285 or visit www.TalesoftheCocktail.com.

Tales of the Cocktail, a culinary and cocktail festival, takes place July 16-20, 2008. Featuring award-winning mixologists, authors, bartenders, chefs and designers, Tales of the Cocktail takes place in the New Orleans French Quarter with five days of cocktail events such as dinner-pairings, cocktail demos and tastings, seminars, mixing competitions, design expos, book-signings and much more. Visit www.TalesoftheCocktail.com and register your name to receive email updates and ticket-sales announcements and view the exciting line-up of events and celebrity presenters for 2008.

The Museum of the American Cocktail is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education in mixology and preserving the rich history of the American cocktail. The museum’s goal is to establish a museum and tourist attraction in downtown New Orleans that highlights the fascinating 200-year history of the cocktail, while also serving as a valuable resource for beverage professionals everywhere. For more information, visit www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org.

Rum Fest 2007, NYC

Last Monday I enjoyed Rum Fest 2007, at a little restaurant called Valbella in the Garment District of New York City. This is a very nice little 2-story restaurant that was dedicated to rum for the night, with about 15 tables set up displaying about 50 rums from over 20 distilleries. I had managed to “convince” about ten other friends to go, too, and we devoured the scene quickly and dove right into the rums for the next 4 hours.

I stopped briefly at the first table, Gosling’s, but they were a little crowded as a few of my friends were sampling Dark & Stormies. I’m quite familiar with all the Gosling rums, so I passed them over for now, but did sample the Sea Wynde. I’ve heard a lot of bad stuff about this rum, but the taste surprised me since it was much better than the stories had led me to believe. It was a bit dry, with a lot of subtleties, and smoother than its 92 proof would have had me believe. I’ll have to put this on my list of rums to get since it deserves a more concentrated tasting.

I turned to find the Zacapa/Botran table and jumped over to sample the Botran Solera and talk with Ray who was working the table. But working is too harsh of a word, since the Zacapa and Botran lines sell themselves and Ray was mixing some drinks and chatting with ease. The Solera, by the way, was one of the finest rums at the event and I can’t wait to get a bottle. (I’m stunned at the price – $30! What a great rum for this price!) I also tried the Botran 12-year-old, which is very nice indeed, and makes me realize that I need to go back and try the 8-year-old again which I did not care for the first time around. The Zacapa 23-year-old remains my favorite rum, and Ray gave me a little good-natured grief for comparing it to Zaya in an older post. Even though the two are close, I always recommend the Zacapa to folks. Always.

I bounced over to the JM/Clement table for a bit and chatted with Ben Jones, who made me a fantastic Ti Punch with the JM Blanc. This is a very fine agricole and the Ti Punch is a perfect little cocktail to show it off. I also sampled the JM Rhum Vieux 1997, which I had tried some months ago at an agricole tasting hosted by Ben. I remembered it being delicious then, but when I found it at a local liquor store I was turned back by the $85 price tag. I knew it was good, but is it that good? After my second taste at the Fest I knew that I had to get a bottle, and luckily I found it locally for $70. This truly is a fantastic rhum full of luscious subtleties on par with great cognacs. I dragged several of my friends over to try it, and we all agreed that it was simply wonderful.

By this time the place was crowded, and I simply spun around looking for a relatively quiet table. There wasn’t one, so I became a sheep and allowed the crowd to push me along. Which was fine with me because I was like a lost child in a candy store, and it all looked good.

I think that I ended up at the Cabana table next, a cachaca that I found rather plain. There were a couple other cachacas at the event – Sagatiba and Boca Loca. I felt the Boca Loca was the best of the group since it had more of the fruit & floral tones typical to a cachaca whereas the Cabana and Sagatiba were both a couple steps closer to vodka due to their multiple distillations. The Boca Loca will have to go on my list and get compared to the Fazenda Ma De Ouro and Beleza Pura. A quick check shows that it is probably not available in Massachusetts, so I’m happy that the event’s goodie bag included a mini.

Joe grabbed me at that point. Joe had tried the Cockspur 12 for the first time the night before and had loved it so he brought me over to the Cockspur table where I was able to speak with Rob from Cockspur, USA. Rob had sent me a couple bottles of Cockspur and I was glad to meet him and thank him since I had put them both to good use in the tastings I had done recently. I tried their Rum Punch, with a touch of Cockspur 12 on top per Rob’s recommendation, and loved the fact that they managed to make a pre-mix that tasted very natural and quite good. Later in the night I had Kaiser Penguin try it, and I though he agreed with everything I said I knew he would rather have had a fresh-made cocktail.

I bounced around quite a bit, traveling from table to table and sampling anything that looked interesting. I tried the Flor De Cana 12- and 18-year-old rums, and they were both excellent. Flor De Cana makes a fine rum throughout their entire range, and they were prepared to show off every one of their products. I passed up the 21 since I have a bottle, and made a note to get my hands on the 12- and 18-year-olds for my collection. (As a side note, I tried the 7-year-old the other day and was extremely pleased with that, too. It’s a very nice line of rums.)

Even though I had missed several tables, by this time the downstairs section was quite crowded and I bolted upstairs which was much quieter. I found the Bar-Sol Pisco table and tried some. Though not a rum they were attending due to the Latin nature of the event. I found the Pisco to be interested, and even learned how to pronounce it (Pee-sco, not piss-co).

Depaz agricole was up here, and it was very good but I’ll have to admit that it beginning to be difficult to pay attention. I have a bottle at home, so I’ll have to make a note to do a full review. I also tried their Cane Syrup, which is quite good. But I didn’t catch anything exciting about it, and I have to wonder how it would fair next to the simple syrup I make using evaporated cane sugar. I’ll have to grab a bottle some day and compare.

I sampled the Hudson River Rum, which I didn’t care for due to its smokiness. I simply don’t care for overly-smoky tastes in my spirits, which may be a reason why I don’t like whiskey, Scotch, or many bourbons. I also find it to be extremely expensive, at $40 for a 375ml.

I overhead an English gentleman say something about his book, and asked if he happened to be Ian Williams (author of Rum: A Social And Sociable History Of The Real Spirit of 1776, a very good book and highly recommended). He was indeed the author, which was a pleasant surprise. We talked about rum history and rum books for a bit, and – of course – rum. At one point the conversation drifted towards Mount Gay, and I mentioned my new-found lack of desire for it after comparing it against some other gold rums. He recommended trying it with a touch of lime, which would open it up a bit. I’ll have to give that a try some day, because Ian says so. I got the sense that I could spend a very happy night just chatting with him, but there were rums to taste, and we both had to move on.

Back downstairs I finally found the Vizcaya table had some space for another sipper, so I made my way over to try some of the rum that has some rum folks buzzing. And it was absolutely fantastic! What a great rum, and certainly one that I will put to a proper tasting soon. I had heard a lot of good things about this rum, and while that may be part of the reason why I was so enamored with it there is no doubt that this is a wonderful rum.

I then drifted over to the Khukri table, dragging Joe and Ray over to try it. Both liked it quite a bit, and then I mentioned the price – $20. Joe’s face lit up ecstatically. This is an excellent rum, one of my favorites, and probably the best bargain in sipping rums. Actually, it probably is the bargain of sipping rums, because I can’t think of any others that are as good for anywhere near the price. And this rum isn’t just about price – I tasted this from a sample bottle and easily marked it as one of my favorites, and it wasn’t until the day of Rum Fest that I found out how cheap it was when I grabbed at bottle at the New York Wine Exchange. Excellent stuff. (Seriously, buy a bottle, and if you don’t like I will refund your money. I have that much confidence in this rum.)

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur… Not just because of the rum imbibed, but there was just a lot happening.

I met Daniel Watson from Temptryst rums, and dragged a few others over to meet him since we all loved his Cherrywood Reserve the night before. I introduced Daniel and Nicole – who loved the Tropical Light since her exquisite palate was able to taste things that I could barely imagine. Nicole’s face lit up, and the two of them proceeded to discuss scorpion infusions. In case you’re thinking of trying this, note that the Black Emperor scorpion is a bit too pungent for most folks, and the Mexican Double-Pronged scorpion will give a slightly sweet, nutty flavor like hazelnuts. Though it seems crazy to do this type of infusion, it may be worth trying since it will, over time, make one fairly immune to the scorpion’s sting. (Yes, this is all true.)

I found myself at the Gosling’s table again, and asked for a Dark & Stormy. This is a very nice cocktail that’s insanely easy to make – even though I had to go begging for limes at another table since the Gosling table was out. Delicious.

I had a cocktail at the Zacapa table made with the Zacapa 23 – which might seem like a crime but the cocktail was delicious. I thought that Ray had said it was a Rum Sidecar but it may have been their Honey Martini. Either way, it was very good.

Kaiser Penguin kept reminding me how much fun I missed by not going to Tales Of The Cocktail. He especially rubbed it in when he mentioned that they always change the presentations, so it was very doubtful that something like Jeff Berry’s Tiki presentation would be seen again. Damn him. Other this these little rubs (just kidding Rick) we had a fun time all night discussing liquors – the consummate cocktail-mixer and the consummate sipper of straight liquors and liqueurs. It was quite interesting to discuss the investigation of spirits from two completely different angles. And Rick, I promise to start making more cocktails – once I really know my rums.

I had a great talk with Martiki-bird about orgeat and almonds in general. She left me a long post at Tiki Central that I have to read when I can think about it, since it contains some great info about orgeat. This means that I’ll have to make yet another batch of orgeat, but none has gone to waste yet, so it’s not a bad thing – just a time thing.

I ran into Ben from the Rum-Bar in Philadelphia, and we had a rousing, passionate talk about rum. He introduced me to Adam, another from Rum-Bar, and the three of us spent some time in our own little world discussing rums. It’s great to find other folks who are so passionate about rum. If you’re ever in Philly, give the Rum-Bar a try. These guys really know their rums.

Ypioca Cachaca was listed in the pamphlet, but I somehow missed their table. I did see a nice gift box of the 160 on the auction table… Either I was blind and didn’t see their table or they weren’t actually there.

Speaking of that, I was kinda bummed that Fazenda Mae De Ouro did not attend. That is a mighty fine cachaca and I would have dragged several folks over to taste it.

And not a single American distiller of rums attended. No Hurricane, no Prichard’s, no Rogue, no New Orleans. Bummer.