People are always trying to find what’s “next” in spirits. Whiskey is locked into its heyday. Tequila has overcome the fake amber stuff we shot in college. Minnesotans have decided to be “nice” about the smoke of mezcal. Sherry may never fully bloom here. My money says the next big spirits boom will come when the public discovers the not-sweet, not-spiced world of quality, well-made rum. But if you want to get ahead of the curve and be cool before it’s cool, you can jump straight to rhum.
While molasses and sugarcane-based distillates are long overdue for redemption, there are many obstacles facing rum’s return to greatness. Many bars default to astringent white rums that are borderline undrinkable without a cola companion and that leads drinkers to believe that rum must be spiced or sweetened in order to be tasty. But that’s certainly not the case—there are extraordinary amounts of delicious, not-too-sweet, quality rums being produced everywhere sugar is available. And once the public is ready for rum’s comeback, it won’t be long until the grand arrival of its funky French cousin.
“Hi, I’m sorry, but there’s an ‘h’ in my rum.”
Rhum, the French spelling of rum, is the shortened name for rhum agricole, a spirit that originated in the French West Indies (primarily Martinique) and is made from distilling the fermented juice pressed from sugarcane stalks. Rhum agricole is said to highlight the terroir of its production because it utilizes the natural, local yeasts in the fermentation process. Rhum, especially unaged rhums, vary in flavor from bright, grassy, and funky to earthy, strong, and gritty. This range can provide complexity and depth appealing to drinkers of all types of spirits.
Traditions around drinking rhum agricole go back to one cocktail: Ti’ Punch. The cocktail, alive and well to this day, is traditionally a room-temperature morning-time mixture of 100 proof agricole rhum, sugarcane reduction syrup, and a lime coin given to the recipient as separate components in a “some assembly required” fashion. The customary toast is as ominous as they come: “Chacun prépare sa propre mort,” meaning “each prepares their own death.” While these customs seem intense, this delightfully simple and delicious cocktail softens the edges of the high-proof rhum and accentuates the refreshing, complex flavors.
The Ti’ Punch has inspired many variations but isn’t the only cocktail available for rhum. We are all ready to sit on patios sipping something unique, refreshing, and interesting, and the vibrant, green nature of this spirit makes it a bartender’s best friend for summer cocktails. Take a chance and let your favorite craft bartender try out an easier-going recipe to help you fall in love with this spirit category. You will instantly gain some cool points for knowing to order the next cool spirit.
Recipe for Changes Loom(ing)
A globally inspired flavor combination with a couple of local twists
2 ounces Clément Premiére Canne
¼ ounce Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit
¼ ounce sugar syrup (2:1)
1 dropper Dashfire Lime Bitters
Loomi (black lime) powder
Rim glass with sugar syrup and then dust with loomi powder. Build ingredients in glass at room temperature and stir to combine. Cut lime coin, express it over the glass, drop it in, and serve.