Archive for Written by Pascal Pone

Rum wisdom

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 18/04/2013 by mixanddream

ImageAll categories of Rum know a huge sales revival. It’s a fact that bartenders, can’t ignore. In this article I will not extend historical knowledge on Rum, as this spirit has a long story, related to much slave trade, colonisation of the Caribbean’s, treachery and revolution. I would like to give everybody a hint of what were rum cocktails before they were associated with oversweet frozen daiquiris, fruity mojitos and sacrilege Mai tai’s. There was a life a MUCH better one for rum before Pina coladas and tikis.

For those who think, ”I can’t do rum” I’m guessing you think that for the main reason of it being, because of a really rough binge session back in your teenage day with a cheap rum. Or just a bad experience with a catastrophic repetition of over diluted mojitos in a random boozer. Take a second to think again, Rum is like whisky, there’s just as many different types, with completely different flavour profiles, complexity, richness and smoothness. But you can’t really compare a light crisp Cuban rum, really briefly aged, with a good old rich and smooth Nicaraguan vintage. If the AOC rum agricole de Martinique is high proof crisp and vegetal, the Guatemalan rums will be more on the fruitier, caramel, spicier side.

Unlike many would think, pretty much all types of rum can be mixed. If the light un-aged ones are ok to be mixed with pretty much any juice, the life changing cocktails, will be made with old rums, and simple ingredients, warm liqueurs, bitters, vermouth…

Rum has been used to prepare what is one of the oldest cocktails still made today in modern cocktail bars. The Grog, consists of rum and water, sometimes lemon or lime, with nutmeg or cinnamon.  This was introduced in the British Royal Navy, in the middle of the 18th century. The idea is pretty much essence of the cocktail. Take a spirit, too strong and possibly too rough and dilute it down to improve the taste and lower the strength. Molasses were soon added. We’re not talking about Zacapa solera, we’re talking about proper pirate booze, roughly distilled, poorly aged and stored, possibly macerated with a couple of dead mice.  Sailors had a daily allowance of rum, originally half a pint, twice a day. Diluting it down was meant to reduce drunkenness on board and the indiscipline related to it.

 This is pretty much how everything started. This laid the bases for the mojito and the daiquiri, and then plethora of cocktails. A mix of hot sun, hard work, and a justified need of intoxication led the inventors of these drinks to blend the ingredients needed to create these recipes that have lived thru the ages.

So as we go on, if you are looking for something different than sugar rum and water, no need to drown yourself into gallons of juices and coconut cream. Before the tiki and the disco era were born, rum had a life. Fairly easy to obtain during prohibition thanks to the rum runners, and still accessible in Cuba for the drunks that were wealthy enough to afford the trip to imbibe despite their homeland regulations, it is the base of many incredibly tasty classics, that are mostly forgotten these days. We owe to prohibition a series of relatively simple drinks such as:

The Mary Pickford, created by a Cuban bartender for the American actress pioneering silent movie (the cheeky little bugger had now set the base on how to easily impress a female customer, we all have named a drink after a fit patron ourselves). Rum, pineapple juice maraschino and grenadine.Image

El Presidente, 4:2:1:0,5 slightly aged rum, red vermouth, Curacao (less sweet than triple sec), grenadine (home made please), created by one of these American bartenders who fled the Great ExperimentImage

Nacional special, again, slightly aged rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, simple syrup, apricot brandy (4:2:1:1:0,5), and again, created by another Yankee bartender in CubaImage

Maybe among my personal favourites, The papa doble, or Hemingway Daiquiri, or Daiquiri #3, according to personal researches (not so pushed), 99% of people ordering this drink will be bartenders. Created for Ernest Hemingway, famous alcoholic bipolar diabetic regular at La Floridita, what a legendary chap. The guy wouldn’t have any sugar in his daiquiris, and liked it stronger and bitterer. It is really important that you use freshly squeezed juices on this one. If you wonder what your Mexican elbow is there for, it’s time to use it. White Cuban rum, freshly squeezed grapefruit and lime juice, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur.  Please report any bartender that you see adding sugar to it.Image

We could talk all night long about prohibition rum drinks, but that’s not the (main) point. I am just trying to awake you curiosity on drinks that you might not think of ordering or recommending. I like to compare these drinks to the good old vinyl records that you rediscover in your dads collection. Would you rather listen to 1D, or a good old Joe Cocker? Exactly. Remember, if these drinks survived the 18th amendment and are still enjoyed today, they must be somehow good.





Secrets of Rye!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 03/04/2013 by mixanddream

As in every single industry, there are trends in the bar life that develops and disappear every year. Some will last weeks, some years, some will be a proper rebirth. I’m talking here about home-made bitters, flavoured vodkas, barrel aged cocktails and so on… Some are not new. Some are rediscoveries. And I am talking here about… Rye Whiskey! Until a couple of years ago, not many bartenders would have been able to talk you through the upsell of your Manhattan to a rye. As we know, until early 2000’s, it was hard to get a proper Manhattan, including bitters. It’s only been about 10 years that bartenders came back to respecting traditional old school recipes, and using rye, as the originally prescribed.Image

So a quick analyse of this return to Rye whiskeys. The interesting flavour profile developed by the darker cereal is a reason good enough. But, as cocktail bars are opening every month all around the biggest cities in the world, there are more and more true, professional bartenders, with real skills and proper knowledge .Concurrence is around the corner, and you need to make a difference in your products, and chat. The return to old recipes, the respect of traditions long lost, and the clear (and justified) will to show off the skills (come on, you know it’s true), partially explains the recent booming of the sales in rye. Professionals can, and will, judge a good cocktail bar (also) by the selection of Rye. On the customer point of view, it becomes easier to awake their curiosity on what is known as a “grown-ups” spirit. You know, that average Joe with his date on a Tuesday early afternoon in your bar, well, he recently understood that ordering a cosmo or a pina colada for himself will not help him marking virility points.Image

A very basic legal reminder of the legal term for Rye. There are several categories with different legal requirements for each one of them.  Rye whiskey and straight Rye don’t have geographical boundaries within the US, just like bourbon. Also, Rye whiskey needs to be distilled from a mash made of at least 51% of rye, and just like bourbons it must have been aged at least 2 years in brand new charred oak barrels. To get the appellation “straight Rye”, it must be distilled at no more than 80% ABV (160 proof), and barrelled for ageing at a strength above 62,5% ABV. This will guarantee the preservation of the flavours during distillation and the strength of the spirit after several years of ageing.  Image

Canadian Whiskeys are usually believed to be the same thing as Ryes. That is just a misunderstood. They do contain rye, but in lesser proportions. The base is usually a corn spirit then blended with another whiskey that will act as flavouring. If you do make a tasting you notice they are less challenging, not as bold as their American counter parts.

Now rye is to cereal pretty much what pepper is to seasoning. It will give these spicy notes, boldness to the spirit that makes it more interesting for expert opened palates. The regulations on distilling and ageing make everything to guarantee a fully developed flavour, and it makes a truly significant impact as an ingredient for your classics. The product is bolder, spicier, less sweet, more complex. Just as you will find the difference between a smooth grey goose wheat based vodka, and a Belvedere rye vodka, the same applies to whiskeys. Wheat and corn predominant mashes will give you softer, more approachable spirits. You can even feel the difference trying 2 different types of bourbons. Both largely corn based, but one with more wheat (Maker’s Marks) and another with more rye (Woodford’s Reserve). The difference is notable.

How to drink it:

Rye can be drunk the way you want it. A bit of ice will help opening the flavours. They usually are at a higher ABV than average, so you might want to go easy on your little taste buds. If you are to mix it, or use it in cocktails, be reasonable. Go for classics, and don’t overdo it. No need to go crazy, you want to enjoy the thing at its best. Go for classics, pre prohibition, golden age, archaic era… And just to make it clear, Manhattans are to be made with Rye. And I insist on Rye there, and even if a bourbon, or a Canadian whiskey will do, keep it as a second choice, it just won’t be the same. These classics where born like this. In fact, before the spectacularly failed noble experiment (Prohibition), Rye whiskey was THE stuff. Not only to show around your knowledge and pair of balls, but if you open any old school cocktail book, you will see it mentioned specifically. RYE, not bourbon, nor Canadian whiskey, nor whatever. RYE! For a good reason. Try a Blinker (rye, grapefruit juice, grenadine, straight up) with Canadian Club. Nothing exceptional. Now try it with Sazerac, or Russel’s reserve. Dude! You know it’s the stuff. And the stuff had issues getting back on every bar’s shelves after the Volstead Act was repealed. Well that’s what we are here for. Making sure our patrons imbibe themselves with potable poison. Educate the drinking, expand the flavour horizons…Image


Famous Amrut

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on 05/03/2013 by mixanddream

If on a cold lonely night you feel a sudden crave for a good dram of whisky, your eyes will possibly lean on a good old scotch, or why not a warm spicy bourbon, or a small batch Canadian rye. But no one yet would automatically go for an Indian bottling.


The whisky industry has gone through many trends, ups and downs, just as any other would. If it is true that there is a rise of interest in the small batches, special woods and maturing techniques, we would never imagine people pushing their curiosity towards Asia regarding the subject. (Although, India has recently reached the position of biggest consumer of whisky in the world). Fact!

Now of course India has its traditional local beverages, such as palm-based alcohol, fruit wines, and Arrack (based on the fermentation and distillation of coconut sap, or molasses). But we know colonisation brought along with ethnic massacres, religious wars and public transports, a taste for fine malts. New elites were educated with British culture and anything from the empire was luxury.  As the Brits left India, the imports of scotch became overly taxed. We are talking about over 500% of taxes on a bottle of fine single malt. As it has been proved in the past, taxes will never stop the human being from drinking.  While rich classes can afford expensive imports bottling’s, the poorer have had to satisfy themselves with blends based on neutral spirits that are distilled from fermented molasses with only a small portion consisting of traditional malt whisky, usually about 10 to 12 per cent. I know Scottish people that would rather kiss the queen than call this beverage a whisky.


 You would think “why don’t  Indians do whisky that is actual whisky?”. First, sugar cane is cheaper to produce than barley in India. The second reason would be the same as the one that gave birth to English style gin. Back in the days, when English soldiers discovered Dutch courage “Genève “on the European battlefields during the 30 years War, they came back home with the taste and addiction to it, but not quite the knowledge and hardware to produce the same spirit. When the imperialist colons left India, they didn’t really teach the art of distillation and cask maturation to their former subjects. While the first Japanese distiller had studied the art of distilling in Scotland, and brought this knowledge back to Japan in the early 1920s, the Indian population just started produced a by-product that could be as similar as possible in terms of tastes, no matter what techniques of production would be used.  Always remembering that the protectionist taxation system rends prohibitive to the masses the acquisition of fine Scottish scotches.

Recent regulations on what could be legally called scotch have encouraged development of malt whiskeys in India, also promoting the evolutions of skills. We can now find Sherry casks matured malts, or cask strength bottling’s.

One of the only brand worldwide available is Amrut. The company started liquor production just as the country was gaining its independence in 1948. This whisky is made from selected Indian barley grown at the feet of the Himalayas, mashed and distilled in small batches, and matured in oak barrels 3000feet above the sea level in Bangalore, with a tropical climate, high temperature and high humidity levels speeds the ageing process, increasing the angel’s share, which mean they are generally younger than their Gaelic counterpart. . They usually are bottled slightly above what we would be used, at 46% for the single malt. A blend of Scottish malt and Indian barley is available at 50%, while a cask strength is available at 61,8 %. Like most of Indian whiskies, Amrut is generally fruity and malty. Their selection is available in Canada, and is definitely worth trying for softer palates. Just remember never to call it scotch in front of a true Scottish gentleman if you don’t want Sean Connery to come kick your lower parts .