Everyone has a rum story. Mine starts back when I was 18… but perhaps it’s not the best way to introduce a rum cocktail…? You don’t mind, do you? I married my first husband on the day after I graduated from high school. His name was Isaac and he was barely 20. I wish I could say we were high school sweethearts, but no, we met in a smoky pool hall. Of course, in the US you can’t legally drink until you’re 21. The irony of being allowed to make a such a life-changing decision without being able to think on it with a drink! We did what any responsible 18 and 20 year olds would do; we decided to spend our honeymoon in a place where we could legally have a drink to celebrate – island hopping through the Caribbean.
We jumped from Puerto Rico to Saint Martin, over to Antigua and spent a few days in Martinique before finally ending up in Barbados, which is by far my favourite Caribbean island. There we spent a week with the local rum producers on a tasting tour. Barbados is quite hilly near the centre of the island, and I remember driving up and down the winding dirt roads visiting sugarcane plantations and stopping at road-side stands to taste various small-production rums.
Now if you ask my ex-husband he’ll tell you that I am extremely prone to motion sickness. I can’t even ride in the back seat of a car, let alone the beat-up little VW van that ran the tours. Add a little rum on a hot summer afternoon in the tropics and things could only get worse from there. On our last day on the island a huge storm blew in; as we headed back to our ship we could see the black wall of clouds rolling in on the horizon. That night and the following day we were scheduled to sail back north to Puerto Rico, which took us directly into the storm. The angry sea heaved the ship from side to side violently as I lay in our cabin, the room spinning, the lightening flashing through the porthole. You can imagine the results of that combination.
For years I never touched rum, and only gingerly cooked with it, adding it to my Christmastime baking. It’s been almost 20 years now, and I’ve only just started drinking it again. And it’s a good thing, in moderation! I think rum has a bad reputation as the drunk’s drink. But a good rum has complex flavors that are worth exploring.
When I start designing a cocktail I like to taste the base spirit alone first then entwine the rest of the ingredients between its flavour complexities, much like one would weave a pattern into a blanket. For this cocktail I started with The Kraken Black Spiced Rum. It’s not too sweet on its own and has a prominent vanilla flavour which I love and I think pairs well with maple. The lemon juice tames the sweetness and the orange bitters round it out perfectly.
This cocktail is unpretentious and casual. It’s perfectly acceptable to drink it on a Tuesday evening in your PJs in the rocking chair with your grandmother’s old afghan blanket on your lap. Adjust the maple syrup to taste. Personally, I don’t care for drinks that are overly sweet so I use only a teaspoon of syrup, but that can be easily increased or decreased to your liking.
Rum Apple Cider Punch
(for 1 drink)
2 oz. The Kraken Black Spiced Rum
1 1/2 oz. apple cider
1.5 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp maple syrup
2 dashes orange bitter
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until very cold and strain into a coup glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.