Mixology Monday: Rum Kick

Darcy O'Neil :: May 7, 2006 6:36 PM

Mixology MondayBack in October 2005 there was a cocktail challenge being held for RumFest in New York. Now I like rum, but the cocktails that use rum are usually fruity or sweet concoctions, save for the Mojito, Mai Tai and Daiquiri. Well I'm sure there are a lot of great rum cocktails out there, but most people think pineapple and coconut when imagining a rum drink. I wanted to create a rum cocktail that was similar to the Manhattan, something smooth, drinkable and distinct. Common amber rum is not inherently smooth and very few people could drink it without some form of mixer, so I decided that a shot of fresh brewed cold coffee was the trick.

Coffee is a great mixer for cocktails, however most people drink their coffee hot, so a good number of coffee based cocktails are specialty coffee's. Basically you take a cup, sugar rim it, add some hot coffee, throw in a shot of Bailey's, Kahlua, Frangelico, creme de cacao or Irish whiskey and then add a big blob of whipping cream and a cherry. Also any combination of the preceding is acceptable. These aren't really cocktails but more a flavoured coffee.

There are some great coffee flavour liqueurs, such as Kahlua and Tia Maria that can be used to make some coffee hinted cocktails. But rarely are these coffee liqueurs the central point of the drink, save for the Black Russian. Coffee liqueurs are used as accents or equal members in most cocktails.

When I created the Rum Kick, I wanted the coffee to be front and centre, but with a strong kick. Many great drinks like the Manhattan and the Martini are strong drinks, that taste pretty good (I assume we are talking about a gin martini). The coffee liqueurs are decent, but overall they are too sweet for what I was looking for. Coffee on its own is slightly bitter and "dry" for lack of a better word. Basically it's like a rye whisky, slightly bitter with very limited sweetness. The trick though was to compliment the coffee flavour with spirits that wouldn't overpower the coffee.

Since it was RumFest that I was creating this drink for, I had to use a rum base. No rocket science there, but I personally think rum works very well in this cocktail. I used Cockspur rum, but Appleton VX will work, as will any decent quality aged rum. Sorry, no white or dark rum allowed in this cocktail. The second flavour was vanilla. I have an odd obsession with this flavour, I'm not sure why, but if you create a vanilla flavoured something-or-other I'll buy it. Aside from that little oddity, vanilla is actually a great flavour to work with. Bols vanilla or Navan vanilla cognac work well. The next flavour was an ever so subtle dash of cinnamon schnapps. I find cinnamon provides a tactile sensation and warmth, which gives the cocktail another level. Don't use too much, otherwise it will overpower every other flavour. This is the second original cocktail that I’ve used vanilla and cinnamon in, so it might seem familiar, but that's where the similarities end.

Finally, we add coffee. Use a good quality coffee, like Kona coffee, or a fresh roasted Sumatran and Javan coffee that has a good strong aroma. Brew the coffee medium to strong, and once it is done brewing, put it on ice to rapidly cool it. This ensures that you get the best coffee flavour possible. Bottle it and store it in your fridge. A teaspoon or two of Kahlua is also used to sweeten the drink up slightly. Just think of it as adding a teaspoon or two of sugar to your morning java fix. If you use Navan for the vanilla liqueur, you may want to cut back or skip the Kahlua as the drink may become too sweet. I originally used a dash of simple syrup, but decided that a coffee liqueur worked better. I've also added a single dash of bitters just to make the drink a little more complex.

rumkick.jpgRum Kick Cocktail

1.25 oz Appleton VX Rum
0.50 oz Bols Vanilla
1 tsp Goldschlager
1.00 oz Cold Kona Coffee
2 tsp Kahlua
dash bitters

Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a cherry and cinnamon stick.

The drink isn’t too sweet and is easily identifiable as coffee. The addition of the vanilla and cinnamon calms down the rum quite well and the whole combination makes a nice smooth drink. The litmus test for this cocktail was getting my wife to drink it without squirming and grimacing in horror at the flavour of alcohol. She’s not a big drinker (a bottle of red wine or strawberry zinfandel is more her style), but she did like this drink and had more than one sip. This is a good indicator, to me at least, that the cocktail is well balanced.

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