Making classic Tiki drinks isn’t the easiest endeavor. When you start browsing through the drink recipes, trying to decide what to try next, you may often find yourself in short supply of a number of key ingredients. One of them is Falernum, sometimes called Velvet Falernum, which is fairly easy to make, if you can’t find a supplier. The other one is Pimento Dram, which is extremely hard to find and more difficult to make. There are a couple of good Internet resources for Pimento Dram recipes, namely Chuck Taggart’s Pimento Dram recipe. But today, I’m going to take a stab at making my own.
First, let’s clarify that Pimento Dram has nothing to do with olive stuffing. Pimento is a name for a tree, usually associated with Jamaica, that grows pimento berries, or as we like to call it, Allspice. The term Allspice stems from the fact that someone thought the dried berry had the aroma of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
If you were in New Orleans, in July, the lost ingredients session was one of the most popular with attendees and discussed this very liqueur. Unfortunately, well it wasn’t remotely unfortunate, I was busy being a rum judge at Ed Hamilton's rum competition so I didn’t make the session. But, I do subscribe to Imbibe Magazine so the July/August 2007 issue had a great write up on Forgotten Spirits, like Pimento Dram (Chuck Taggart’s recipe).
The recipe is basically an Allspice (Pimento Berry) liqueur. The key component is obviously Pimento Berries with the addition of ample sugar and rum. The rum is used as an extracting solvent to get the oils from the berry and bring them into solution. Because of the function of the rum, a high proof version is called for, usually 151 proof. You could use a neutral grain spirit also and then add some dark rum to add flavour. This is the more affordable method.
The best way to get good flavour is to use whole Pimento berries and either grind them in a coffee grinder, or crush them in a mortar and pestle. Using powdered versions from the spice rack is probably a bad idea.
The choice of sugar is probably the most controversial issue, which really isn’t an issue. Some people are using Demerara sugar, others use white sugar and some add brown sugar to “enrich” the flavour. For my first batch I’m just going to use cane sugar. It has a little more flavour than white, but not as much as the darker Demerara or molasses. Like Dr. Cocktail says; “ it should be left to the Allspice to provide the signature richness”.
Pimento Dram Starting Point
250 ml High Proof Rum
25 grams Whole Allspice
Instructions: Grind Allspice and place in a jar with high proof spirit and seal. Shake daily for 7 to 10 days.
Since I’m writing about making Pimento Dram as I go, I’ll wait to discuss how much sugar to add, since I’m not sure what the results will be at this point. I’ll write another post discussing filtering and sweetening in a week or so.
Safety Note: Some recipes found on the Internet state that you should bring the Allspice, alcohol mixture to a boil in a pot, first. Don’t do it! This is “Meth-Lab” bad. As the ethanol vaporizes it will cool very quickly, about a foot above your pot. It will then cascade down over the hot burner, or open flame, and possibly ignite, setting your whole pot of hot, high proof, rum on fire. At the very least you will loose your eyebrows, and it only gets worse from there.
Take the extra time and just steep the mixture for a few days.