Mention cocktail and food matching and we’re all yours. The way that we see it is spirits come from foodie sources (agave, sugar cane, barley, malt, potatoes, wheat and we won’t even go there about the botanicals found in gin), so why shouldn’t they oust wine from the table? Not all the time, granted but when you’re looking for something a bit more left-field, a bit more challenging than a Pinot Noir or a glass of Chablis, a cocktail should definitely enter the conversation. It’s a concept that divides many a chef and bartender – some absolutely love the extra thought that goes into teasing out the flavour compounds in spirits and matching them up to mains while others say it’s an absolute no-no.
Rum brands seem to be much more willing than most to embrace the idea. To date we’ve had some spirited foodie adventures with the fabulous folk at Angostura and Zacapa 23 and last week Mount Gay were added to the mix. The team did a fantastic job familiarising us with the five expressions in its portfolio (Eclipse, the go-to house classic; Silver, the white one; Black Barrel, the new small-batch one matured in charred bourbon barrels; Extra Old, deliciously rich and aged for 8 to 15 years, and 1703 made up of rare and noteworthy barrels). All of which were sampled neat as well as being made into cool, classic cocktails to match the dishes dreamed up by the team at The Anthologist.
First up, a wonderful Fire & Ice ceviche (sushi grade tuna, coconut milk and lime citrus sauce; shaved red onions, chilli and coriander with toasted coconut – beautifully presented in a half coconut shell on ice), paired with an Oistins Sazerac made with the Black Barrel and an absinthe rinse. The aniseed notes from the absinthe matched perfectly with the fish – think slithers of crisp, fresh fennel and the party it brings to raw fish.
Then on to the main event: char-grilled churrasco fillet, chimichurri marinade, beetroot, wild rocket and caramelised fig salad served with a St. James Manhattan to keep it company. Boy, what a match. The unapologetic richness of the Mount Gay Extra Old combined with Antica Formula and a spritz of chocolate and orange oils had the depth and power to stand up to the fillet, yet was sweet enough to complement the texture and fruity goodness of the fig.
And on to pudding. By its very nature – sugar cane or rhum agricole depending on where it’s roots lie, sweet, desserty stuff is where rum comes into its own. Our toffee apple crème brulée with fudge and candied apple crisps; chocolate brownie with fresh raspberries and salted caramel ice-cream looked and tasted fantastic alongside a dinky-sized Holetown Old-Fashioned. This little beaut was reserved for the Mount Gay 1703, here blended carefully with orange bitters, sugar and ice.
Of course there were stories – rum is synonymous with conviviality after all. In between the bites, sips and laughter what did we learn?
1. Having been established in 1703 Mount Gay is the oldest existing rum brand in the world
2. Rum from Barbados rocks.
3. We absolutely love the Black Barrel expression which is currently only available in the US (dammit)
4. Rum is a natural partner to food
5. …and makes a mighty fine Manhattan.