When the weather turns warm and I find myself purchasing industrial quantities of sunscreen, I also find myself ruminating on rum. Sun and rum go together like, well, like rum and Coke.
The best rum I ever tasted is also nearly impossible to find. It’s Nicaraguan slow-aged rum called Flor de CaÃ±a, and the distillery’s top-of-the-line super-premium 15-year-old rum is called Centenario 21. It’s aged for 15 years and is as subtle, sipped on the rocks or straight up, as the best velvety Cognac or Scotch you can buy. If you ever come across a bottle, don’t pass it by.
Rum in this country is undergoing a revolution of sorts, prompted by industry leader Bacardi. If you spend any time in bars or in the spirits section of liquor stores, you’ve probably noticed the rampant growth and popularity of flavored vodkas. It began with pepper, lemon and orange flavors; now vodka comes in just about every flavor imaginable. I wouldn’t be any more surprised to find curry vodka on the shelf than I was chocolate.
Well, in bars and liquor stores alike, rum makers were getting their keesters kicked by vodka manufacturers. So last year one rum mogul—Bacardi—decided to enter the fray by introducing a line of flavored rums. To be honest, this didn’t seem like such a smart idea to me. Since vodka has a mostly neutral flavor on the palate, it’s ideal for doctoring with raspberries, vanilla or whatever. But rum is another story. So I was surprised how much I enjoyed some of the flavored Bacardi rums I’ve been trying out over the past couple months. Because the Bacardi flavored rums are aged (as opposed to most vodka) the fruit flavors seem to meld better than with many flavored vodkas I’ve sampled; they are better integrated. A pleasant surprise, indeed.
The folks at Bacardi are more than happy to encourage the public to use their flavored rums for classic drinks like Cosmopolitans, previously vodka territory. But a lot of frou-frou drinks mask the flavors of Bacardi rums too much. So I suggest sipping them on the rocks, or perhaps with a spritz of soda water or ginger ale. You might be tempted, for example, to use Bacardi CÃ³co—their coconut-flavored rum—in piÃ±a coladas. And it would work nicely. But an even better summer sipper is Bacardi CÃ³co on the rocks or with just a splash of pineapple juice. Still, I have to admit I’ve toyed with the idea of mixing Bacardi CÃ³co with Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, in essence making a liquid Mounds bar.
Bacardi LimÃ³n is replete with the fragrance and flavor of Key limes, and I must admit I’ve made more than a few mojitos with the stuff. But again, the flavor is so well-blended and subtle it almost seems a shame not to simply drink it over ice. That’s not quite so true of Bacardi O, the company’s orange flavored rum. Unlike Bacardi’s other flavored rums, O seems to me to be a bit too subtle, even bland. So I’d probably use it to pump up a mimosa or maybe in orange-flavored dessert sauces.
At the other end of the spectrum is Bacardi Razz, raspberry flavored rum made with dark, sweet Marion berries. It bursts on the palate initially with sweetness, and then the tartness of Bacardi Razz comes through. I’d drink Bacardi Razz very happily with nothing more than a spritz of seltzer. And probably the most restrained and understated of Bacardi’s flavored rums is VanÃla, a very enjoyable vanilla-infused rum that would be enjoyable in an iced coffee on the porch or all by itself in a snifter.