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Nottingham Forest Bar – Milan, Italy

In the middle of November 2016, The World’s 50 Best Bars website released their annual list. With New York and London strongly represented throughout the list, RumCask came across a bar in Milan called Nottingham Forest residing at number 38  (a regular since 2007!). This was of great interest as we were heading to Milan later that week anyway, and where better to have a cocktail or few?

Run by Dario Comino, this bar is known as the Cathedral of Italian bartending expression. The bar, and indeed Dario, focus on the science behind cocktails. A lovely intimate venue here with space for 20-30 people only and with a queue from the moment it opens (actually before it opens), this is not a venue to turn up late to!

Thankfully we got there 15 minutes before opening time and there were already 4 people ahead of us in the queue. We walked in and grabbed a nice cosy pair of seats with a good view of the bar. Nottingham Forest is full of wares from Dario’s travels and over 2000 bottles of spirits, an impressive showing indeed!

We were thankful as they also had an English cocktail menu, but I was forewarned it wasn’t as extensive as the native Italian version. The menu showcased a variety of different techniques used in the creation of some cocktail masterpieces which include spherification and cryogenics amongst others.

wp-1479736742379.jpgThe first cocktail was of course rum based. Well more specifically, white rhum. This was mixed with cranberry and ginger beer and was one of the Cryogenic cocktails aptly named “Chernobyl.” They use compressed CO2 which sublimates when used in a drink to pass directly from a solid to a gas, bypassing the liquid state creating white smog which they say is similar to “Merlin’s magic potions.”

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We also ordered a “Box” cocktail. This cocktail uses other senses to induce travel memories by mixing perfume and tastes in small Indian wooden cases with unusual incenses. We chose the Thai box which was vodka based and infused with passion fruit, although they had a Mandela box with liquorice infused and a Bombay box with Mango infused.

Both cocktails were beautifully presented. The Chernobyl was in a skull head glass with the cocktail bubbling throughout. The box arrived, well, in a box which the incense and a fortune cookie. As it was opened the aroma poured out and surrounded you, giving your senses an appreciation of Thailand before the first sip met your lips. A great couple of cocktails to start!

From here we had some of the complimentary nibbles and moved along to the next couple of choices. As you can imagine, we were looking forward to round 2. We decided on the “Message in a bottle” and “The Cube.”

wp-1479736746478.jpgThe message in a bottle is a cocktail in a glass bottle with a paper message on the side infused with aroma. You can place this message into the bottle to give it the authentic feel and let the aroma blend with the cocktail. Alternatively you can eat it separately from the drink and it will give you a similar experience. The options you have on the cocktail are light and fruity, medium or dry. We opted for the dry version.

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The Cube cocktail comes in a crystal cube with a pipette on the side. Before, during or after each sip, you can add a small amount of the pipette into the drink or your mouth. A little bit of work, but the result should yield a different flavour each time. A very interesting concept.

Once again the presentation was astounding when the cocktails arrived. Both looked as good as they tasted. The message for the bottle was “save the world.” A sentiment although vague, is something nobody can’t argue with. I’m sure these are usually in Italian so we appreciated the fact it was written in English. We promptly added this to the glass bottle to allow the aromas to infuse well. The dry cocktail was a nice change to the fruity Chernobyl from earlier. The Cube was miraculous in how the flavour changed after each drop of the pipette on the side. A great cocktail extremely well executed.

img_20161118_204902.jpgFour cocktails in and we had time for another one each. We decided to go off-piste and ask the bartender for something he thought we would like. A quick chat on what we liked and he had an idea of what to make. He returned with a large box that contained a couple of cocktails. He told us the picture opportunity will come the moment he opened the box and we got ready. He revealed a twist on the famous rum cocktail called the Hurricane. The twist was that it was infused with pink pepper and gentian violet via a method of sous-vide and garnished with star anise. Finally it was smoked with Marijuana. This cocktail fitted in perfectly with what we had tasted so far.

Staying with the theme of the evening, the presentation and taste of the hurricane was superb. This goes to prove as well as their set menu, they can create masterpieces on the spot to suit your taste profile. Well played Nottingham Forest, well played.

As we left the bar we saw a queue of about 30 people. Quite amazing seeing as the bar wasn’t jam packed inside. We were told this is because they limit the number of people in the bar and give you the best experience possible. They don’t rush you or even let you know there are people waiting outside. You are there to enjoy the experience, not to be rushed in and out.

Overall, Nottingham Forest clearly takes a lot of pride in all aspects of the cocktail experience for the patron. From the visual elements, to the smells and aromas, to the taste, each cocktail takes you on a journey. A journey which we will be revisiting on every trip to Milan, without fail. If you’re ever in the city, or even close, make the trip to the bar. You won’t be sorry. Just be sure not to turn up too late!

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Tia Maria – Flat White Russian

During our recent visit to The Cocktail Village in Spitalfields market during London Cocktail week, we came across a Tia Maria & The Coffee Project stand. Having missed our afternoon coffee, we thought it was a good place to start and had a quick look at the menu. After a quick glance, the choice was obvious: The Flat White Russian. Why you ask? Easy, it was the only cocktail on the menu that contained rum. The recipe in fact was:

– Jamaican Rum

– Tia Maria

– Espresso

– Demerara Sugar

– Milk

– Ice

The result was a delicious cocktail, both smooth and sweet, with a slight punch from the rum. Put it this way, we didn’t have just one!

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Aged ‘12 Year Itch’ Cocktail & RumCask Giveaway – Update 2!

Happy National Rum Month to you all!

As you may or may not know, we at RumCask have decided to age a cocktail in celebration of National Rum Month that is August. We have chosen the ‘12 Year Itch’ Cocktail. To read our first and second posts on this process of cask aging the cocktail, and the giveaway details, click here and here.

Once again a HUGE thank you to the hundreds of people who have already entered our giveaway. We have reached our target of 1500 combined followers on both Instagram and Twitter and smashed through it! We are genuinely stunned with how well this giveaway has been received. I guess there are more rum/cocktails fans out there than we realised! The winner will be selected at random online at the end of the month and then once the cocktail is ready, we will send the prize to the winner. Please keep spreading the word of the competition, there is plenty of time to still enter.

Having spent three weeks in a barrel, it’s now its time for our first taste of the cocktail. The straw worth taken from the cocktail now showcases a bigger change than before. The cocktail flavours have blended together to become softer and smoother. They seem to have blended well and the flavours now compliment each other without being too powerful. I feel this doesn’t need a huge amount of time more in the barrel. A maximum of two weeks more I think otherwise I think it may turn over-aged.

From now onwards, I will taste the cocktail more frequently to be certain it doesn’t overage. It’s a harsh task, but somebody has to do it! Stay tuned for more updates and the winner will be announced soon. Good luck to you all!

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Aged ‘12 Year Itch’ Cocktail & RumCask Giveaway! Update 1!

Happy National Rum Month to you all!

As you may or may not know, we at RumCask have decided to age a cocktail in celebration of National Rum Month that is August. We have chosen the ‘12 Year Itch’ Cocktail. To read our first post on this process of cask aging the cocktail, and the giveaway details, click here.

Firstly a HUGE thanks to the hundreds of people who have already entered. We are genuinely stunned with how well this giveaway has been received. I guess there are more rum/cocktails fans out there than we realised! The winner will be selected at random online at the end of the month and then once the cocktail is ready, we will send the prize to the winner. Please keep spreading the word of the competition, there is plenty of time to still enter.

Although a relatively simple process, there were still measures that we had to undertaken before we could age the cocktail. Once we purchased the barrel, we had to ensure it was watertight and would allow the oak to interact with the cocktail. That involved soaking the barrel in water to re-hydrate it.  Once completed, the cocktail was added and now we must wait for the barrel to do its job, as difficult as waiting is!

The cask we chose was a charred American oak barrel. It should have three effects on the cocktail. Vanilla flavour from the wood should infuse with the cocktail along with some other flavours. The second effect should be an oxidation process which will add some nutty flavour to the cocktail. The final effect is extraction. The interaction of the acidity of the cocktail and the wood produces sugars which with help to soften the flavour profile of the cocktail and smooth out the flavours and helping them meld together.

Having spent a week in a barrel, it’s now its time for our first taste of the cocktail. The straw worth taken from the cocktail now shows a small difference from a week ago. The flavours have softened slightly and seem to be merging more than before. But there is not a huge difference yet.

Thanks again to all those who have entered and look out for the second update next week!

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Aged ‘12 Year Itch’ Cocktail & RumCask Giveaway!

Happy National Rum Month to you all!

We at RumCask have decided to age a cocktail in celebration of National Rum Month that is August. Aging a cocktail used to be quite a rare practice but it started to increase in popularity recently. Barrel aging cocktails adds unique twists and dimensions. They can help to add flair to the cocktails you create at home and become a talking point at any party you may host. Generally it is agreed that cocktails which do not have fresh ingredients are the best choices for cask aging.

After much “painstaking” deliberation, we have chosen the ‘12 Year Itch’ to be cask aged. This cocktail is quite simple with just three ingredients which make it an ideal choice to be aged.

Zaya 12 Year Rum
Carpano Antica Vermouth
Fernet Branca

Over the next few weeks we will be tasting and re-tasting the cocktail to see how it starts to change until we feel it has reached its sweet spot. The cask will be rotated and various tricks will be used to try to help get the best flavours.

RumCask Giveaway!

To help celebrate National Rum Month we will be sharing our final creation. One lucky person could win 500ml of our aged 12 Year Itch cocktail. To enter the RumCask giveaway all we would like is for you to follow our Instagram and Twitter accounts and then retweet/like this post. If we reach a combined follower count of 1500 on both Twitter and Instagram, then one lucky person will be drawn at random to receive our aged cocktail!

Be patient, keep an eye out for our updates on how the cocktail is aging and follow our progress throughout the month!

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Cocktail in Focus: Zombie

The Zombie (aka Skull-Puncher) is a rum based cocktail made from various fruit,liqueurs and rums. It is claimed to have first been created in the 1930s by Donn Beach at Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Hollywood California. Alongside the Mai Tai, the Zombie is one of the most famous tiki-style cocktails.

The history of the creation of the Zombie isn’t 100% certain but the legend most commonly told is that Donn was creating a cocktail to help a hung-over customer get through a business meeting. The customer came back many days later saying the cocktail had turned him into a zombie for the entirety of his trip. Hence the name Zombie was born.

According to BeachBumBerry the recipe for this powerful cocktail is below. As you can see it has an extremely high alcoholic content, however the fruity taste helps to mask this and in Don the Beachcomber restaurant, they limit the cocktail to just two per customer.

“To make one, combine ¾ ounce fresh lime juice, ½ ounce falernum, 1 ½ ounces each gold Puerto Rican rum and gold or dark Jamaican rum, 1 ounce 151-proof Lemon Hart Demerara rum, 1 teaspoon grenadine, 6 drops Pernod, a dash of Angostura bitters, and ½ ounce Don’s mix. Put this mix in an electric blender with 6 ounces (¾ cup) crushed ice, then blend at high speeds for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a tall glass. Add ice cubes to fill. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Have a read of the link above to enjoy the wonderful story of the Beachbum quest on trying to track down the original recipe.

Due to the secrecy of the recipe today there are many variations of the Zombie throughout the world in different bars and restaurants. As a result there are a lot of imitations of the original Zombie. I am yet to confirm that I have tried the original Zombie as intended by Donn, but I have definitely had my fair share of Zombies. Why not try to mix it up yourself, or visit your local bar to get a professional to do it for you, just be sure to ask for the original!

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Cocktail In Focus: Ti’ Punch

The Ti’ Punch (pronounced “tee paunch”) is the national cocktail of Martinique and is extremely popular in the French islands in the West Indies including Guadeloupe and Haiti. The name is taken from the Creole Petit Punch and has been abbreviated over the years down to just Ti’ Punch. It is created by specifically by adding a large amount rhum agricole, with a touch of fresh lime juice and a splash of cane syrup. It must be rhum and not rum. To understand the difference between the two types please read my earlier article here. It seems this cocktail is rhum agricole’s answer to the rum based daiquiri as the two are quite similar.

One of the main differences the Ti’ Punch has with the daiquiri is the way it is mixed. It uses a unique type of swizzle stick that is usually crafted from and named after a perennial tree called the bois lele, which is native to that region of the world. This swizzle is used to dissolve all of the ingredients of the cocktail. It has a unique end to it which spreads out into five separate small sections. A bartender will usually use two hands on the stick and roll it between his palms in a fashion similar to starting a fire when mixing.

The Ti’ Punch is usually served before meals as an aperitif due to the high alcoholic strength of it. There is also a tradition known as “chacun prepare sa propre mort” which roughly translates to each prepares his own death. This is where the bartender or the host will just lay out the ingredients and the drinkers will prepare the cocktail to their own taste. I have added ice to my version of the cocktail below as I feel the ice helps to allow the flavours to meld together. However, purists agree that a real Ti’ Punch should be served without ice.

The recipe for a Ti’ Punch is (for one person);

  • 2 ounces of rhum agricole (white or aged)
  • 0.25 ounces of cane syrup
  • 1 lime wedge

Directions: In a glass add the cane syrup and squeeze of lime. Then add the rhum and a few ice ice cubes. Stir gently until all dissolved together (preferably with a bois lele) and add the lime coin garnish before enjoying!

The ingredients only help to enhance the flavour of the rhum agricole rather than overpower it. They are sourced locally and the cocktail is enjoyed by pretty much everybody who enjoys a rhum agricole. With such a wide variety of ways to add such simple ingredients, why not try a few yourselves and let us know which version you find suits you the best!

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Cocktail In Focus: The Dark ‘n’ Stormy

The Dark ‘n’ Stormy is the official cocktail of Bermuda. The cocktail’s name appeared after a sailor mixed ginger beer with the islands official rum, known as Gosling’s Black Seal sometime after the First World War. But here things get a bit more complicated. This recipe is trademark-protected by the Gosling family and is used to preserve their prestigious brand. It is extremely rare in the cocktail world to have a trademark like this. This is due to the bartending practise of adding creative touches and flairs to cocktails to make them your own. However, the trademark is only really enforced when a Dark ‘n’ stormy is advertised using a different rum.

In Bermuda in 1960, the Gosling family developed a dark and full bodied rum which is today known as Gosling’s Black Seal. Elsewhere on this tiny Island, the British Royal Navy were brewing Ginger beer. There has been no evidence as to why, but one theory is that it was done in an effort to try to wean the Navy off the large amount of rum they were consuming. They were bound to collide at some stage on the Island and according to Malcolm Gosling Jr the story was as follows;

“All the British Navy sailors were at the Royal Bermuda yacht club here in Hamilton (Bermuda’s capital city) because it was way too windy and stormy to go out to their boats“,

Gosling Jr. says. “So they were at the bar, banging back black rum and ginger beers. And one sailor — who was very drunk — asked for a black rum and ginger beer.” Malcolm pauses briefly to explain the normal way to pour a cocktail: first ice, then liquor and lastly soda. “But the bartender, seeing that this man was drunk, only served him a glass of ginger beer. The sailor then piped up, ‘Put some rum in my drink’, and when the bartender did, the rum just sat on top. So the sailor kind of looked at it for a little bit and said ‘That looks like a storm cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under’. Which was quickly followed by:  ‘Barkeep, I’ll have another Dark ‘n Stormy’.”

(Source: here)

The recipe for the Dark ‘n’ Stormy is quoted as;

2oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
6 oz. ginger beer

To create the Dark ‘n’ Stormy: In a medium/tall glass, add ice till half full. Add the Ginger Beer and then gently pour the Goslings rum on top so it floats at the top of the glass. Stir so that the mixture looks like a storm cloud. 

For more information on the how seriously the Gosling family take their patent have a look at this article from the New York Times from back in 2009.

With such a unique creation story, a colourful history and a rare trademark, there is little wonder as to why the Dark ‘n’ Stormy seems to have a lot of attention surrounding it. It’s not a bad cocktail either in case you haven’t tried it, and next time you have the opportunity to order one see how legal your version is.

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The Mount Vernon Eggnog

I know its March, and the time of year for Eggnog is a long way off yet, but it’s never too early in the year to have rum, or rum based drinks! Most of us know that Eggnog is made with either brandy, bourbon or rum. However, there is a famous recipe that the first president of the United States of America, George Washington, used. The recipe was saved from Mount Vernon’s kitchen records. The fact that George Washington was the president meant he could use nothing but the best ingredients for his version and the recipe that was found was:

“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, ½ pint rye whiskey, ½ pint Jamaica rum, ¼ pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”

Jamaica has a vast number of rums available in the market today, but which was most likely at the time? Well we at Rumcask feel that it would have most likely been an over proof white rum seeing as it was the most common rum available at that time. But what do you think?

As you can see from the recipe, the particular amounts of each liquor and almost every ingredient are mentioned, except for the number of eggs. As a result we may never know the exact recipe but it gives you plenty of chances to experiment!

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The Most Expensive Rum In The World? – Wray & Nephew’s 1940’s Rum

When I last checked (please let me know if this has changed since) Wray and Nephew owned the most expensive bottle(s) of rum in the world. Whilst there are some very expensive rums which are valued highly due to their design and style, this rum however, is the most expensive due to the quality, age and limited supply (4 bottles) remaining.

As the title suggests, this rum was bottled in 1940, over 75 years ago. It is claimed this bottle contains blends from 1915. But what happened to the supply? To answer that, we need to look into the origination of one of the most famous rum based cocktails, the Mai Tai.

Mai Tai:

There are two contradictory stories about the origination of this cocktail. I’m going to focus on the story at Trader Vic’s. Victor J. Bergeron (Vic) owned his now infamous Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland, California where he claims he invented the cocktail in 1944.

“In 1944, after success with several exotic rum drinks, I felt a new drink was needed. I was at the service bar in my Oakland restaurant. I took down a bottle of 17-year old Jamaican J. Wray Nephew rum, added fresh lime, some Orange Curacao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy syrup, and a dollop of French Orgeat, for its subtle flavour. A generous amount of shaved ice and vigorous shaking by hand produced the marriage I was after.
Half the lime shell went in for colour … I stuck in a branch of fresh mint and gave two of them to Ham and Carrie Guild, friends from Taihiti, who were there that night.
Carrie took on sip and said, “Mai Tai – Roa Ae”. In Tahitian this means “Out of this World – The Best”. Well, that was that. I named the drink “Mai Tai”.

– Victor J. Bergeron

Once Vic found his ideal blend, he was adamant not to change any part of the recipe including which rum he used. Due to the popularity of those Mai Tai’s, his institution literally came close to drinking the entire supply of that Wray and Nephew rum. To fill demand, Trader Vic’s started using a 15 year old version, but similarly this rum had its supply exhausted in a short space of time.

The last known place to sell this rum publically was the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They would make a Mai Tai with exactly the same ingredients as the original by Vic for an eye watering £750 a glass.

The remaining 1 litre bottles of the original 17 year old rum were only found recently in 2004, when Wray and Nephew took an inventory world-wide. There, they discovered the remains of a barrel with 12 unmarked bottles of this rum. Until then this particular blend was thought to be extinct. By 2007, only 4 known bottles were left and one went on display at RumFest in London.

Wray and Nephew themselves have a long history and began in 1825 in Kingston, Jamaica. J. Wary opened “The Shakespeare Tavern” that year and it grew steadily alongside Kingston itself.  J. Wray brought in his brother’s son in 1860 to run the business side of the company and retired 2 years later leaving it to his nephew Charles James Ward when he died in 1870. They have become one of Jamaica’s biggest rum exporters and are one of the oldest producer’s on the island.

The last price I found for a bottle of this particular rum was $55,000. If you do manage to get your hands on one, RumCask would be happy to swing by for a tasting!

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What Is Your Favourite Rum Based Cocktail?

a)    Daiquiri

b)    Rum Punch

c)    Mojito

d)    Other

What is a Cocktail?

The first definition appeared in Hudson, New York in 1806 in The Balance and Columbian Repository. The editor is quoted as answering:

“Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any
kind, sugar, water and bitters –
it is vulgarly called bittered sling.”

An alcoholic drink which contains a spirit or a mixture of spirits mixed with a variety of other ingredients. The term cocktail has a variety of myths and legends about how it came into existence. Rooster’s tails being used as a garnish, the colour of the first ones resembling a roosters tail, drinks being stirred with a roosters tail (my personal favourite) etc.

Daiquiri

Whatever your choice is on your favourite, it’s clear that rum’s versatility  lends itself to the ability to create a wide variety of world renowned cocktails. The Daiquiri is probably the most famous rum based cocktail in the world. There are a multitude of variations which include a wide spectrum of fruits and extra ingredients, but in my opinion after trying the original last year made by an expert, it can’t be beaten.

The story of the origin of the Daiquiri is said that in Cuba a man called  Jennings Cox was entertaining guests one night. He was an iron miner on the island and was earning a healthy profit. Whilst entertaining those guests, he ran out of the gin he was accustomed to and he went to the nearest shop and purchased the easiest liquor he could find in bulk, rum. He added what ingredients he had at his residence to the rum to try to make it more drinkable as the white rum of the day was harsh and unforgiving. Those were lemon, sugar, water and ice. The drink went down a treat with his guests and they wanted to know what it was called. As he had just made it up, he decided to call it the Daiquiri after the nearby beach.

To make the original Daiquiri bartenders use the rhyme, one of sour (lemon), two of sweet (sugar), three of strong (rum) and four of weak (water). After it was introduced into America, as all good bartenders do, twists and alterations were added to the cocktail to create the variety of Daiquiris that are available globally. Next time you order one, ask for the original if you haven’t tried it, and maybe even recite the rhyme to the bartender as a conversation starter!

Rum Punch

As many people know, punch is a term that is used for a mixture of drinks. Usually these contain fruit juice and/or fruit pieces. There are a number of different rum punches out there. Usually rum punch is quite common amongst the younger drinkers. This is because they can be made with cheaper ingredients and has the ability to mask very high alcohol content. However they also can, and in my opinion should, be treated as a refreshing and tasty cocktail, drunk sparingly to be enjoyed. Rum Punch was created by sailors travelling to the Caribbean. Any beer/wine and other alcoholic drinks they took with them, turned rancid by the time they landed and rather than complain, they decided to become resourceful and use the local ingredients and meld them together with the local spirit to create something drinkable. They added bitters and nutmeg which are also found locally.

One of my favourite is Planter’s Rum Punch. This was invented at the bar of the Planters House Hotel in St Louis Missouri. The recipe for this particular punch differs and usually contains a mixture of rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, lemon juice, grenadine, curacao, soda water, cayenne pepper and Angostura bitters.

Mojito

The Mojito is a world renowned rum cocktail similar to the Daiquiri. However, unlike the Daiquiri, its original recipe still is the most popular and widely used. The five ingredients are white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water and mint (bruised not shredded). These are mashed together using a muddler and topped with crushed ice.

The birth of the Mojito is still subject to debate. One version says it was created from local ingredients and used as a treatment for scurvy and dysentery. The sugar and mint were helpful in hading the harshness of the unfiltered rum. The other version says it was created by slaves who worked in Cuban sugar fields.

My favourite of these three purely depends on where I am. I love a rum punch in the Caribbean on a white sandy beach. I love an original Daiquiri in the summer in the city as a cooler. I love the Mojito as a bookend drink on a night out. An excellent start or finish to the night, whatever the hour!

I know there are other rum based cocktails out there. The Mai Tai, Dark and Stormy, Rum Based Old Fashioned etc. Leave a comment on what is your favourite, or your favourite twist on a classic cocktail and next time you’re in a bar, why not ask your bartender where he thinks the term cocktail comes from?