Rum and I have a checkered past. Here's some of that past, categorized into the four most basic categories of Rum – White, Dark, Spiced and Overproof – in order of best experiences to worst... Or the worst that I'll admit to on the internet.
It makes a lot of sense that I learned the ways of Wray and Nephew, the flammable, 63% alcohol Jamaican white Rum in Hackney, East London. The Caribbean roots run deep in Dalston where I lived. Over my nearly 4 years there, Nuclear Daiquiris became common, and once in a blue moon, we'd even shoot it straight.
But all you need to make your Wray sing is a little Ting. For the unaware, Ting is the ultimate soft drink. Also originating in Jamaica, it is made with grapefruit juice, and when mixed with its boozy Jamaican beverage cousin, you get a Ting Wray. There is nothing more satisfying on a steamy summer Sunday in London.
My favourite Rum is Ron Zacapa, a Guatemalan dark rum that is distilled at 8000 feet above sea level, in a warehouse they call “The House Above the Clouds”. This is a spirit that is begging to be consumed straight up. However, Zacapa was the first spirit in my experience that could elevate one of the most controversial cocktail ingredients: Coca-Cola.
I'm not sure if they're still doing this, but back in the day, when you ordered a case of Ron Zacapa, you would also receive a 24 pack of Mexican Coca-Cola, the ones in the glass bottles. The flavour profile of this specific soda is different than any other Coke product because it's made with real cane sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup. In comparison, most rum is made from molasses, but Zacapa goes the extra mile and uses freshly crushed sugarcane. Some might call it blasphemous to mix such a brilliant spirit with something as base as Coca-Cola, but this combo is just about as good as anything that comes in a glass.
The Daiquiri is a telling test to see if a bartender knows what they’re doing. It's only three ingredients - lime juice, simple syrup, and white rum - so your technique has to be on point. There is nothing to hide behind.
My first Daiquiri was a disaster. Mostly because I didn't actually know how to make a Daiquiri! I thought it was basically a Margarita with Rum instead of Tequila. I had made a million Margaritas by that point, having worked for about 2 years at Mexican restaurants, but zero Daiquiris.
I was in London, and my manager/future best friend, we'll call him Jay, asked me to make him a Daiquiri. So, I made him a rum, lime, and Cointreau cocktail that totally baffled him. "Why is there orange in this?" he asked. To this day, I'm still shocked he didn't fire me on the spot, citing incompetence. Instead, het aught me how to make it properly and I've been making it the same way ever since.
I was home for Christmas break and decided that meeting up with some high school pals that I hadn't seen in a while to go legally drinking was a great idea. Honestly, this memory is so hazy that I'm not exactly sure how old I was when this happened. But I swear I didn't use a fake ID to get inside. You can probably tell where this is going…
Another one of my best buds, we'll call him Toby, was going to come also and suggested I grab a bottle of Captain Morgan to bring it to the pregame.So I did, not a full 26, but the one that's bigger than a mickey. I can't remember what it's called, but it's 375ml. Toby ended up bailing so, out of spite, I decided to drink the whole thing. With warm Diet Coke and no ice.
I must have continued drinking because the rest of that night blurs between piercing December winds slicing through my sad excuse for a jacket and the sweaty dance floor of the Brunswick House (or, as several generations of Torontonians affectionately and ironically referred to it as, The Brunny. RIP.)
The morning after I remember quite vividly because I wished I was also RIP’d. It's one of the hangovers where nothing works. Freezing and sweating on the bathroom floor, barely leaning into the toilet before puking the three tiny sips of water you managed to keep down 7 minutes ago. I somehow made it out of the house for lunch with my family, where I threw up again and consumed a total of 0.5 cans of ginger ale and four french fries.