Grind Time: Lucky Belly hosts rum lunch
BY JASON GENEGABUS / firstname.lastname@example.org
Popular Chinatown restaurant Lucky Belly was the destination this week for handful of local bartenders, liquor industry sales reps and spirits nerds fortunate enough to hear about “Rummage,” a Cruzan Rum tasting and family-style lunch hosted by the Hawaii Chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild on Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Along with USBG Hawaii president (and Pint & Jigger owner) Dave Newman, Beam Inc. Hawaii state manager Bryan Hansen led the group through a tasting of eight different types of Cruzan currently available in Hawaii.
Part educational seminar and part sales pitch, Hansen did his typically thorough job of pointing out the competitive advantages offered by the spirits in his portfolio while also entertaining the room with (sometimes stale) jokes and stories about his own liquor adventures.
Here are the rums poured on Wednesday, in order of their placement on our tasting mats:
1) Cruzan Aged Light Rum
2) Cruzan Aged Dark Rum
3) Cruzan Estate Diamond Light Rum
4) Cruzan Estate Diamond Dark Rum
5) Cruzan Single Barrel Rum
6) Cruzan Mango Light Rum
7) Cruzan Spiced Rum
8) Cruzan Black Strap Rum
One of the best parts of USBG events is the “welcome cocktail” poured for guests before things get underway. This time around, The WAITIKI 7 co-founder and Hawaii Youth Symphony director Randy Wong — a former working barman himself — contributed one of his favorite tiki cocktail recipes to share with those in attendance.
The Nui Nui, originally developed by Donn “Don the Beachcomber” Beach in California, was a notoriously difficult drink to copy for many years. Beach kept some of his ingredients a secret, making it hard for other bartenders to recreate his cocktails. Eventually it was Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, another mixologist and tiki drink connoisseur, who cracked the secret recipe.
Wong’s version of the cocktail stuck to the classic flavor profile, combining Cruzan Dark, Cruzan Single Barrel, orange and lime juices, cinnamon syrup and a mixture of vanilla bean syrup and allspice liqueur that was shaken and served over ice with an orange peel garnish.
I don’t typically drink much rum, so it was fun to hear Hansen share the history of Cruzan in St. Croix — where a lot of other distilleries now operate as well, all using sugar sourced from Guatemala. Cruzan takes pride in using all natural ingredients and relying on its spirits’ aging in used oak barrels to provide additional depth of flavor and a rich amber color.
Another perk that comes with being around Hansen is his ability to acquire some of the more unique ingredients used to make various liquors. In the case of Cruzan, he had a number of sample bottles containing different products used in the process of creating their different rums.
For example, fusel oils (also referred to as fusel alcohols) are a component of rum that Cruzan strives to remove from its finished product. While other distilleries might leave fusel oils in their distillate, the strong antiseptic taste the oils leave behind is often considered the mark of an inferior product.
Of the eight rums we tasted, my favorites were the Single Barrel, Estate Diamond Dark and Black Strap. The most enjoyable part about drinking rum, for me anyway, is trying to discern its molasses flavor, so older and darker rums tend to appeal more to me.
The Cruzan Estate Diamond Dark, made with rum from barrels aged for at least five years, was mighty tasty when served neat, but as we tasted in the Nui Nui served earlier, also stood up well when mixed into a cocktail. The sweetness I tasted in that rum couldn’t compare, however, to the flavor of the Black Strap — and for good reason, since that rum is made by adding pure molasses to barrels of Cruzan Light.
And as a faithful bourbon drinker, I absolutely loved sipping on the Single Barrel. The requisite sweetness present in the liquor was complemented nicely by oak flavors imparted during the barrel’s aging process. A glass of this with some root beer or Dr. Pepper on the side would be a most excellent way to spend a lazy afternoon.
Once the tasting was finished, we were invited to stick around for a family-style lunch featuring some of Lucky Belly’s more popular menu items, plus a few off-menu dishes created just for us.
Interested in checking out future seminars offered by the USBG Hawaii Chapter? Membership costs $100 per year and is open to current and former working bartenders, current barbacks and bar managers, and those who share “a passion for cocktails and/or bartending, regardless of their profession.”
Along with a variety of online education and networking resources, members receive complimentary invitations to monthly tastings and seminars like this week’s Cruzan lunch (non-members can expect to pay between $25 and $50 per event). To sign up, visit the USBG website.
“Grind Time” is always looking for the latest places to get your grub on. Email Jason Genegabus with restaurant, bar or any other food/drink-related item at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.