Rum and Rum Cocktails
It is not known whence comes this rum word: it could be from ‘rumbustious’ (which once meant strong liquor), or from the Latin saccahrum (sugar), from a corruption of the Spanish Ron or the French Rhum, or even from the Devonian dialect ‘Rumbullion’. Under English law, it is denned as a spirit distilled from sugar cane in sugar-producing countries. Rum is widely produced throughout the world, including the West Indies. In early times Rum was a crude spirit for fortifying slaves and it earned such nicknames as ‘kill devil’. Not till the early 1700s did it gain any repute. Whilst some special Rums are produced in pot-stills, the main production is now by patent distillation on a very large scale. The alcoholic wash from which Rum is distilled is made by adding water to molasses, (by-product in the manufacture of cane sugar) which ferments rapidly. The spirit that comes from the stills is colourless and may be more or less highly flavoured, since patent distillation gives wide latitude of control in this matter. Heavy dark Rums — except for de luxe qualities produced by pot-stills — have added to them a concentrated, and highly refined and coloured, sugar distillate. Rum must be matured in wood for a minimum of three years for the British market.
Currently, light, white Rum is rapidly growing in popularity.
1 White Rum; ½ each fresh lemon juice (lime if available) and Grenadine. Shake.
Strain. Serve very cold.
White Rum ‘on the rocks’ in tall glass.
Top with Cola (some fresh lemon juice optional).
Brandy certainly derives from the Dutch brandewijn (burnt wine): ‘burning’ was once a word indicating distilling. The word covers a lot of spirits, from various bases. ‘Grape Brandy’ covers matured distillations of wine; it can come from many countries. But it is to France that we primarily look when thinking in terms of quality Brandy. Many experts rate Armagnac very highly: it is a single distillation and needs specially long ageing in wood. Production is about a quarter that of Cognac and here we come to the Brandy that most people automatically think of when the word is used.
Cognac Brandy as we understand it came into being in the seventeenth century when second distillation (to capture the ‘soul of the wine’) started. For centuries the fresh white wines of the Charente area — once a proud possession of the English throne — had been exported. As early as the fifteenth century a primitive form of low-strength distilling was used to concentrate these wines and preserve them.
The white wine from which Cognac comes is not good wine: it is harsh and strong. But it makes the finest Brandy.
As soon as the wine is made in the autumn, distilling may commence. Pot-stills of no great size are used, the type being closely regulated. The first distillation produces the brouilli (rather under 30% alcohol). This is re-distilled (the bonne chauffe) and becomes Cognac. It must not contain above 72% alcohol, and this means that plenty of flavour is carried over from the wine. Cognac is matured in oak casks in ground-floor stores called chais. Loss by evaporation, the ‘angel’s share’, runs at an average 3% a year. At the annual stock-taking, casks are topped up with Brandy from slightly newer casks, thus building up average age. In the instance of very fine Cognac, when an average cask age of about fifty years has been achieved, the Cognac will no longer improve.
This exceptional spirit is then transferred to glass containers and it can then be kept indefinitely; small quantities will be added to the finest Cognac blends sold by that particular house to improve the quality even further. (There is no such thing as ‘vintage brandy’ except for the now unusual instances where spirit is shipped a year after the vintage to mature in the importing country; in which case it may carry a year — that of the vintage. Nor does true Napoleon Cognac exist, except for rare collector’s items.)
Cognac is a closely protected word and may only be applied to brandy made in a well defined area centring on the town of the same name. The Cognac region is subdivided into the Grande Champagne, the most prestigious, the Petite Champagne, and five bigger and less important districts. Fine Champagne is not a topographical designation but a legal description of Cognac Brandy distilled from the produce of the Grande and Petite Champagnes only, with not less than 50% from the former. Quality ‘Three Star’ brandies, some having brand-names instead of stars, will be about 5 years old on average. A usual description of ‘liqueur’ Cognac is VSOP (Very Special Old Pale, or Superior), and above that most proprietors use various special names, plus accurate descriptions, like fine Champagne, for special grades. Superior grades of Cognac are obviously only to be savoured neat. They are not for:
1 each Cognac; fresh cream; crème de Cacao. Shake. Strain.
1 Cognac; ½ each lemon juice and Cointreau. Shake. Strain.
In goblet place lump of sugar with 2 dashes Angostura; 1 Cognac; top with iced Dry Champagne.