From scotch to the no-and-low category, everybody has an opinion on the next drink to ‘do a gin’. In this series, Clinton Cawood looks at the contenders striving to follow in the footsteps of the juniper spirit and hit the big time
If rum has what it takes to make it big, as its many fans contend, it’s certainly taking its time about doing it.
‘Everyone’s been saying for years that rum is going to be the next big thing,’ confirms Bruce Govia of Fam Bar. ‘The category has been trying to clean up its act over the last few years. There are better-made products on the market now, and it’s more accessible – you’re even seeing really good rum on the high street, in supermarkets.’
This is a diverse spirit, in terms of its styles and flavour profiles, and, of course, where it can be produced – ie anywhere. But certain styles do dominate.
‘The same old sub-categories of spiced rum and white rum lead the market. They’re the kings of rum,’ says Govia. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Renewed interest in spiced, for example, has resulted in a number of recent launches, and a general increase in quality.
‘Bartenders 10 or 15 years ago would look at spiced rum and say, “No thank you”, but now there are some that are great. They’ve reduced sugar levels and made them a lot more accessible for cocktails.’
‘We’ve seen a massive increase in popularity of the Whisky Highball. Why can’t rum with soda or ginger ale be huge too?’ asks Govia.
‘Ginger beer can be too spicy for a lot of palates, but people have been aware of ginger ale in the UK for generations, and you can pick it up anywhere. It’s so much easier to drink,’ he says.
‘You can use white, spiced or aged rum for this, but you don’t want to go too aged. Between four and seven years there’s still some rum flavour, with those citrus and banana notes.’
Garnish: Wedge of lemon or orange
Method: Build in a highball glass with lots of ice.
White rum has its standout products too – fortunate when it’s the style usually called for in arguably rum’s best cocktail, the Daiquiri. According to Govia, ‘For white rum you’ve got El Dorado 3, Havana Club 3 and Plantation 3 Stars leading the way.’
Which leaves us with one major rum style, presumably brimming with untapped potential. ‘It’s harder for a new rum drinker to approach aged rum,’ admits Govia. ‘It’s tricky, because they’re more expensive, and more complex, which is why lower-age rums work. Something like Mount Gay Black Barrel is in the middle, with great fl avour, no sugar added and great mixability.’
It’s this style that really highlights rum’s accessible fl avour profi le. ‘With something like mezcal, people’s palates aren’t used to that huge smoky fl avour. But everyone’s used to citrus, banana, almond and pineapple notes.’
And these tick the boxes when it comes to price too. ‘I can experiment with them, and the cost of a drink comes out at the same as one of my house cocktails,’ he says. There’s one characteristic, however, that’s really this category’s secret weapon. ‘To me, rum is fun,’ says Govia. ‘I try to sell people on the fun aspect.’