If you’re after a quick and refreshing sundowner, there are fewer drinks easier to throw together than a gin and tonic. The quintessential afternoon tipple, the humble G&T has been the key vehicle for the phenomenal growth in gin – both in sales and in the sheer variety of bottles available to try – over the last decade or so.
With such a strong tailwind behind it, gin has become the drink du jour, the pacesetter for trends in the world of libations. Yet coming up strongly behind it, is rum.
Where gin has a simple serve in the G&T, and a canon of cocktails such as the Martini, Negroni and French 75, rum’s power comes through having a spectrum of flavours and ageing, bringing a wide variety of choice to the bottles whose labels carry the three little letters r – u – m.
Yes, there is the devastatingly simple serve of rum and cola (one for self confessed coke addicts out there, such as Rishi Sunak), but there is also the wonderful Daiquiri, the amazing Mojito, the exotic Mai Tai, the creamy Pina Colada… these are all cocktails where rum is the star, and you simply can’t make these drinks without it.
However, because rum is so versatile as a drink, it is also a magpie when it comes to pushing other spirits out of their nests.
Take American whiskey for example. Two of the most legendary cocktails are built on a whiskey base: the Old Fashioned, and the Whiskey Sour both draw on the rich, oak and vanilla notes present in great American bourbon, or the spicy notes found in a fantastic rye whiskey.
Yet switch these out for rum, and you end up with a drink that is truly something special. Try it for yourself, and see.
Switch out your favoured bourbon in an Old Fashioned for a quality, aged dark rum such as El Dorado 12 year old, a Demerara rum from Guyana which will bring an additional level of silky richness to your drink.
For the Sour, look to Cuba and the newly released Eminente Reserva 7 Year Old. This rum, an alliance between the Cuban government and ultra-luxe French brand house LVHM, brings an incredible extra dimension to a Sour, underpinning the sweet and citrus notes with a soft tone that brings to mind the lightly toasted top of a smooth creme brûlée.
Eminente draws on its Cuban heritage to highlight another rum revolution happening in your drinks cabinet, where aged rums have Scotch and brandy in their sights, bidding to become the sipping spirit of choice, too.
Moving into the luxury cabinet
This move into the luxury world most famously occupied by single malt and Cognac, is highlighted by the launch this week of Colombian aged rum Dictador launching a limited edition 1976 vintage rum in a crystal decanter designed by famed French glass house Lalique.
From a flavour perspective, the rum chosen for this partnership certainly moves in the same circles as Cognac and Scotch, with notes of dark chocolate, rich leather and madagascan vanilla. Christened Dictador Generations En Lalique, the release is limited to just 300 bottles and will retail for £14,000 (€15,000).
All this shows that rum is the great chameleon of distilled drinks, straddling the fast-paced world of cocktails at one end with white rum, and the high-end, luxury arena of aged sipping spirits at the other; rum wears a tuxedo on the top half, while sporting ‘trackkie bottoms’ on the other, John Boyega at the Golden Globes style, without batting an eyelid.