Meet our first official Pusser’s Rum Ambassador
Why Rum? What intrigued you into the world of rum?
I like to think that it chose me! Five years ago, I became a bartender at Glady’s Caribbean – before it was a Caribbean restaurant. Six months into working there, I approached the owner with new ideas for the bar program. Unbeknownst to me – he was planning to rebrand the restaurant – which was New American at the time – into a wood fired jerk eatery with a rum focused bar.
At the time, I knew next to nothing about the category, outside of rums like Bacardi and Goslings. I was tasked with picking out 50 rums for the backbar and making a rum heavy cocktail program. In the process of developing the program, I tasted 200 or so rums, and became intrigued as I discovered that there is a wide range of flavors, styles, and flavors to choose from. As Trader Vic famously said – there is a rum for everyone – and that is what keeps me engaged and always on the hunt for new rums to try and to learn about.
What was the first rum you ever had? What was that experience like?
Smith and Cross – there was a summer where I couldn’t get enough of having Old Fashioned made with it. Mind you, as the time I had yet to start working behind the bar and I didn’t know that it was significantly stronger than most spirits in the well. I loved it – looking back, that is when the seeds for my preference for fuller flavor spirits and rums were planted. These days, I prefer rums at 50% ABV and above.
How did you make yourself knowledgeable on the history or English style rums?
I learned by a combination of reading and tasting. My favorite books on the topic combine history, information on the distilleries, production techniques, and descriptions of the rums themselves – they include Wayne Curtis’And a Bottle of Rum, Fred Minnick’s Rum Curious and Tristan Stephenson’s Curious Bartender: Rum Revolution. They cover not only how the rums taste, but how the English style rums evolved over time as changes in technology and economics influenced what distillers on the major rum producing colonies – Guyana, Barbados, and Jamaica – and how their rums influenced the the world of rum in general.
Having knowledge of history and the production methods in the back of my mind helps me to think beforehand about what to look for in a rum when I taste it, to make a bridge, so to speak, between my own personal experience and the factual information that explains why the rum tastes that way. If I know that a rum is made from a long fermented wash, then I know to pay more attention to the aromas on the nose and appreciate them. Same for the type of still, or the wood used in the aging process. That, and of course, tasting lineups of rums from the same country from made by different producers, or several rums from the same distiller produced on various types of equipment to get a deeper understanding on how some traditions and approaches to making rum have endured, while others have adapted to changes in consumer tastes over the years.
What are some interesting facts you’ve learned?
In addition to discovering that the oldest rum distilleries working today are English style and thus the best place to start for anyone who wants to explore the category, I learned that it was English style that rums put the category on the global map, with some help from British Royal Navy. Before the Admiralty begin working with contractors in the 18th century to source rums for the ration in bulk from the Caribbean to be blended, aged and stored, and in their Victualling Yards on the London Docks, rum was rarely consumed outside of the Caribbean or Americas.
It soon caught on in Europe, however, as spirits merchants working there – who at the time worked mainly with sherries, ports, and brandies – discovered that well crafted rum blends were on par with, if not superior to, the finest single malts and blended whiskies. By the 19th century, a number of these bottlers added rums to their product lines, which sold briskly and won a devoted following. In short time, middle class Londoners prefered Demerara rums over gin for their punches, Jamaican rums were especially sought after by spirits connoisseurs in northern Europe, and the firms who bottled them them – a notable example of one still in operation isCadenhead’s, who continues to put out excellent products, sold them side by side with the finest single malt and blended Scotch whiskeys – which were, incidentally, not as popular in the early days of the company as the rums!
Duncan Taylor, though a newer company, is another good example of the type of bottler who continues to work in this tradition of sourcing and selling up their own signature line of rums. It’s a practice that, while it has grown to include other categories including Mezcal has its’ roots in rum, and these firms do a fantastic job of bottling up vintages that show heritage over the years, and give a consumer’s a place to turn to when they want to experience something special from a heritage English style rum distiller.
Why Pusser’s? Is it the history, taste, process?
All of the above! As I mentioned before, it was British Navy rums that put the category on the map, and made a case for rum as a spirit that could be enjoyed by connoisseurs. Meanwhile, Pusser’s is the only rum made with the same style of distillate, and is produced on the same equipment – the only wooden pot still in operation today – that was utilized in making those rums. Anyone who wants to know what classic English rums, and the classic punches and beverages that inspired the classic cocktails we enjoy today – tastes like. Unlike a lot of brands on the market, it isn’t just inspired by history – it IS history.
How will you be celebrating Black Tot Day? Is there a BTD Cocktail you’ll be making?
I will absolutely be celebrating. I am organizing a Black Tot “Moment of Silence” (and drinking) that will take place simultaneously at 6PM EST at my favorite NYC bars that pour Pusser’s rum. Wherever we are, we will pause – and raise our glasses in unison – in honor of a tradition of rum making that we can continue to enjoy and appreciate today. As far as the cocktail goes – Gladys Caribbean, where I continue to serve as Head Purser a.k.a. Beverage Director, we will be serving up a
Gunpowder Navy Grog:
2 oz Gunpowder Proof
1 oz Don’s Mix (1:1 cinnamon syrup and honey)
¾ oz lime juice
¼ oz St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram.
I served a version of this at Ohana on The Lake this summer and it was a HUGE hit. It’s awesome on a hot day and is a Tiki version of the classic Grog served for the Navy daily rum ration
What does it mean to you to be a Pusser’s Rum Ambassador?
It means that I not only have the opportunity to educate consumers and bartenders on the brand and how to enjoy it, but also to share my knowledge and raise appreciation for English Style rums in general. In my experience, the more people understand the category overall, the more they will understand – and enjoy, rums like Pusser’s.