As a cocktail hobbyist I am extremely fortunate to live near New York City – there is almost no limit on the obscure bottles you can find there, and lately some of the more anticipated bottlings, like Creme Yvette, are launched in NYC first before the rest of the country can access them. Due to arcane (inane?) liquor delivery laws, you’re generally completely screwed if you’re a cocktail enthusiast living in Nebraska, or Idaho, or even Pennsylvania or New Jersey. I happen to live in NJ but the PATH train is my transport to the land of milk, honey, and mezcal. But sometimes even I hit a wall, that occasional bottle that some distributor has the gall to not sell in NY (please note the sarcasm) and suddenly I feel the pain for my fellow enthusiasts who are left waiting for that trip to NY or San Francisco to pick up these elusive products.
One of my recent white whales has been Lemon Hart 151, a classic overproofed demerara rum used in many tiki recipes as a mixing ingredient or a float on top of the drink. Up until now I have never seen this for sale anywhere near me, but lo and behold Astor Wines was carrying a few bottles this past weekend and I scooped one up. Last night I was anxious to bust it out and try in a drink, but as always with new purchases I tasted on its own first to get a sense of the flavor and how it might be best incorporated with other ingredients. Being 151 proof, it certainly has a strong alcohol burn, but underneath that burn are sweet, rich caramel notes indicating this isn’t just Everclear-like firewater to get people ridiculously drunk at a frat party, or even something to use exclusively for tinctures or infusions, like a Bacardi 151. Not feeling like crushing a bunch of ice or hauling 10 different ingredients I did not go the tiki route, but came up with something based on a recipe I read over at Paul Clarke’s site, using the 151 as a float:
- 1.5 oz Appleton’s V/X rum
- .5 oz Carpano Antica vermouth
- .5 oz Domaine de Canton ginger liquer
- 2 dashes of Bitter Truth Old Fashioned Bitters
- 1/2 barspoon cane syrup (simple syrup made from cane sugar instead of plain white sugar)
- .25 oz Lemon Hart 151 (floated)
Stir all ingredients (except Lemon Hart) over ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass over ice. Twist an orange peel over the drink, drop it in, and then slowly pour the Lemon Hart over the back of a spoon to float on top of the drink.
I really liked this – the initial sip gives you that sweet burn of the Lemon Hart on the front-end, which in turn helps bring out the flavors of the Appleton’s and Carpano. I recently made a chili recipe where the author added a little vodka or bourbon at the very end to aromatize the rest of the flavors – the float seemed to have a similar effect. The ginger is not heavily pronounced in this drink, but the slight spiciness helps finish things off nicely. Ginger syrup or muddled fresh ginger would most likely send this drink already brimming with powerful flavors over the edge, but I guess there’s only way to find out …