The Earl of Rum

 

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Photo by Susan Whitney.

The Earl of Rum

2 oz Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 dark rum
0.75 oz Earl Grey simple syrup (recipe below)
0.5 oz Savory & James Deluxe Medium Sherry Amontillado

Stir ingredients with ice, strain and serve in chilled punch glass.

Garnish with a flaming orange twist.


I’m more of a coffee than a tea drinker, but I have a weak spot for earl grey. The aroma makes my day more exciting, like a rare morning when I’ve bothered to wear perfume. As the days grow cooler, I’m inclined to make a cup in the afternoon. While sipping, my mind wanders to cocktails. The Brit’s thirst for tea was big business for the British East India Company, which had a lot of sailors to keep happy. Part of that effort involved a tradition known as the daily tot, or rum ration. Sailors, being a thirsty lot, took to making a punch by mixing their rum with sugar, citrus (typically limes) and sometimes tea. These punches and those they inspired in land lubbers back home were the primordial soup of craft cocktails.

For my tribute to these swashbuckling beverages, I bring two tablespoons of fresh, loose leaf Earl Grey tea to a boil in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup of light brown sugar. As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, I turn off the heat, let it cool, then strain out the tea leaves.

I fill a mixing glass with ice and add 1 ounce of the earl grey syrup, 1.75 ounces of Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 dark rum, and 1 oz of Savory & James Deluxe Medium Sherry Amontillado. I stir the mixture for 30 seconds to chill the drink and achieve the proper dilution. Finally, I strain the cocktail into a glass and taste it. It’s not bad, but the sherry overwhelms the tea, the rum is a bit light, and it tastes too syrupy.

For take two, I increase the rum to 2 ounces, decrease the sherry to 1/2 ounce and reduce the earl grey syrup to 3/4 ounce. The result allows the earl grey to play its part without the drink being to sweet. To add a citrus note and a little fun, I garnish it with a flamed orange twist.

I’m sure you were as impressed as I was the first time a bartender performed this little trick, but it’s not really that difficult. First, cut a thick circle of peel at least one inch in diameter off a fresh orange, pith and all. Next, light a kitchen match and hold it a few inches over your cocktail. Hold the peel a couple of inches above the match and, in a motion author and Serious Eats cocktail blogger Michael Dietsch describes as akin to snapping, twist and squeeze the peel to release its oils, which the flame will ignite. If the peel gets charred, it’s too close to the match. Next, rub the peel around the rim of the glass, then drop it into your cocktail.

Perhaps after a drink or two, you’ll feel the urge to belt out:

Way hay up she rises,
Way hay up she rises,
Way hay up she rises,
earl grey in the morning!


Earl Grey Simple Syrup

2 tbs loose leaf earl grey tea (preferred) or 2 teabags
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup water

Bring two tablespoons of fresh, loose leaf Earl Grey tea to a boil in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup of light brown sugar. As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, turn off the heat, let it cool, then strain out the tea leaves. Makes 1/2 cup. Refrigerate for up to one week.

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