September 2010
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Month September 2010

MxMo: Vieux Caribeño

This month’s Mixology Monday theme was fun, especially since I’ve been working with rum recipes lately, learning the history, and focusing especially on agricole.  Lime and rum have been paired flavors for centuries, probably since the rum ration under Admiral Vernon (“Old Grog”) included limes and citrus and was found to ward off scurvy.

Early in my cocktailing days, back in college, friends and I drank an unnamed cocktail from Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, lovingly described as gin, green coconut water, lime, and bitters, served tall in a glass wrapped in wet paper towels to keep it cool in the tropical heat.  The drink was unnamed by Hemingway, and in the late 80’s the resources simply weren’t easy to find to do good historical research.  We added tonic water and simply called it the “Hemingway” and still sip them to this day.

Something like this is made by Mr. Martin Cate down at Smuggler’s Cove, under the name Caribeño, and since I just finished a batch of barrel-aged gin (in a former Tuthilltown rye whiskey barrel), I thought I’d go with the following:

Vieux Caribeño

1.5 oz barrel-aged gin

3 oz young coconut water (fresh is best, some of the asian canned varieties with pulp are fine)

3/4 oz lime juice

1/2 oz cane sugar syrup (for fun, use Lyle’s Golden)

1 dash Angostura

Shake the ingredients and pour over fresh rocks in a collins glass with lime shells.  In the pictured presentation I’ve added a sugar cane stir-stick rolled in powdered lime zest mixed with a small amount of cane sugar.

This works, but my barrel-aged gin is pretty vanilla-forward right now since it’s the first batch through this particular barrel.  The next one I’ll probably cut the straight barrel-aged gin 2:1 with london dry to mellow out the vanillin a bit.  Otherwise tasty!

Followup on Solid Waste

To follow up on my previous comments, I want to note and celebrate the leadership of Bob Myhr (Council District #6, Lopez) on this issue.  Not only is he speaking out about the impact that the $5 gate fee will have on the willingness to recycle, but he is strongly opposed to the “Zero Station” plan and will continue to oppose it.   Bob’s position is that we need 3 transfer stations (which may not be full “tipping floors”) on the three biggest islands for garbage and recycling.  How it gets funded, and how it moves from those facilities to leave the county, are open issues.

I strongly agree and support Bob in this line of reasoning, and I urge other islanders to consider supporting this and demanding a real plan we can consider and, if needed, vote upon.

A friend just wrote and said that I should also note that the unintended consequences of a “zero” or “one” policy need to be thoroughly discussed.  On islands with no transfer station, we will see a rise in illegal roadside dumping, attempts to dump trash and recycling in the dumpsters of local businesses, and so on.  We will see a drastic drop in our recycling.

And regardless of how much San Juan Sanitation increases their service level, we all have the occasional garage clean-out, or old refrigerator, or construction debris to deal with.  Where will this material go when we have no transfer station on our island?

The Council seems to suggest that this material will end up in our pickups, on the ferry, off to some other island or the mainland.  I suspect much of it won’t, and our islands will become thinly veiled dumpsites, but badly policed and uncontrolled dump sites.

Perhaps someone from the Visitor’s Bureau, the real estate profession, and other aspects of the tourism industry ought to weigh in on the issue and explain the importance of a clean, beautiful county to our local economy….

The Solid Waste Debacle in San Juan County

(Sent to the County Council and Island newspapers today)

After reading today’s article in the San Juan Islander entitled “SW budget based on OI Facility Only,” I am compelled to comment.  I will attempt to keep my comments respectful and civil, but the ludicrousness of the options being presented here makes that somewhat difficult.

While I understand that we face difficult budget choices, and apparently are going to pay dearly for our past choices in this policy area, the idea that an island county should live with zero or just one point for solid waste removal is alarming.

The importance of sugar: Smith and Cross and Lyle

Smith and Cross and Lyle

When making cocktails at home, I’ve noticed that a lot of folks don’t pay close attention to the sweetener they’re using.  A good simple syrup, hopefully.  But it turns out that the kind, and form, of the sweetening agent you use matters a great deal.

One of my favorite rums is Smith and Cross Navy Strength Jamaican rum, imported by Haus Alpenz, and constructed of pot still rums in combining the lighter Plummer and heavier Wedderburn styles, it weighs in at 114 proof.  It’s not necessarily easy to mix with given the strength, but one of my favorite ways to use S&C is very simple punch or a variant on Navy Grog.

My usual starting point is a recipe from Cocktail Virgin Slut, a group of folks on the east coast who drink great cocktails, get seriously nerdy about their ingredients, and only write about one thing:  recipes, and how well they worked.  Their Smith and Cross punch is excellent, if a trifle….stiff.  Usually I tend to mellow it by using a bit of Trader Tiki’s superb Orgeat with it, which if you’ll notice essentially means I’m a mint leaf and some proportions away from having a Trader Vic’s Mai Tai made with Smith and Cross.

But I’ve been researching Navy Grog a bit lately, and the tradition of the Royal Navy’s rum ration lately, in preparation for a possible chance to taste Black Tot Rum later this year, so tonight I decided to stick to the basics.

Which means keeping the proportions the same (final recipe below), but perhaps playing with the way it’s sweetened, to match the boldness and burn of the Smith and Cross with a sweetener with enough body.  Molasses came to mind, but that’s too heavy.  I don’t keep Karo syrup in the house, and agave nectar seemed like the wrong flavor profile.  The answer is….Lyle’s Golden Syrup.  You may never have bought it, but I’ll bet you’ve seen the can on the shelf or the newish squeeze bottle in the specialty baking/dessert section of a good market.

Turns out, Lyle’s Golden Syrup is essentially old school pure cane syrup, partially inverted sugars and a rich, caramel flavor without the bitterness of molasses or Lyle’s Black Treacle.  Dear lord, I’m not one for sweet things, don’t put sugar in coffee or iced tea, and prefer salty snacks to sweets any day.  But if I ever slide into a diabetic coma, there will be a pile of Lyle’s tins somewhere nearby.

Historically, many of the rum drinks actually consumed by islanders in the Caribbean were fairly simple punch-like, or grog-like.  Ti’ punch, for example, mixes rhum agricole with a squeeze of lime and cane syrup.   This punch mixes aged Jamaican pot-stil rum with the same, and smoothes the harshness of the rum, allowing it to really express its funky self:

Smith and Cross and Lyle

2 oz Smith and Cross Navy Strength Jamaican rum

1/2 oz lime juice

1/2 oz Lyle’s Golden Syrup

3 dashes Angostura bitters

Construct by squeezing the lime into the shaker tin, then adding the Lyle’s.  It will require a lot of scraping to get the sticky mass into the tin, keep at it.  Then use the lime to thin out the Lyle’s before adding any cold ingredients.  Once cold liquids or ice hit the Lyle’s, it will turn into a sticky and solid mass like hard candy.

Once thin, add the other ingredients, ice, and shake like hell until your fingers stick to the shaker.  Really mix that gooey syrup in there.

Strain over rocks and garnish with lime and shaved nutmeg.


Sugar matters because ingredients matter.  If a recipe doesn’t seem quite right, tinker until it is.  Enjoy.