The Cocktail With No Name
New cocktails are being invented all the time. Classic drinks based on obscure, extinct libations are being reborn as dedicated distillers are recreating liqueurs that have long been out of production. It’s an exciting time to be a drinker.
It would seem that all the drinkable combinations and permutations of widely available ingredients already have cocktails named for them. For example:
- Rye and Sweet Vermouth is a Manhattan
- Scotch and Sweet Vermouth is a Rob Roy
- Gin and Sweet Vermouth is a Gin and It
And it works with holding the base spirit constant too:
- Gin and Curacao and pineapple is a Hawaiian Cocktail
- Gin and Curacao and lime is a Pegu Club Cocktail
- Gin and Curacao and lemon is a White Lady
Surely Raf will chime in on the subject and I suspect he will nitpick why these drinks aren’t similar at all. But you get the idea.
But recently I stumbled onto a very simple combination of spirits that was delicious and does not seem to be included within the cocktail canon. And while clearly a few people have tried this drink, nobody as far as I can tell has named it. And certainly nobody is out there promoting it.
That is, until today.
I’ll tell you just a bit about my drinking habits: I like to drink seasonally. And it’s summer, so to me that means rum. And there are some great and unusual rum cocktails. The classic Daiquiri and Rum & Tonic are two of my favorites. But if I have Gosling’s Black Seal rum and Barritt’s ginger beer on hand, you can bet I’ll be drinking a Dark & Stormy.
But I was looking for something new. I was in the mood for a rum drink that would go well with a cool summer night. When I stumbled across the bottle of coffee liqueur I knew that I had found my answer.
A Black Russian, made with rum instead of vodka. It sounded good. It made sense in my mind given the Cuban connection to both coffee and rum (and summery weather.) But how would it taste?
I stirred 2 ounces of white rum with ½ ounce of coffee liqueur over ice and strained into a chilled bucket glass.
And it was good. It was very good. Mrs. Fussy agreed. And it was better than any Black Russian I had ever had. The subtle sweetness of the rum just plays better with the bitterness of the coffee than vodka ever did.
And I wondered why hadn’t I heard of this before?
So off to the Internet I went. And I came back mostly empty handed. I did learn that a White Russian in which you replace vodka with rum is a White Cuban. Gary Regan and his wife, on their comprehensive but poorly-designed site mention the rum variation of a Black Russian, but only in passing.
There are other rum and coffee flavor combinations. But most of those are hot drinks that call for actual brewed coffee. There are others recipes that use rum and coffee liqueur, but also call for other ingredients like lime juice or fresh berries which clearly produces a fundamentally different drink.
Clearly this beautifully simple and delicious summer evening drink deserves a name.
But finding one is more difficult than it may appear. One wants the name to point to the drink’s origin, but Russian has to come out, since the vodka has been replaced. And it just feels uncomfortable to use the word Black as an adjective to a nationality. I mean, you may love the drink, but I doubt you would walk into a bar and ask for a Black Jamaican.
There were several names that I liked, but just didn’t work for one reason or another. The top three runners up were: El Russo Negro, Ron Blanco Negro, Blanco y Negro.
Now, after much thought and soul-searching, I am ready to name that drink.
With a tip of the hat to Cuba, the country’s cultural heritage, and the Black Russian, allow me to be the first to introduce you the Afro-Cuban cocktail. Enjoy it.