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The Cocktail With No Name

July 16, 2009

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.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. jess permalink
    July 16, 2009 10:32 am

    I drank a dark&stormy for the first time at a pirate bar in Bawlmore. It was great. I have to say though, that with the abundance of mint in the garden, it’s hard to stray from my summer predilection for mojitos. I added a few fresh strawberries in the muddle last time and it was delicious.

  2. Raf permalink
    July 16, 2009 11:40 am

    Hmmm, it’s not really Afro is it? Black describes the color of the drink, not the origin of the spirit. Kahlua is mexican. Mexi-cuban? Cafe cubano cocktail? Cafecito Cocktail?

    It’s not too sweet? Black russians are a bit sweet for me anyway, seems like it would be even sweeter made with rum.

    Perhaps dash or two of bitters might balance it out. Also, that would make the drink an honest to god cocktail, as opposed to a coffee mojito or black martini.

    Nitpicking is what I do.

    • July 16, 2009 12:16 pm

      Did you see my build? It’s a half ounce of coffee liqueur to two ounces of rum. No, it’s not too sweet. And perhaps I should have mentioned this, but I was wasn’t using Kahlua. Yes, it’s the dominant brand in the category – but the drink does not need to have a Mexican connection.

      The problem with putting “coffee” in the name is that the convention is used more heavily in drinks that actually called for brewed coffee. This does not.

      There are a host of reasons Afro-Cuban works. Based on my understanding of Cuba, the majority are Afro-Cuban. It’s a defining part of the culture, much like coffee and rum (also cigars, which might make a nice accompaniment to the drink). Also if you Google “Afro-Cuban Cocktail” you only get three responses, and they all have to do with music.

      You may be right about the bitters though.
      I’ll give it a try and report back.

  3. Tonia permalink
    July 16, 2009 12:43 pm

    LOVE IT!! The idea and the name…. sounds delectable. Now all you need is some Ibrahim Ferrer playing in the background.

  4. July 31, 2009 3:00 pm

    i commonly overreact to the substitution of vodka for anything, though it is primarily for effect.
    a group of us were toying with Mind Eraser variations (it was late), and did find the rum and liqueur combination noteworthy, and exactly as you describe, we let it pass without naming or archiving, and haddnt thought of it since.
    If asking for an “Afro-Cuban cocktail” raises eyebrows in certain company, then rationally engage them in conversation and perhaps come up with something fitting, but it is your drink, so you should get to name it. my two cents (of course), maybe incorporate the word Molasses.
    well done.

  5. Marty permalink
    December 28, 2012 4:49 pm

    when this (dark rum/kalua) is mixed as a “dirty black russian” variant, topped off with coke and a squirt of lime juice, it’s even mo’ better.

  6. Stefan permalink
    June 3, 2013 8:14 pm

    I was about to make one (mainly because I am out of vodka but have a full bottle of rum) but I wanted to check the internets to see if it was a real drink, or any good. After reading this, I will definitely try it. Might I suggest the name of Black Caribbean? It pays homage to the original I feel.

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