It’s raining in Seattle, but it’s still just a couple of weeks to Memorial Day, so summer seems just about to start. Last summer, while cruising through my drinks books in search of an appropriate summer signature cocktail, I wound up with this lovely concoction.
- 1 1/2 ounces white rum
- 3/4 ounce orange curacao
- 3/4 ounce French (dry) vermouth
- dash grenadine
I always use Noilly Prat vermouth (the best dry vermouth, with the exception of Vya, which is three times the price), Bols Orange Curacao (the only brand available in Washington state), and homemade grenadine, but my rums sometimes vary. Typically, I’ll just use Bacardi, as the drink was originally made with Cuban rum, and–thanks to global politics–Puerto Rican rum is about the closest we can come to that (though I did once mix these with some Havana Club a friend had brought back from Mexico, with spectacular results). The light flavor of the Puerto Rican rum provides a great platform for the other flavors in the drink, while contributing its own subtle touch. But if I’m looking for a richer, more buttery drink, I’ll use a Jamaican white rum like Myers Platinum, which adds a deeper base note to the drink. I’ve also mixed it before with Mount Gay Eclipse, a golden Barbados rum with a really deep, resonant sweetness. I enjoyed the drink, but the Mount Gay really took over the flavor profile, and the vermouth was pretty much lost in the mix.
I’ve also tried El Presidente with Rogue White Rum (pictured here), an artisan distilled spirit from the Oregon-based Rogue Brewing, though their distillery is nearby in Issiquah–this is my first taste of this rum; I’ll post more about it later.
In Esquire Drinks, David Wondrich gives credit for the El Presidente’s creation to Eddie Woelke, an American who tended bar at the Jockey Club in Havana during Prohibition and who named the drink for Gerardo Machado, who ruled Cuba from 1925 to 1933. An American tending bar in Havana in the 1920s wasn’t unusual–during those years, many American bartenders traveled to Europe or Cuba to ply their trade, and the bartenders at places such as the Floridita created some of the finest classic rum cocktails in existence, in my humble estimation.
Originally crafted with Cuban rum, this drink has a lot going for it: it’s easy to mix, doesn’t require any perishable ingredients (so you don’t have to keep lemons or limes on hand all the time, just in case you get a craving for one)and while it has a suave, buttery taste, it packs a lot of horsepower into a tiny cocktail glass. The 1949 edition of Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts calls it an “elixir for jaded gullets,” and I think that’s a pretty fair assessment–anytime I’m growing bored with the usual cocktails in my repertoire, I’ll mix an El Presidente, and it soothes me through an evening. I really like these in the summer–they have a bright, slightly sweet flavor that seems to give a warm evening a slightly festive touch, even if its a Wednesday and its not even really summer yet and I have to be in the office the next day.