Monday, April 8, 2013

Rum & Contemporary Cuisine available today!

The "front cover" of the book,
more info at
Available today in iTunes from Carlton Grooms and Geoffrey Blythe is a new chapter in cookbooks for rum aficionados and iPad users. "Rum & Contemporary Cuisine," the world's first interactive rum cookbook merges the traditional cookbook and videos, packaged in a well written and beautifully photographed and recorded iBook. Lucky enough to have received an advance copy, I'm already sold on the concept due to its portability, which means I can verify my shopping list as I shop for ingredients... and rums!

"Imagine a TV and cookbook combined into one" says co-founder of the International Rum Council, Carlton Grooms. "You can stop it, back up, read, watch and listen to everything as many times as you wish and at the touch of a button. You can even take notes. Simply pull up the recipe you desire on your iPad and whether a novice cook or experienced chef you get step by step instructions in words, pictures and video until you have a perfect meal ready to wow your guests" he continues. "This approach makes cooking fun and engaging, puts an end to cumbersome cookbooks, and best of all it lets even those who can't fry an egg' look like a Master Chef!"

I have to admit to being anxious to try every one of the almost 50 recipes in the book and am thoroughly excited to see some of my favorite rums featured in those recipes!

‘Rum and Contemporary Cuisine’ is co-authored by Carlton Grooms and Geoffrey Blythe. Mr Grooms is the co-founder of The International Rum Council and Chef Blythe is a nationally acclaimed culinarian with experience in Washington DC, San Francisco, and the James Beard House in New York. Together they are helping people all over the world cook the highest quality rum inspired cuisine in the comfort of their homes and in professional kitchens.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Ask a Rum Expert

Ask A Rum ExpertWhile anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 2013 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, I was happily surprised to receive an email announcing a new feature this year - a place where festival attendees can meet the judges and ask questions. 
How do you judge a rum? 
What's your favorite rum? 
Which rum do you like to use in a/an [Insert Mixed Drink Name Here]? 
All these questions and more can be answered by the members of the members of the RumXP's - the International Rum Expert Panel and this new campaign - "Ask A Rum Expert" - is receiving amazing publicity across the internet.Here's a link to the press release:

This looks like it'll be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to meet the RumXPs.
(By the way, if you do stop by and see the really good-looking guy with the loud shirt and panama hat, make sure you say hi to me)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The 2013 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival is Coming!

It's been a while since I've written but I'm back after a long hiatus which included relocation of the Official Aging Barrel Test Facility (aka new home purchase). What can be so great, so incredibly fun, so important to you, my friends and drinking buddies, that I've come out of retirement? Well, it's almost that time of year when my eyes twinkle because I know that it's the most wonderful, hap-happiest time of the year again! The fifth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival is just around the corner!

Whether you love rum or are curious to find out just what the differences in rum styles and which are your favorite rums, make plans to attend this year's festival in mid-April. This year's festival has moved to the Doubletree Hotel near Miami International Airport to accommodate the growing number of enthusiasts that attend every year and, if you've never been, I hope you will be among that number! But if you're planning on attending, I'll offer a few words of advice: 

  • Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink. (Unless you're smart enough to read this message.) Legends say that ancient mariners knew of a simple solution to the dreaded hangover - WATER. But don't think of water as just a cure for hangovers, it can also help to prevent them. A hangover is primarily your body feeling extremely dehydrated - this is your body telling you that it needs more fluids and it is time to re-fill.

    It stands to reason then that the key to avoiding hangovers is to drink plenty of water before, during and after you drink alcohol. Alternating each drink with a glass of water, you will at least attempt at keeping your body hydrated, to counterbalance the effects of the alcohol on your system. And after drinking, make sure to drink several glasses of water, to help hydrate you before you fall asleep.

  • Grandma says you're too skinny and you need to eat more! A full stomach slows down the absorption of alcohol, giving the body more time to process the alcohol. Fatty foods and carbohydrates are particularly known to increase this effect - so I say it's a good time to have a nice big bowl of Spaghetti with Sunday Gravy for lunch - but when you really think about it, is there ever a bad time for pasta?

    ...and don't forget breakfast! Breakfast isn't just one of my three favorite meals, it's the most important one. But we're adults here folks. Put away your sugar cereals with a prize at the bottom and get yourself a meal that includes eggs (for the cysteine), a banana (for the potassium), and fruit juice (for the fructose) - it does your body good, especially when drinking. Keep in mind that caffeinated coffee, tea and soda will further dehydrate a drinker.
  • Pace Yourself - It's a marathon, not a sprint. Drinking all day is an endurance event. Listening to your body is the most important thing: If it tells you, "I've had enough," well, you had a good run, but you need to stop, because you could do some serious damage. However, your body may send the message, "Just gimme another 15 minutes. I'm still working on that last one," in which case, game on. Respect those messages, though, and do your best to listen for them.

    Here's another great idea! If you've gotten to the point where you may want to sit out the next round, go attend some of the seminars. Every year, some of the top names in the drinks biz show up and share their knowledge with festival attendees. Whether you're learning a little bit about where all of that glorious rum comes from and how it's made, or the history of rum and how it has shaped the world (Don't let your teachers fool you, the Revolutionary War wasn't started over tea but rather another amber liquid), or what kinds of cocktails you can craft from it - your friends and family will be dazzled and amazed at the amount of knowledge you can amass at Rum Renaissance!
  • Dude, where's your car? Taxis and hotel rooms are just two of the many things cheaper than a DUI so do the smart thing and stay clear of the steering wheel (I won't go on here, this one's pretty obvious).
Overall, the most important thing here is to HAVE FUN! There's plenty to do, but you can't do it all so take your time (I say at least a two day pass is de rigueur), enjoy the festival, bring some old friends or make some new friends (rum drinkers can be amazingly friendly) and make sure you enjoy some rum!

Here is the official announcement:

2013 Miami Rum Festival Expands

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, Miami Rum Festival, Miami RumFestMIAMI, FL -- The fifth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival -- the largest gathering of rum experts, professionals and enthusiasts in the world -- will span Monday, April 15 to Sunday, April 21, 2013 at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. 

Last year, more than 8,000 rum enthusiasts attended the festival with 20,000 square feet of exhibit space. The new space spans 40,000 square feet, twice the size of last year's event. Festival organizers are preparing for 15,000 attendees.

In addition to a week-long series of VIP parties, tasting sessions and celebrity seminars, the rum festival brings together members of the esteemed International Rum Expert Panel (RumXPs) for their annual tasting competition.

Two full days of Grand Tasting events for the public will take place on Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21. More than 240 spirits from the Caribbean and beyond will be available for sampling, along with a selection of island-style cuisine.

New this year is a half-day exhibit session exclusively for the beverage trade on Friday, April 19. Liquor store buyers, food and beverage managers, bartenders and other spirits trade professionals will be invited to attend.

The Miami Rum Renaissance Festival attracts cane spirit products and brands from all over the globe. Companies large and small will be on hand to present their rums to a global gathering of experts, reporters, critics and consumers.

South Florida is regarded as the number one rum market in the world, with a high percentage of rum enthusiasts, liquor stores, bars and restaurants offering both popular and top-shelf luxury rum products to consumers.
According to event manager Robin Burr, the Miami Rum Fest has doubled in size each year, a testament to the fact that consumer interest in sugar cane spirits is growing faster than any other category of liquor.

"We're proud to say that our prediction of rum's resurgence in popularity was on the money," said Robert A. Burr, festival organizer and publisher of Rob's Rum Guide. "An incredible range of fine rums, from casual and fun mixers to luxurious top-shelf sipping rums will be on display. There is no better opportunity for the rum enthusiast to sample such a vast selection of spirits in one place."

Rum lovers can choose between $50 day passes to the grand tasting events and $65 VIP tickets that allow early access to the exhibits and complimentary tickets to the celebrity seminars. VIP ticket holders also enjoy access to a private area featuring complimentary cuisine and VIP cocktails.

For those that wish to participate in the entire week of VIP special opportunities, a $250 Executive VIP pass grants admission to all events.

For more information on the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, activities planned during Miami Rum Week and exhibits at Miami Rum Fest, call 305-443-7973 or visit the web site at

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bacardi Enters the Spiced Rum Category

The folks at Bacardi have developed one of the most well-known brands in the world and their classic, Cuban styled rums are as easily recognized and widely-distributed as their flavored rums. With today’s official launch of Bacardi Oakheart, they’ve added some spice to the mix! Now, normally I am not a spiced rum guy. However, good rum is good rum and thanks to Oakheart, I may have to make an exception from time to time

According to Bacardi, they’ve blended the mixability of their white rum with the smooth finish of their gold rum. These rums, aged between 1 to 3 years, would otherwise be used to blend Bacardi Superior and Bacardi Gold. Then, after infusing this mix of their two award-winning rums with their blend of spices, they filter the rum and bottle it at 35% ABV. What does this mean to you? Well instead of using an inferior rum and a bunch of flavors (a practice more common than you might think), Bacardi has released "the longest aged, and one of the mellowest, spiced rum in the US!" And their competitors better watch out because they’ve priced it to compete at less than $15 for a 750 ml bottle at my local “supply store!” By the way, the 1.75 liter bottle was almost $10 less than its closest (and well-known) competitors in the spiced rum category, so I expect to see this rum more often at parties now (and trust me, that’s a good thing!)

Swirling this straw-colored spiced rum  quickly forms short legs that race down the sides of your glass. The nose on this one comes in with strong scents of vanilla and honey with a slightly sweet, peppery note. Hidden in the aroma is the subtle scent of charred wood from the oak barrels from which it takes its name. It is slightly drier on the palate than you would expect based on the aroma, but one thing I didn’t initially pick up in the nose that is now apparent to me as I taste this rum is how much it reminds me of a good maple syrup. I applaud Bacardi for showing an appropriate amount of restraint in not over-sweetening Oakheart and I think that is what sets sets this rum apart from other spiced rums.

Now if you enjoy sipping spiced rums neat or just adding a couple of ice cubes to them, this rum works perfectly well in that capacity. However, I chose to take Bacardi’s advice and, after my initial tasting, I am trying this rum in their recommended fashion… an Oak & Coke. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how to make this one and the proportions are probably best left to your own individual preferences. All you need to do is go out and buy yourself some Coke (go figure) and some limes to pair with Bacardi’s Oakheart and you’ve got all the fixin’s for a great drink that’s simple to make!

Now if only I could figure out why Coke tastes so much better in the classic glass bottles…

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Evening With The Redhead (Wife-Approved)

Sometimes, it really is good to be me! Last week, I was treated to a wonderful dinner by the makers of Panama Red, a new overproof rum that has just arrived on our shores from, well you guessed it, Panama. Jim Wasson, a Florida native and fellow lover of rum, was our host at a special degustation event at Hemingway's Island Grill in Estero, FL. Our tour guide for the culinary event was Mr. Luis Ayala of Got Rum magazine, with whom we followed the journey sugar takes until it is ultimately distilled, aged, blended and bottled.

As we arrived, we were welcomed to the event with a Caipirinha and some great company. Soon we were asked to join our gracious hosts in the dining room for the rest of the nights activities. As we walked into the discrete dining room that would be our home for the next couple of hours, we were immediately greeted by three glasses of fine spirits and a tasting notes sheet. Mr. Ayala introduces himself and his topic and our evening begins.

Our first course soon arrived. A selection of smoked gouda and manchego cheeses, candied citrus, crostini and honeycomb. Being half mouse, I was immediately in a good mood! The recommended rum to accompany this course was Pyrat XO, whose sweet, citrusy notes did make a nice accompaniment to the cheeses and  crostini.

The next course consisted of maduros (ripe plantains to the non-latino reader) and grilled tropical fruit with a vanilla rum dipping sauce. That vanilla rum sauce was delicious, and should any of the kitchen staff from Hemingway’s be reading this and feeling generous, please feel free to forward that recipe to my email! The rum recommended to pair with  this course was Zaya, whose vanilla notes may have been instrumental in the tastiness of that sauce (just a theory).

To prepare for the highlight of the evening and our rum of honor, we were shown what Panama Red can do to a cocktail. This took the form of a Planter’s Punch. The recipe for this punch varies from source to source but the basics include dark rum, lime juice, lemon juice, grenadine, sugar or simple syrup and probably some bitters. Many punches try to hide the liquor, a practice frowned upon by yours truly. However, Panama Red will not be hidden away in a mountain of sugar and food coloring! She shone through and made this drink highly memorable!
Our main course was a jerked snapper with yogurt thyme sauce. To accompany these bold flavors, only a bold rum will do. Bold like “the Redhead” herself, Panama Red Rum! As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Panama Red is  and overproof rum – so this blend of rums up to 5 years old is bottled at 108 proof. Despite the strength of this rum, it is still very enjoyable neat. The spirit is a warm reddish brown and it forms thin legs that move quickly back down your glass.  The aroma (bear in mind that this rum packs a punch so let it rest before diving in nose first) has hints of vanilla and citrus wrapped up in oak that reminds you this spent some time in a barrel. The warm, spicy palate is both citric and earthy adding some tobacco to the mix.  You are left with a caramel finish that carries some of that heat that is inherent in a higher proofed rum.

But wait! What is dinner without dessert? We wrapped up the night with a delicious white chocolate, Panama Red bread pudding with ice cream and a bourbon caramel sauce. YUM-O!! The blender, “Don Pancho” set out to make a rum that was equally adept on its own or in a cocktail. While I prefer this one with an ice cube and a couple of drops of water, I am happy to congratulate him on a job well done!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rum Tasting Event (8/25/2011) - Newly Released Luxury Rums

NOTE: This post is a reprint of an announcement that was sent to the Gifted Rums listserv. The formatting has been altered from the original message to fit the theme of this page. All of the text and pictures are reposted with authorization from the original author, Robert Burr. To subscribe to the Gifted Rums, click on the link:

You're invited to an exclusive tasting event featuring three of the most exciting new prestige rums available in South Florida, presented by the Miami Rum Club and sponsored by Rob's Rum Guide and The Aging Barrel.

The event takes place in Miami at Big Game Liquors on Thursday, August 25 from 7 to 9pm. The cost is $20 per person.

These are world-class luxury rums that represent the most exceptional family reserves, some of the rarest and most magnificent blends.

I hope you can join us as we explore, savor and appreciate these gems together.
RSVP required.
-- Robert Burr

August 25
 -- 7 to 9pm

Big Game Liquors
930 S. Lejeune Road
Miami, FL 33134

just south of SW
 8th Street at 
LeJeune Road
free parking in the
Midas Muffler lot 
after 6pm
$20 per person

RSVP Required 
or call 305-443-7973

Brugal 1888
Truly a prestige expression that spotlights a great Caribbean rum family's legacy, double distilled and double aged Brugal 1888 aged rum delivers first-class upscale flavor at a surprisingly affordable price.
Be the first to try this amazing new rum which sells for less than $50.
read more -->

Abuelo Centuria
The crown jewel of Panamanian spirits features a luxurious blend of up to 30 year old aged rum, presented in a first-class package to celebrate the company's first century of success.
The list price is $139, but ask Eddy for his special price at this event.
read more -->

Mount Gay 1703
From one of the oldest rum producers in the world comes one of the finest rare aged rums ever bottled, Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask Selection. Blended entirely from the treasures of Mount Gay's prized reserve, each aged for 10 to 30 years, the rare 1703 is a masterpiece of perfect sumptuousness, a deliciously complex nectar created by artisans and rum masters with centuries of skill and expertise.
The list price of this rare Bajan rum is $99.
read more -->

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

National Rum Day / Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva

With today (8/16) being “National Rum Day,” I thought I’d reminisce a little about the rum that started my love affair with the sugar-derived distillate. But before I go into the rum itself, I have a confession to make… I was a whisky drinker long before I was legally able to purchase a drink. It’s what the old man used to drink, so it’s what I would sneak sips of before I could pronounce many of the names of the single malts in my collection (but let’s be honest, I probably still butcher some of those names today). So how did the big switch come about?

Well, several years ago, I received an email advertising a rum tasting. Rum tasting? I thought once you add some Coke you were done? Boy, was I ever wrong! So I happily head off to this tasting figuring “What do I have to lose? At worst, I’ll have a couple of drinks and tomorrow I’ll go back to the well-known product of Scotland named for a famed pedestrian that can be found at any bar in Miami.”

Of the many rums that were sampled that day, I can still recall a handful of the expressions offered. I can also still recall my amazement at just how varied the category really is -- the subtle differences that the methods of fermenting, distilling, aging and blending the rums could have on the final product. And there were a few rums that day that I still count amongst my favorites. But one bottle stood out that day because of it’s approachability and, well, for lack of a better word, it’s deliciousness. It was the one bottle I purchased that day (lucky for me this tasting was held in a liquor store) and one of the bottles that I’ve made sure to always have on the rum shelf… Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva – a blend of 80% pot stilled rum blended with 20% column stilled rum aged for 12 years in small white oak barrels from Venezuela.

The stout green bottle bears a portrait of Don Juancho Nieto Melendez, who in the 18th century developed a passion for rum and whose personal rum collection was the stuff of legend matched only by his generosity in sharing his findings. It’s only fitting that the bottle and the label reminds me of currency because, if I may borrow a line from Swingers, this stuff is money! In fact, such was my appreciation for this fine spirit that, at my wedding a few months ago, I was happy to present every guest with a small token of thanks that (I think) represented a little piece of me: 50ml of Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva!

The rum itself is fairly easy on the eyes, liquid the color of cherry wood that grips the glass and forms delicate, slow-moving legs. The aromas of baking spices, caramel and vanilla waft toward you before your nose even meets the glass. A small sip coats the tongue with a layer of vanilla, accompanied by all of the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg your nose first picked up on. As sweet as the rum is on the palate, its finish is slightly drier than you would have expected, with earthy tobacco notes. No mixing here folks… no ice necessary… this one’s an easy sipper!