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Friday, May 22, 2009

Cool Cocktails for Memorial Day

Summer is almost upon us.  We’ve already had ninety degree temperatures in Salt Lake City.  I wanted to post a short list of summer cocktails in time for the Memorial Day week-end.  I plan to post a longer list of my top ten favorite summer cocktails within the next few weeks.  For now, I have identified three rum-based drinks that will be just what you need for your holiday cook-out.

For my first summer cocktail I selected an old stand-by from the tropics: the Mai Tai. For the second, I chose the more trendy, but still venerable, Mojito.  The third is the under-rated, but ever popular, Rum and Coke.  All are classic cocktails that you’re sure to enjoy.  I first got hooked on Mai Tais years ago, sitting in a semi-private tea room at Kiyo’s Japanese Restaurant on Clark Street in Chicago.  Kiyo’s served their Mai Tais in ceramic crocks filled with crushed ice.  The presentation was exquisite, and garnishes included mandarin orange slices, a pineapple wedge, fresh mint leaves, thin slices of lemon and lime, and a maraschino cherry.  Beautiful and powerful.  My recipe doesn’t take the garnishes nearly that far, but if you decide to become a Mai Tai connoisseur, give them a try.  Do try to use two kinds of fruit juice to add some complexity to the taste.

I had my first Mojito at The Beach House hotel in Miami.  It was expensive, but oh so good.  Fresh mint leaves are an absolute requirement for a good Mojito.  Accept no substitutes.  You should be able to get them in the produce department of your grocery store if you’re not lucky enough to have some growing in your yard.  I once unsuccessfully experimented with using minute amounts of mint extract in a fruitless attempt to make a Mojito without ever coming up with an acceptable result.  Bacardi® has a great video of making a Mojito here.

The experience of my first Rum and Coke, around 40 years ago, is lost in the mist of time.  One thing I do know about this classic cocktail is that whenever I have one on an airplane, I’m surprised by how good it tastes… and that’s mixed with plain old Barcardi Superior® rum, a pinch of lime (if you’re lucky), and not too much care.  When mixed in a tall glass and served with a wedge of lime, Rum and Coke make a great summer cooler.  For me a Rum and Coke with lime is a Rum and Coke, not a Cuba Libre.  Rum and Cokes should always come with lime.  I don’t use my best sipping rum in my Rum and Cokes, but any good mixing rum you have in your bar will make a great one.  As usual, I suggest that you experiment to get just the taste you want.

Mai Tai

1 oz gold Rum (or dark)

1 oz light Rum

½ oz Amaretto almond liqueur

1 oz Cointreau (or Triple Sec)

2 oz Guava juice (you may substitute Orange juice)

3 oz Pineapple juice

½ oz Gosling’s Black Seal® dark rum

1 lime wedge

Combine ingredients with cracked ice in a shaker.  Shake well while thinking about the dancers at the old Intercontinental hotel in Wailea, Maui.  Strain into a Collins glass full of ice.  Garnish with a wedge of pineapple (or orange) and a maraschino cherry.  Float just enough dark rum to cover the top of the glass, finish it with a squeeze of fresh juice from the lime wedge, drop it in, and enjoy. 



2 oz light Rum

fresh squeezed juice of ½ Lime (½ oz )

1 tsp bar sugar

6-8 mint leaves

soda water

Put the mint leaves and sugar into an Old Fashion glass.  Squeeze the lime juice into the glass.  Muddle well to bring out the smell and flavor of the mint.  Add the rum and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Fill the glass with ice, then top off with soda water and stir.  Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve with a straw.  Vary the mint to suit your taste.


Rum and Coke

2 oz Rum of your choice

5-6 oz Coke™ (or Diet Coke™)

1 lime wedge

Fill a Collins or Highball glass ¾ full of ice cubes.  Add the rum.  Cut an angled slit across the lime wedge down to the peel, fit the slit in the wedge onto the lip of the glass, and run the wedge all the way around the rim.  Fill the glass with Coke, drop in a straw, and wonder why you don’t do this more often.

 Mojito Photograph ©, Photographs © J. Mathews

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