Rum is a much maligned liquor, rarely considered sophisticated but the Demerara Cocktail changes all of that. Rum is often relegated to Rum and Coke’s, or poorly made sugary sweet island drinks like Bahama Mama or Pina Colada. However, I disagree rum is a star in its own right. As many of you know, I am fan of rum. Mainly because I’m a fan of really well made tiki drinks like Mai Tai’s, Zombies, and their ilk.
What Makes a Rum Drink Like the Demerara Cocktail Sophisticated?
The presentation is one tip off, serving a cocktail in a Coupe or Martini glass helps. In addition, a cocktail with simple clean ingredients used in harmony can make a sophisticated quaff as well. The Demerara Cocktail offer both of these attributes. Technically just three ingredients this cocktail is very clean and easy to make as well as drink. Technically because I split the rum between demerara and a clean gold rum. In a pinch this is not necessary. One of the ingredients is passion fruit syrup, a quick simple syrup made from passion fruit juice and sugar, we have a recipe here Tiki Potions Elixirs | Secret of Tiki Cocktails |.
A quick side note, demerara is a style of rum that comes from Guyana. Remarkably, the name has nothing to do with the sugar used, but rather the river in Guyana. My favorite brand of demerara rum is El Dorado 12 Year Demerara Rum. This rum is fantastic to sip, and stellar in this cocktail.
Hope you like the Demerara Cocktail as much as I do.
Demerara Rum. Gold Rum. Lime Juice. Passion Fruit.
Try our other sophisticated cocktails.
The Demerara Cocktail made with simple clean ingredients used in harmony makes a surprising sophisticated rum quaff.
- 1 oz Demerara Rum like El Dorado 12 Year Rum
- 1 oz Smooth Gold Rum try Cruzan Singel Barrel Select Rum or Havana Club Anejo Clasico Rum
- 1/2 oz Lime Juice
- 1/2 oz Passion Fruit Syrup
Add all to a cocktail shaker with 4 oz of ice.
Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
The Gods of Tiki
Here is where I need to apologize. Real Tiki drinks are not simple, they are not the “life hack” internet easy so common today. If you find a post that maybe says, “5 simple Tiki drinks”, they probably loosely based on the original concept. I am not saying are bad. In all likelihood they are great drinks, just not true to form Tiki cocktails. After making so many traditional Tiki cocktails, I will proclaim making them worth the effort. But make no mistake there is effort.
Rhums, Rums, Rons and What the Heck is Donns Mix?
Many Tiki drinks use 3 and up to 5 different rums. The call is oddly specific, so having all the rums is a real expensive pain. You can sub in other rums, but a black strap rum, sadly is not replaceable with a captain Morgan spiced. Also you will either have to buy or make things like Donns Mix, Orgeat, Allspice Dram, Fassionola, or Pearl Driver Mix. I’m a bit of a purist, but I cheat on this stuff too, so I’ll try to offer recommendations if there a riff or substitution. The difference in Rum, Ron or Rhum is the country of origin. It turns out in the rum world the flavor of a rum has almost nothing to do with the color, but nearly everything to do with where it is produced.
Luckily TIKI and tropical drinks are strong and the flavor profile is very forgiving, if you don’t have an ingredient and substitute, usually you will be okay. A substitute will usually taste great, and it will still suggest the flavor of the original. I riff Tiki drinks nine ways to Sunday, and within the reasonable bounds of the cocktail they are always good, usually fantastic.
Tale of Two Bartenders
This is not my story, but it is well researched. In fact there are several cocktail books that do a fantastic job of explaining the story of Donn Beach (born Ernest Gantt) and Trader Vic (Victor Bergeron Jr.). The basic gist is these two very successful bar owners were also fierce competitors, and exceptional showmen in their own right. Each bar, Don the Beachcomber, and Trader Vic’s are iconic and legendary bars that created the Tiki culture. While they shared a style, they did not share recipes. Quite the opposite. Unlike today where a recipe is plastered all over the internet, (guilty as charged here) their recipes were fiercely guarded. But guarding a recipe can only take you so far.
In addition they had secret ingredients in their drinks. Little mixes and concoctions that had special names, and ingredients only a trusted few knew. These ingredients are not complex, but important. I will share how to make many, but some you may want to buy.
Why bother with these shenanigans? In the 1950’s a bartender with the knowledge to make their wildly popular yet proprietary drinks could make a lot of money elsewhere. Sadly these recipes were lost until a research author Jeff “Beach Bum” Berry spent years meticulously uncovering them. Only recently have all these ingredients been known.
This level of secrecy has its benefits, but it has its downsides too. As the actual ingredients were a secret, bartenders all over the world just made their version of the cocktails with the same name and passed them off as the real thing. Think about unless you have been to the actual bars, how would you really know.
Navy Grog, Mai Tai, & the Zombie
The most popular Tiki drink is probably the Mai Tai. Until I started making my own I thought a Mai Tai was just a rum punch. Basically, fruit juice and strong rum. It is also so much more. Once I had a real Mai Tai, I was hooked, the other big drinks were the Navy Grog and the Zombie. A zombie is my absolute favorite Tiki drink, if you were wondering. These three are the trinity of Tiki. There are many more but this is the holy three. You will find these secret elixirs from the past are amazingly delicious.