Born to Rum: Jamaica

Follow the sounds of the crashing waves and steel drums, and your nose to the fantastic aromas that come from this colossal of the Caribbean. Devoted rum lovers know this part of the world well. And dotted all across Jamaica are many long-standing hallowed houses that have kept the funky gold stuff flowing for centuries.

“Funky” in this case means that bit of extra scent and flavor, a special characteristic known as “hogo” in Jamaica, from “haut gout” in French, or “high taste” in English. Likened to overripe tropical fruit, these characteristics—unusual for molasses-based rums—are most often encountered in sugarcane juice–derived spirits, such as rhum agricole (Martinique), clairin (Haiti), and even cachaça (Brazil). In Jamaica, though, they’re proudly aiming ever higher toward this taste with organic compounds called esters, which occur during what could be a weeks-long fermentation process before pot still distillation.

Esters, muck, dunder. . . there are many terms and stages of the process to which you can attribute this elevated certain something, but try one taste of what Jamaican rum brings to cocktails and your summers may never be the same again! This June, we’re setting the tone for the season that’s getting closer and closer. Social calendars are filling up, and the beaches are beckoning, but even if a trek to Kingston isn’t in your future, the Born to Rum: Jamaica Box will deliver a tasty tour and some righteous smiles right to your door. Subscribe now through June 4th (while supplies last!) to get yours—it’s slated to ship the week of June 5th.

Who you callin’ a jerk?! Well, when you touch down in Jamaica, it’s a sauce, marinade, spice blend, and style of cooking you simply have to sample. But don’t just take our word for it; straight outta Kingston appears Randeen Thomas with a cocktail that comes forward with hard proof of its irresistibility.

His Jerk Daiquiri shines with the classic combo of rum and lime (oleo citrate), but it takes off in a big way from there with the spices and subtle smoky savoriness of jerk demerara syrup (with the assist from our Brooklyn neighbors at Jam’It Bistro). This summer, the grill’s got nothing on your shaken coupe cocktail game!

Randeen, also known as “The Big Belly Bartender,” is a professional and award-winning Jamaican mixologist. A certified mixologist and bar supervisor, he fell in love with the skill at a young age after watching the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail

The natural beauty and cultural charms of Jamaica are plain to see, but what’s less visible are those sinister and shadowy duppies. Watch out for these malevolent spirits—or, to be safe, swirl up a complex and flavorful Duppy Conqueror. Featuring two separate brewed teas (cinnamon-spice black and lemon ginger), pimento syrup, and Jamaican rum, Jordie Ho-Shue’s smooth but stiff cocktail will soothe the soul and keep the mind fearless and clear to welcome in only the best vibes on a dark summer’s night.

Jordie Ho-Shue is an established hospitality veteran, national cocktail competitor, beverage consultant, rum ambassador, bartender, and entrepreneur. After almost a decade working in cocktail bars, Jordie founded HoneyFest Productions, a live entertainment company, which produces a series of localized pop-up music and arts festivals.

On this Ester’s Day—a fictional holiday we conjured up to celebrate what gives Jamaican rum its distinct personality—the spotlight also turns to a luminary who likewise put a singular stamp on the spirit: Donn Beach of Don the Beachcomber fame, creator and purveyor of most things fruity, islandy, piquantly spiced, and sneakily potent with rum in the 1930s. 

Dan Watson’s goal was to take some of Donn’s most enduring flavor profiles—namely those found in the Zombie and Navy Grog—and repackage them into a sturdy but no less sunshiney old fashioned. To get there, he’s taken a Jamaican rum base and added honey, aromatic and black pepper bitters, and a grapefruit sherbet (grapefruit oleo saccharum plus the fruit’s juice) for a tropical trek with a kick. Take it from Donn (and Dan surely agrees): “If you can’t get to paradise, I’ll bring it to you!”

A student of all things tropical, Dan has visited a dozen Caribbean distilleries, published countless recipes, and opened multiple cocktail bars throughout the Midwest, including Never Say Dive—coming soon to Cleveland! 

All right, we’re jammin’! And we definitely want to jam it with you this June. Sign up today for the Born to Rum: Jamaica Box and get yourself a funky and fiery head start on summer fun!

The Shaker & Spoon Team

*not vegan: honey

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