It’s a shame that the only dalliance many Mancunians have had with rum is in student bars, where something masquerading as the spirit has been mixed with some flat coke.
For Dan, brand ambassador at luxury rum company Ron Zacapa, the idea of mixing the drink with coke is nothing short of heresy.
To get Mancunians into the festive spirit drinks experts The Liquorists held a tasting evening at their quirky Reserve bar to encourage people to introduce rum to their Christmas menus.
Ron Zacapa (Ron means rum in Spanish and is not, in fact, the name of the guy who started the brand) originated in a Guatemalan town 23 years ago.
The first blend was created by three families in the town of Zacapa, who came together to make a drink that would celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the town’s founding.
After settling down, the first drink we are invited to try is a spiced daiquiri: a regular daiquiri cocktail but with a hefty helping of Ron Zacapa and green chartreuse, a French herbal liquor.
The drink itself is a strange mix of sugar and salt, but once you get used to the initial spice it acts as a perfect palate cleanser.
Dan then brings out the big guns: first up is a 23-year-old rum, which we are told to take a sip of (“no more than half a mouthful” is the instruction!) and then wash it down with a Marks and Spencer’s dark chocolate truffle, which turns the drink into a chocolate liqueur in the mouth.
Everything around the tasting is centred on Christmas – the food that we try is traditional festive fare, from the cake that Dan picked up from Marks’ when he stepped off the train to the cheese board at the end.
Ron Zacapa, who have links with Rio Ferdinand’s bar Rosso and are ambassador at Manchester House in Spinningfields, specialise in ‘food pairing’ – matching drinks with each course.
The aim of the session is to encourage us to incorporate rum into our Christmas dinners without having to create a specialist, outlandish menu.
As we work our way through a mountain of cheese, Dan explains some of the history behind the so-called ‘King of Rum,’ named because the first blend of the drink was only ever intended for royalty.
The bottles of the drink have 23 strands on their banding, which represents the 23 makes of rum. Each band is hand glued on by any one of up to 1000 women in the Mayan culture in Guatemala, who stay at home and care for their children while making the bands.
Dan tells us that each band has a code which is unique to the woman who made it. Plans are in the making for the brand to create a database within Guatemala that will allow buyers to enter their code and see a profile of the woman who made the band and learn about her life.
To round off the meal we are invited to try a shot glass size portion of Zacapa’s 25-year-old blend which, even after an hour or so of rum tasting, still makes my eyes water with just how strong it is.
While I’m not sure about trading in port for rum, I doubt the cheap, Fallowfield-style rum and cokes will have quite the same impact again. Although rum on its own may be a little too strong for some (possibly including me!), the Zacapa-infused cocktails are gorgeous.
Image courtesy of Felix Cohen, with thanks