Here’s a delicious drink to help you start thinking about summer. It’s relatively easy to make and it’s a classic, first published in The Bar-Tender’s Guide by “Professor” Jerry Thomas way back in 1862. That happens to be the first cocktail book ever published, so we are talking about an old cocktail from a bygone era. Fortunately, the ingredients aren’t.
This is a rum drink, and a stiff one at that. It requires a bit of raspberry syrup (or a bit more if it suits you). Making raspberry syrup is a small challenge but definitely worth the effort, and once you have it you can easily make a handful of tasty beverages, not to mention a fantastic sundae! To make raspberry syrup, you need raspberry juice and sugar. The best method is to squeeze fresh raspberries and use the juice to make a simple syrup. Just measure your juice and add an equal volume of sugar (or more) and heat to dissolve. A slightly more involved method we have used in the past is to mash the fresh raspberries and let them ferment for 2-3 days. According to the good professor, this helps break down mucilaginous fruits so that they don’t turn to jelly when bottled. Fermentation also intensifies the flavor and acidity of the juice that will now produce a syrup that is wonderful and potent. We have had great success using this technique, but we have also seen our syrup thicken (probably because we boiled the juice—damn you, pectin!). But let’s be clear—a thick raspberry syrup is still a delicious raspberry syrup, and one that works just fine in a cocktail even if it’s difficult to measure.
Once you have your syrup, you can start making the drink. The old book calls for Santa Cruz rum which is fine, and so is just about any gold rum—but we decided to use Wicked Dolphin. Aged in bourbon barrels and made from Florida cane sugar, Wicked Dolphin Silver has a blonde tint acquired from the barrel and it tastes as good neat as it does in a mixed drink—they have plenty of awards to prove it. It’s perfect for this recipe.
2.5 oz rum
1.5 teaspoons raspberry syrup
.5 teaspoon orange curacao
.5 oz lime juice
Shake with plenty of crushed ice and pour the whole works into a glass. Garnish with fresh berries in season.
Don’t be afraid of the volume of rum. Shaking with crushed ice is going to add dilution very quickly as it turns the mixture ice-cold. As frost appears on your shaker, you know you have a good chill on the drink. Adding too little ice to the shaker is a mistake. If you think you added too much and your glass is going to overflow, strain the liquid first, then let out enough crushed ice to fill the glass.
If a mere quarter ounce of your precious raspberry syrup doesn’t seem like enough, go ahead and add a little more—we did. There is also the half-ounce of orange curaçao which helps bring everything together while it balances the lime, but honestly, aside from the rum, it’s the raspberry flavor (and color) we are after. Let the lime juice be freshly-squeezed (always) and the garnish is up to you. We forgot to save a handful of raspberries when we made our syrup, so don’t repeat our mistake. Set some aside before you mash them all and you’ll have a much better presentation than we do. We resorted to an inverted lime shell, but wedges or wheels can work too.