The Spirits #22: The Banana Rum Old Fashioned
~ Oooh that's nice ~ Infusions ~ Cantaloupe Island ~ Order'n'Chaos ~ School's Back on Monday!!! ~
~ THE BANANA RUM OLD FASHIONED ~
60ml banana-infused dark rum (see note 1)
10ml golden sugar syrup
Dash Angostura bitters
Stir the ingredients in an Old Fashioned glass filled with plenty of ice - ideally one glass-filling cube. I used a banana chip as garnish, but orange or lemon peel are good choices too!
Some B.R.O.F. Notes:
1) See below a full explanation of how to make your own Premium Handmade Double-Filtered Artisanal Organic Fairtrade banana rum. It only takes 24 hours, maybe 8 hours if you’re in a hurry. 🚨🚨🚨 HOWEVER if you can’t wait that long here’s what you do. You make a basic Rum Old Fashioned tonight and a Banana Rum Old Fashioned tomorrow! 🚨🚨🚨
2) I usually favour a sugar syrup made with golden (cane) sugar - but a demerara sugar syrup will work fine here, as will honey, maple syrup and/or agave syrup. Rum and bananas are very forgiving.
3) If you happen to have a bottle of creme de banane (i.e. banana liqueur) knocking about (NB: I don’t) please do make it with that. The original recipe for the Banana Rum Old Fashioned = 60ml dark rum, 10ml banana liqueur, 5-10ml sugar syrup plus a dash of bitter.
4) If you happen to have a bottle of chocolate bitters knocking about (NB: I do) a dash of that won’t go amiss.
AND YES YOU DO HAVE PERMISSION TO DRINK. AND YES SCHOOL REALLY IS GOING BACK ON MONDAY. Some MUSIC… and breathe. MM.
You will find instructions for making sugar syrup, grenadine, ice, etc here and my 10 RULES FOR MAKING COCKTAILS here. I have also assembled some bottle recommendations for a cabinet here - and this here is the full archive of weekly specials. Do please share the Spirits with anyone who might like it - and feel free to tag me with your creations on Instagram or Twitter. Also scroll to the bottom for what to get in for next week! 👇
AT THIS advanced stage of lockdown, even the thirstiest among us could be forgiven for feeling a little jaded, a little world-weary, even when it comes cocktails - the very things we use to distract us from such feelings. It’s inevitable, really. That which was once novel and exciting loses novelty and excitement over time and before you know it, the El Presidente ennui has set in, together with what the Germans call Martinischmerz. Yeah, yeah, tried that, tried that, what next? The way I see it you can combat this strain of inertia in one of two ways, in cocktails, as in life. You can fall back on the familiar; simplify things; give yourself a little break. Or, contrariwise, you can apply yourself, go back to principles, make a little bit more effort and see what happens.
What happened to me when I did just that - i.e. when I fixed myself a Banana Rum Old Fashioned - was that I exclaimed, to myself, no less, “OH MY GOD RICHARD THAT’S SO NICE.” And then marched upstairs to interrupt my wife who was working on a particularly hellish book review and said: “Try this!” And she did so and said oh wow that is really nice. The Banana Rum Old Fashioned, guys. It’s really nice. It will delight even the most Februarious of palates. And if I find it delicious as someone whose baby is just starting on solids and therefore spends quite a lot of time contemplating bananas in their mushiest, smeariest, encrustiest, grossest states, well I think you will too.
It was invented by Sly Augustin, above, the proprietor of the Trailer Happiness rum bar in west London, a noted authority on rum but also on keeping things fun. “I'm just a massive fan of banana and rum,” he tells me. “They go together like rice and peas.” As regard the date of its creation, or the particular moment inspiration struck, he can’t really say. “There are no stories other than me forcing my guys to make it. Banana Liqueur is always at hand.”
Banana and rum do indeed go together like rice and peas or, well, bananas and rum. “By the time the peel is mottled and brown, the fruit’s flavour is reminiscent of vanilla, honey and rum, as if anticipating its conversion into banana bread or its flambéing in a pan,” writes Niki Segnit in her Flavour Thesaurus. I was reminded of how delicious the drink is when Felix Cohen of Manhattans Project included his own take in the November edition of his Cocktails-By-Post packs. All of his drinks are excellent but it was the combination of banana, rum, sugar and spice that first made me go: “Ooh. That’s so nice”.
The trouble is: my kitchen is not a world class rum bar, sadly, and so banana liqueur is not at hand. In fact, it is one of a small coterie of cocktail ingredients that have never passed through my kitchen. But I wondered: could I make a sort of banana-rum-infused liqueur? And yes I could. Incredibly easily. And so can you!
If you want to make an infusion of pretty much anything, all you need to do is fill a jar or similar vessel with whatever fruit/nut/vegetable/herb/spice/tea/flower etc you want to infuse, cover it in alcohol, give it a little shake, and then leave it to rest for anything from 10 minutes (for tea or fresh herbs), 24 hours (most fruits) or a week (for your woodier spices). The general principle of infusions is that alcohol, being a solvent, draws the flavour from whatever you leave lurking there. The alcohol captures its “spirit” - which is why spirits are called spirits. The higher proof the alcohol, the more vampiricly it will do this. And the longer you leave things to infuse the more flavour will be sucked out. But watch out! Leave it for too long and you will extract the bitter compounds as well as the fruity goodness and it won’t taste very nice at all.
A seasoned bartender will think nothing of infusing a bottle at a time, but most of us don’t have such enviable supplies of rum and so the jars I used were about 200ml each - which seems to me a good amount to experiment with in a domestic setting. Whatever, it’s extremely important to wash your vessels out well first if you don’t want banana and, say, anchovy flavoured rum.
I had intended to make just a banana chip rum infusion - inspired by a recipe in the Death & Co book - but in the spirit of experimentation, I decided to try another with fresh banana. I used a fairly ripe one, which turned out to be an excellent choice. As you can see, I opted for Sixty Six golden rum from Panama: honey, vanilla, oak, and so much sunshine, which I feel we all need at the moment.
After a few hours, the fresh banana infusion was already tasting luscious - while the banana chip infusion had taken on some interesting nutty notes. After 24 hours, I was ready to strain. I did this through a tea strainer and then again through a coffee filter - which I then squeezed a bit, in a faintly unseemly attempt not to let any of the elixir go to waste. I then lost interest in the finer details of my fresh vs chips experiment and simply mixed the two banana rums together to combine those nutty-fruity-creamy notes and also in a spirit of “more banana rum”. And I ended up with something that looked like this.
I should say that the process detailed above is far from rigorously tested and I doubt that I have used the optimal ratios of fruit to spirit, and quite possibly I could have left it for a couple more days, or run it through some fancy rotavapor or something. This was a first try at banana rum. But it was still sumptuous. I immediately made a canteloupe melon-white rum infusion and that’s also delicious. And back in the early phase of lockdown - which has suddenly acquired the warm glow of nostalgia - I was running this sort of experiment all the time: tequila and various types of dried Mexican chilli; tequila and strawberry; gin and cardamon; bourbon and cacao nibs; bourbon and hazelnuts…
Good things come to those who wait.
We’re going BANANAS! And apples, canteloupes, guavas, pineapples, etc. There are, as it turns out, many wonderful songs about fruit.
Please note: if you follow this playlist it will automatically refresh each week - so make the most of it while you can! You can find a masterlist of all songs featured so far here.
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING
I just finished reading E. H. Gombrich’s Little History of the World to my seven-year-old and it was a delight from start to finish. I highly recommend for pretty much all ages. There’s a little piece about it here (Guardian).
Tom Lamont on how the Pandemic changed fatherhood (Guardian).
James Marriott on Jordan Peterson (The Times).
Johanna Thomas-Corr on Patricia Lockwood (New Statesman).
Harry Wallop on non-alcoholic spirits (Observer).
But mostly I’ve been listening to David Runciman’s outstanding History of Ideas podcasts (Wherever you get your podcasts).
Bourbon, Italian vermouth, Angostura bitters.
I fat washed a bottle of wild turkey with peanut butter once. It was delicious. Leftover peanut butter worked well on a burger too, but the hangover was hellish. This is fast becoming my favourite blog, wish I'd found it from the start.
This sounds excellent. What did you do with the pomace (if that's the right word)?