It would be fitting to say that rum was the highlight of rumfest, but for me, it was meeting all the people who make it, blog incessantly about it, and are more passionate about this mystical elixir than I could ever imagine.
Where to begin? Let’s start with some stats.
- Tasted over 40 rums
- Met Scott, a veritable encyclopedia of rum, from Scottes’ Rum Pages
- Met a man who makes rum with live scorpions
- Made some great new friends from Tiki Central who hosted a swanky tiki party
- Drove more hours than I slept
Astor Wine and Spirits
I met my good friend and host, Dave (aka the Frost Arrow), downtown in New York City. After a warm greeting, we crossed the threshold of Astor Wine. Gazing upon my surroundings I realized that I had entered the Toys ‘R Us of the spirit world. Wine filled the walls, floor, and pretty much ever nook and cranny I could see. The spirits lined the back wall, but I was initially put off by what seemed like a small selection. Then I got close enough to start reading labels …
PA liquor store store shelves are filled to the brim with inexpensive plastic bottles, leaving only a few choice items hiding amid the onslaught of foul tasting ichor. Sure, I can get 40 different rums … but 30 of them are flavored abominations. Not so at Astor. I immediately counted 10 gins I couldn’t easily get in PA and 5 that I had never heard of. The rums and whiskeys fared no different. They even had an entire shelf for rye whiskey. I wish I had taken a picture, but I realize now it would only resulted in Paul Clarke sending me a list of expensive ryes to pick up for him.
Fortunately for my bank account, I had set a budget and left the store with only a bottle of Carpano Antica. I almost cracked the bottle tonight, but thought better of it and pose the following question:
Like regular sweet vermouths, will I have a limited time to use the Carpano Antica before it becomes unhappy? If so, how long? Because it’s a big bottle.
Not far from Astor sits the lovely Pegu Club, a moodily lit and fancy cocktail bar owned by Audrey Saunders. Dave and I were one of the first people there and we plopped ourselves down at the bar. I tried to take everything in so quickly and almost fainted. I counted at least 25 tinctures and syrups, from cardamom to chamomile. Everything that could be made fresh was. Lemon juice came in a big clear bottle, and so did the limoncello.
I sat so long looking at the cocktail menu, the bartender probably wondered if we were ever going to order. I finally ended up asking for a concoction that contained yellow Chartreuse, grapefruit syrup, gin, and douglas fir Eau de Vie, which is an infusion of springtime Douglas Fir buds and brandy. It smells and tastes like pine needles in the best way possible. The drink was delicately prepared; the bartender measured each ingredient with care and put it all together with just the right touches. Dave ordered a dark and stormy with Pegu’s homemade ginger beer. The sip I had was phenomenal and potentially better than the one I had made with Barritts (see Part III).
Among the deluge of spirits and concoctions, I spotted a bottle of Plymouth Sloe Gin. The bartender must have seen my eyes light up, because he immediately came to check on me. “I’d love to try a cocktail with your sloe gin, or better yet, just try it by itself,” I uttered with glee. His congenial face turned rigid. “Sir, I’m sorry but that’s the owners private collection.” “No! You have destroyed all of my hopes and dreams,” I uttered silently in my head. I’m glad I asked, however, because he proceeded to list drink after drink to find something I had not tried. I knew it was going to be a good experience when the first drink he suggested was the Ramos Gin Fizz. I settled on the Red Hook. I had made them before, but was never wowed. He came back with a garnet red potion that tasted nothing like my own incarnations. The only difference? The rye. I had been using Old Overholt, which although delicious, doesn’t compare to the bonded Rittenhouse. I cursed myself for having a budget and not picking up the on sale bottle at Astor.
This post is already getting long and it’s only covered a couple of hours. Next time you’ll most likely fall prey to:
- Pyrat Cask 23
- Peanut rum cream
- Several Parrots
- more information about rum distillation than you would ever want to know
- Has anyone else been to the Pegu Club? Share your experiences!
- How long does Carpano Antica keep once opened?
- What is everyone’s favorite go to rye for mixing?