Rum Fest – Part 1

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.

  1. Tasted over 40 rums
  2. Met Scott, a veritable encyclopedia of rum, from Scottes’ Rum Pages
  3. Met a man who makes rum with live scorpions
  4. Made some great new friends from Tiki Central who hosted a swanky tiki party
  5. 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.

Pegu Club

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.

Next Time

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

KP Questions

  • 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?

12 Responses to “Rum Fest – Part 1”

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12 Comments to “ Rum Fest – Part 1”
  1. ChuckNo Gravatar says:

    We should just start buying the bonded Rittenhouse by the case, given how much we drink it now. I don’t think I”ve touched Overholt since it became readily available in southern California. We use the 6-year Sazerac a fair bit too and occasionally the Turkey (which Wes is fond of).

    It takes us about 3-4 months to finish a bottle of Carpano Antica, and we keep it in the fridge and use the wine preserver gas every time we open the bottle. It keeps pretty well that way, but we have yet to try a side-by-side of a newly uncorked bottle next to the final half-inch of the previous one (we should do that next time we’re about to finish one, actually).

    My jealousy that apparently everyone I know is going to get to the Pegu Club before I do knows no end. It’s not that easy being green (with envy).

  2. MartinNo Gravatar says:

    Keep your fingers crossed- Plymouth Sloe Gin is supposed to come stateside in 08. And it’s as good as you think it is. I saw them make it in Plymouth earlier this year. It’s totally honest- big vats of gin full of macerating sloe berries. I hoard my own bottle at home as well. But if you make it to CA again- I’ll certainly pour ya some!

    Rye for mixing: Rittenhouse 10/Sazerac/and good ol’ Old Overholt is not too shabby.

  3. ScottesNo Gravatar says:

    I finally posted my RumFest entry last night. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who takes a while to get things written.

    Pegu Club… Drool… I am most certainly making time for that next time I’m in the city! I was so busy buying rums – 18 I think – that I never thought to get a great cocktail.

    By the way, I was on Nantucket on Friday and passed up sipping rum just so that I could have a nice little cocktail made with St. Germain. Just for you. If I remember correctly, St. Germain, Stoli Oranj, lychee syrup, a touch of lemon juice, shaken, and topped with seltzer or club soda. Very nice, and the SG gave it a lot of complexity.

    Next time you have to visit the Pegu Club when Audrey is there. Begging her might work…. (good luck)

  4. AnitaNo Gravatar says:

    We (heart) Pegu Club.

    We’ve been there twice together, and Cam’s gone twice more without me. Here are two posts:
    http://marriedwithdinner.com/2007/03/22/bitter-apple/ (third paragraph from the bottom)

    There are many other drive-by mentions on our blog of drinks we’ve had there… Ramos Gin Fizz, Prince of Wales, Cloister, Pegu Club Cocktail, etc. Search “pegu” on our blog and you’ll have an afternoon wasted. :)

    I’d keep the Antica (and all vermouth you care about) in the fridge once opened. Then it should last 6-12 months without problem. But I dare you to make it last that long :D

  5. BoozemonkeyNo Gravatar says:

    I was in NY for a week a few months ago, and of all the places I hit up for cocktails Pegu was the only place I insisted on returning to several times. I had nothing but exceptional drinks while I was out there, but something about Pegu just made me fall in love. I’m extremely happy with the cocktail situation here in San Francisco, but I have to admit I miss the Pegu Club something fierce. Clearly the only answer is to start an petition to have a West Coast Pegu outpost created here:)

    As for Rye’s I’m pretty much in a groove of either the Rittenhouse or Michter’s, though I find I lean more towards the Rittenhouse.

  6. Dr. BambooNo Gravatar says:

    Oh, the envy. And I wanna hear about that Cask 23! :-)

  7. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for Plymouth Sloe Gin in 2008 — Rick and I have been planning a Singapore Sling recipe comparison for the better part of a year. I finally convinced him that to do such a thing using the brands commercially available in the U.S. would be a travesty.

  8. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Chuck, Would you recommend a good brand / model of wine preserver? What’s your favorite Carpano Antica cocktail?
    Margin, What’s your prize tiki drink using the Plymouth sloe gin?
    Scott, What are all the rums you bought?
    Anita, Once I started sipping the Antica, a good portion of the bottle seemed to be missing!
    Boozemonkey, Michter’s is surprisingly easier to find in PA than the Rittenhouse. Though it packs a punch at $40. How much better is it than Old Overholt?

  9. MartinNo Gravatar says:

    It’s called the “On The Margin”, because I have evidently changed my name. ;)

    Never used it in a tiki drink, just a killer sling and a wonderful fizz.

    Speaking briefly of slings, I have just heard (possible rumor) that cherry heering is no longer coming to the states. Stock up!

  10. BoozemonkeyNo Gravatar says:


    I find Michter’s to be a bit more forward, however I don’t feel that it’s substantially better than Old Overholt. For me it pretty much comes down to how I’m feeling. If I’m feeling like a little more kick in my Manhattan or Old Fashioned I’ll go for the Michter’s. I suppose the best way to put it is that Overholt it what I keep at home, and were I to wake up tomorrow to find that the world’s supply of Michter’s had been abducted by aliens for, probing, or whatever it is aliens do I wouldn’t be crying myself to sleep about it.

  11. ScottesNo Gravatar says:

    Rums from NYC:

    Barbancourt White
    Barbancourt 5-Star 8-year-old
    Brinley Vanilla
    Brinley Coffee
    Charbay Vanilla
    Cockspur 5-Star
    Cruzan Blackstrap
    El Dorado White
    El Dorado Gold
    Neisson Blanc
    Neisson Reserve Speciale
    Santa Teresa Gran Reserva
    Santa Teresa Orange Liquer
    Vizcaya VXOP
    Boca Loca
    DonQ Limon
    Depaz Agricole
    Clement VSOP
    (Those last 5 are minis are from the Rum Fest goodie bag)

  12. Doug PNo Gravatar says:

    I totally agree about Michter’s being “more forward” than Overholt. I’d also put Wild Turkey rye in that category, as it has a pretty intense flavor. I couldn’t say that Michter’s is “worth” the 2x/3x price increase over Overholt, but I do find it quite a bit tastier.

    My preferred rye for mixing (and enjoyable for sipping) is definitely the Rittenhouse bonded 100 proof (on the other hand, the normal Rittenhouse doesn’t do much for me at all, I’d take standards like Overholt or Beam over it).

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Kaiser Penguin is a cocktail blog featuring original recipes, homemade ingredients, classic cocktails, and tiki drinks.

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It is a well-known fact that penguins are members of high society and enjoy fine cocktails. Our very own kaiser penguin would like me to mention that he also enjoys various treats from the sea.

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