Add a Little Funk to Your Cocktails – By the Dutch Batava Arrack

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Here is something of interest….it was quite a while ago since I wrote about arrack spirits. I have always liked it as a cocktail ingredient since it adds a certain funk adding a specific edge to the drinks…and needless to say it suits tiki drinks very well.

Arrack

The original word “araq” is Arabian and was associated with the distillation process when the knowledge of how to distill spirits spread in the Middle East and Asia during the 14th century and the term arrack was used for distilled spirits in general but “Batavia Arrack” is a term specifically for molasses based arrack distillate.

There are three completely different categories of Arrak:

Arak – from the Middle East, distilled from fermented grapes, licorice-flavored with anise seed.

Batavia Arrak – from Indonesia, distilled from fermented sugar cane and rice.

Coconut Arrak – from Sri Lanka, distilled from naturally fermented nectar of coconut flowers.

During the 18th century Arrak was used as a substitute for rum ratios for sailers in South East Asia by the British Royal Navy and Marco Polo mentioned Arrak in his 13th century diary Il Milione. Also Arrak was an ingredient in several recipes in Jerry Thomas original 1882 book The Bartender´s Guide. So it´s a very old spirit…

“By the Dutch” Batavia Arrack is a 48% abv distillate based on sugar-cane molasses produced on the island of Java, Indonesia with methods dating back to the 17th century. It’s comprised of a specific range of pot still distillates originating from the East Indies.

Local red rice is used in the fermentation process being added and mixed to the yeast before adding to the water and molasses and it`s this, which sets it apart from rum, although the base material is still molasses from sugar-cane. Distillation of Batavia Arrack is done with traditional old Chinese ancient copper pot stills and ageing is done in oak barrels up to 8 years and the result is rich and deep. The ageing and blending takes place in the Netherlands.

Some call it “Indonesian rum” due to the very similar process in the making and inclusion of molasses but personally i`d rather classify it as simply “Batavia Arrack” since the red rice is not part of rum making plus it adds a distinctive flavor to the product which also sets it apart.

As somebody living in Sweden I learnt early what Batavia Arrack was since it´s part of the Swedish Punsch which I use very occasionally as a cocktail ingredient. It`s also part of a type of punch-rolls and other chocolate candies that are very tasty. And also and this is very interesting, it´s also a part of the ingredients in the GunRoom Navy Rum made by Renbjer & Magnusson which I have reviewed earlier.

Some technical aspects:

Distilling process: 1. Fermentation of the wash from molasses (sugarcane by-product), water and added local red rice, in wooden vats up to ± 8% abv. 2. The ready wash is distilled in vintage Pot-stills up to ± 30% abv. 3. Second distillation in other pot-stills up to 60-65% abv. 4. Batavia Arrack has been stored and shipped to Amsterdam. 5. Batavia Arrack is matured in large oak casks in Amsterdam. 6. Batavia Arrack is blended according to an unique and secret recipe by the master blender and brought back to 48% abv.

Batavia was the name of the capital city of the Dutch East Indies, and corresponds to the present day city of Jakarta. The establishment of Batavia (Java Island) at the site of the razed city of Jayakarta by the Dutch in 1619 led to the Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. Batavia became the center of the Dutch East India Company’s trading network in Asia.

Virtually all arrack exported to Europe arrived in Amsterdam or Rotterdam in wooden barrels or buts (563 liters). This would than be matured and blended to create an end product of consistent quality and flavor.

I find the taste of this Batavia Arrack to be very much like a shortly aged rum and it´s not harsh at all even though it got some fire and it also got quite a bit of “herbal” funk a la Smith & Cross style actually but it´s still has it´s own distinctive taste. It´s an interesting flavor that can be had on the rocks or in mixed drinks.

So with that it´s time to drink!

Witch Doctor (recipe by Geoffrey Wilson)

1 oz By the Dutch Batavia Arrak
1 oz Smith & Cross Jamaican rum
0.5 oz basil syrup
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
Top with soda
Basil for garnish cut in stripes (chiffonade)

Shake the ingredients together except the soda. Pour into a tall glass and top with soda, then add chiffonade basil for garnish and if you wish, a tropical orchid.

One thing this drink has is pronounced  arrack and rum flavors and at the same time it´s refreshing due to the fresh lime, basil and soda. The drink is slightly earthy and herbal and it´s delicious.

And here´s a take on the Painkiller:

Batavia Pain Killer

4 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 oz orange juice
1 oz Coco Real or Lopez cream of coconut
1 oz By the Dutch Batavia Arrak
1 oz Pusser`s Rum

Shake with plenty of crushed ice and pour unstrained into a tall glass or tiki mug. Dust with nutmeg and garnish with pineapple leaves. And a  float of Cruzan Blackstrap can only do good…..

Since there´s quite a bit of juice in this the arrack flavor is less pronounced but it´s there, mingling in the middle and the drink is quietly doing it`s job!

Final thoughts – I find this product to be as nice as I thought it would be, I love the funkiness it adds to cocktails and even though I haven`t made it on the rocks here i`m sure that tastes good too. I can recommend trying this out!

Elixir Tropical for Bacardi Legacy 2017

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Elixir Tropical is a tropical cocktail created by Maurizio La Spina, made for the 2017 Bacardi Legacy Competition and the south European final will be held on the 27 and 28 February in Madrid.

The inspiration of the cocktail comes from one simply question : What really is a“tropical cocktail”? – it would be an elixir with the power to bring your mind to a tropical island. It is a celebration of the great golden age of Cuban cocktails and a tribute for the keystone of tropical mixology “the Daiquiri”.

Maurizio La Spina is a bartender / Italian entrepreneur, born in 1984 in Naples, one of the most famous cities in the world for the hospitality and the food, he studied economics and interior design and in the meantime to fund his studies began working in the bar of a beach, and there he fell in love with bartending, public relations and tropical cocktails.

So he decided to leave his studies to devote himself full time to the art of bartending and then began to study, train and work in the best cocktail bar in his city and eventually much of Italy, from in the “S’Move cocktail bar” of Naples up to the “Billionaire” in Sardinia.

During a seminar on Tiki Culture with Daniele Dalla Pola Maurizio literally received an illumination and decided to get deeper into tropical and tiki drink mixing and created a project called “The Marama Project” that still unites many bartenders and Italian artists in dedicated events and also to the tropical tiki idea and creates its own Tiki mug-line with Neapolitan artist /ceramist Catherine Cioce who has since founded a small company with handmade production of Tiki mugs called “Maka Tiki“.

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A few weeks ago Maurizio managed to pass the semi-finals of the National Bacardi Global Legacy Cocktail competition in 2017, and February 27 will be in Madrid for the southern Europe final with his drink called “Elixir Tropical” which is a tribute to the Most Holy Trinity, the “Daiquiri “- keystone of the whole tropical mixing and a celebration of the great golden age of Cuba.

Today he works in his training school for bartender’s in Naples as a teacher and continues to study rum and tropical and tiki drinks.

It was through the gorgeous tiki mugs from the “Marama project” that I came in contact with Maurizio, I fell in love with the distinct style and design of these tiki mugs with all the details they have, and more of these mugs will come up on this blog later.

Here´s the recipe of the Elixir Tropical:

Elixir Tropical

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60 ml Bacardi carta blanca

20 ml fresh lime juice

20 ml orgeat syrup

7,5 ml Luxardo Maraschino Liquor

2 mint leaves

3 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake and strain into a cocktail coupe and dust some fresh nutmeg on top.

I keep my thumbs for Maurizio in the Bacardi Legacy!

FINE Drinking – A Bar, Cocktail & Lifestyle Magazine Hailing from Athens!

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This is like a candy-bag for spirited grown ups!

Do you want to know about FINE drinking and lifestyles? there´s a new bar magazine coming out of Athens, it´s called Fine Drinking and it takes you on a very interesting journey in the spirited world…

When I got these magazines I was pleasantly surprised….the mag is like a book! it´s really thick and the quality is superb both in the design, layout and content. The layout I think very well reflects the playful style of where it comes from….it´s very much “Baba au Rum“! It`s a quarterly printed edition about cocktail and bar culture as well as travelling. There´s also other reviews made of this fine magazine, for example on “Adventures of the Barstalker” which is a very fun and informative blog to read!

Fine Drinking is also a coffee table publication with high-end aestetics and timeless texts in both english and greek, a magazine that reserach and present an exciting international bar and drinking industry and culture and the type of publication you will want to save and keep. The brain behind it is Thanos Prunarus, a bartender since 18 years and the owner of the famous Baba au Rum bar in Athens and author of the bar and cocktail book “handcrafted”.

If you have been to Baba au Rum you will feel very familiar with the style of this magazine since it has the “Baba” look and feel to it despite the many different contributors from various places, because some places just happens to have that special feel about them that makes you feel at home right away and Baba au Rum is one of those places, it got some “magic” to it…and that is transformed also into this magazine in some way…maybe it´s the playful desgin…?

Or maybe because it`s informative, fun and entertaing as well as very varied because the topics talks about a lot of different things like the bar scenes in various places (like Oslo for example in an article writtten by Thanos Prunarus and Alexandra Barstalker) to “The mystery of cocktail bitters”and how to make Baba au Rum`s own Bergamot bitters (by Thanos) to “The Peruvain bark that conquered Europe” (by Francois Monti) and “From the West Indies to the World” (by Nikos Arvanitis) just to name a very few….

I also feel very honored to see my own article about the colorful history of the tiki drink Chief Lapu Lapu in issue no 2, as well as getting my contribution the “Mariner Daiquiri” for the Baba au Rum`s International Daiquiri Challenge 2016 among the ten finalists, published in issue no 1.

So far there`s two issues published and you can find them in various places and bars and events in Europe – for example even the central train station here in Stockholm has it! but if you can`t find it you can write to fine@babaaurum.com and subscribe.

I myself not going to miss any issues of it! I also believe the Fine Drinking can become a collectors item with time….because it´s very original and beautiful! something to kick back with on the sofa with a daiquiri in hand…or bring along on a trip maybe? and it sure does has it place on your coffee table or bar!

Because FINE Drinking is….

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Thick….

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Beautiful….and classy

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Interesting….

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Rummy….

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Playful!

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Inspirational….

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Tikified….

historical

Historical…and fascinating….

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Educational…

classic

Classic!

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Abstract….

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Cocktails….

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And more cocktails!!

Update – no 3 is out now!

Subscribe – fine@babaaurum.com

One more left to complete the title – FINE  🙂

This is Magic…Skeldon 1973

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The rum genie in a bottle!

And finally….finally the holy grail (or one of the grails) and wet dream of rum landed in my hands…..the Skeldon. The true genie in a bottle that can make magic is not a genie….it´s a rum!

The 1973 Skeldon, is a 32 year old rum from Guyana (abv 60.5%) by the independent bottler Velier and which over the years has earned a cult status among rum connaisseurs and collectors. Unavailable nowadays as far as I know unless you are lucky to score a sample somewhere or even a big bottle maybe, if your pocket is as deep as this rum…..

On the back of the label it says “aged 32 years in tropical weather” “Produced 544 bottles”. The angels share (the contents in the barrel evaporating over time) which concentrates the flavors, color and viscosity, must be something like 75-80%.

It´s a very long time I have wanted to try the Skeldon 73 and 78 (years) and finally my turn has come to be able to try the 1973 expression. I have a firm belief that the good rums sooner or later eventually comes to those who truly appreciates them……This little sample is to me as precious a treasure as a treasure box in all it`s glory…and this might be Luca´s very best rum ever. My mind goes to the best I know of and have tried of the rums from Velier, the UF30E – which I find incredible, will this one be as good or better or can they even compare? I`m sure not….they gotta be very different rums.

I take a look at the little sample bottle…the rum in there has a dark brownish color with hues of deep red…yes red, a pronounced dark deep red…and when I take pics of it in the glass it shows even purple hues…like a dark red purplish tinted wine…amazing.

The history of this rum goes back to the Skeldon sugar plantation which was established between 1802 – 1834 by William Ross on the far east part of Guyana, or more exactly, on the west bank of the Corentyne river, near the border of Suriname. From what I read on the pictures of the labels both the 73 and 78 was distilled in a coffey still in 1973 and bottled in 2005, so makes 32 long tropical years – but exactly where it was distilled I´m not sure…..since the Skeldon facility closed down in 1960. But during the last decade stills have been moved from one distillery to another and most likely the Skeldon still and it`s marques were moved to Uitvlught.

Ah… some of the mysteries of the old Guyana sugar plantations and their stills…will we ever know? I think not…and maybe that’s the best because when the magic is gone it´s gone…so let it remain…

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And in true “Gargano manner”, Luca Gargano found the last barrels of it…(4 barrels!) –  just like he found all those forgotten Caroni barrels in a warehouse at the defunct distillery on Trinidad …. and the 1980 Damoiseau…which was considered to not be “any good” since it contained a  bit of molasses….(or it was rejected by the AOC) but Luca sensing a hidden gem bought almost the entire stock and and in 2002 released it at cask strength and that my friends was the beginning of the Velier era. Damosieu held back some of that rum which they released later at the same strength, probably taking notice Luca was on to something.

Luca is like the ultimate “rum finder” in the rum world…it seems that he just knows where the precious stuff is….and he transforms them into true gems of pure rums, all tropically aged and very unique, every expression is a one of a kind. When these rums are gone it`s an era that will be over.

That said, luckily for us, there`s also new rums in the making, for example the very interesting and unique Clairin rums from Haiti issued by Velier and the fabulous pure single rums from Habitation Velier which is a collaboration between Luca Gargano and the best producers of pot still rums. Also the Foursquare distillery has come out with some remarkable rums in collaboration with Velier like the single blend “Foursquare 2006” (a blend of pot still rum and twin column Coffey still rum from one distillery) – which sold out within just a few hours after it´s release….yeah….to some sort of collective chock among serious rum enthusiasts making it´s ripples through social media, it was just gone – and nope this girl didn`t score a bottle…but I scored a sample.

But back to the legendary old Skeldon…

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So in an attempt to describe the taste notes of this rum from my notes made on an envelope as they came paired with the notes I got when I re-tasted it a few days later:

Nose – first hint – I first got something medical in my nose which gave way to liqorice…followed by musky dark prunes and black fruits, burnt molasses, leather, cocoa and tar…then mature tropical fruits, hint of banana peel, old wood, whiffs of caramel and slight hints of dark dark coffee…it´s a “dark” rum and I`m not talking about the color now but dark fruits and dark “stuff” and the nose is very very deep…

Taste – Hands down unbelievable, an explosion of flavors going out in all directions, but it`s balanced, complex and multi layered, so several tastings is needed. There´s charred wood, mashed tropical fruits, prunes and dark plums…liqorice, tobacco, tar and leather, black cherries…absolutely incredible and so deep and rich and full! It has kick but no burn…there is nothing that is unpleasant, nothing at all, it´s like a fine orchestra handling even the wildest and heaviest notes in full balance with both elegance, attitude and originality, it´s that exquisite.

It´s a heavy rum and strong, but the high proof is not difficult to handle.

Finsh – One thing surprised me, the long finish! it´s epic….!!! After I took my first small sips I decided to check the clock and see how long the finish stayed. After 30 minutes I said to myself, ok, this is long….and I`m impressed….but my dinner was ready so I decided to cut it and have my meal. I could always take the time again at the next session. After the meal and a lot of water – hints of the aftertaste was STILL there! incredible! and that has never happened to me before.

I also decided to do a glass-smell-test, by leaving the tasting glass unwashed and see for how long the smell of the rum stayed in it…something only a geek would do…well, it`s been three days and the smell or shall we say fragrance? is still there but today all of a sudden, I detect more buttery notes of caramel…

What a rum! it shows how a really excellent rum can be…and what the potential is…between two rums there can not only be “another world” it can truly be a whole other universe! in my opinion, this kind of rum can rival or equal anything of the best of anything in the spirits world. And the best thing is, there is nothing added to it, it`s just pure rum!

And last I want to thank the opportunity to officially thank my friend Lance for making it possible for me to try this wonder of a rum and also providing the pics of the big bottle and the pic of the back of the label. I want to add that he has what to me is the very best of all rum blogs, the “Lone Caner” containing an incredible amount of excellent reviews.

Another excellent source which is the most complete and in-detail writing on the history of the rums, sugar plantations and stills of Guyana where I have found lots of valuable information is the Barrel Aged Mind.

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Lady Drink 20th Anniversary and Cocktail Competition 2016

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“The first Lady Drink competition took place in 1996 in Perugia. It is still a unique competition as in any other countries, until nowadays, there isn`t an event like this”  – These are the words of the founder of the event, Danilo Bellucci. In the past 20 years he has been taking care of the organization and the selection of the competitors.

In the past years Lady Drink aimed to reward the excellences in the bartending world. More and more often in Cocktail bars, we find numerous barladies and professionals constantly increasing along with creativity. That’s why every year a bigger and bigger number of bar ladies not only decide to dedicate their passion to study and improve themselves but send their recipes to the Lady Drink competition who is meeting a rising challenge in selecting what they believe are the most innovative ones.

The Lady Drink is the most important European competition for Bar Ladies and celebrated it´s 20th year Anniversary this year at the competition at Excelsior Palace Hotel in Rapallo, Italy on oct 17.

Rapallo is a charming little town near Portofino on the north-west coast of Italy. The Excelsior Palace Hotel offers some of the best views you can imagine…you have the whole sea right in front of your balcony!

Before the competition started we had a half day off and went on a tour to Portofino and had coffee at a little cafè in the harbour right at the water´s edge and all the boats, and we took a steep walk up to the church on top to see all the stunning views of the sea and the cliffs from two sides and to do some souvenir shopping on the way. The Portofino area is just stunning with amazing views around every corner you turn and I can really recommend a trip there.

Back at the hotel, it was time for lunch and then getting ready for the competition which also had masterclasses by the sponsoring brands. In the competition were 40 contestants that had 7 minutes each to create 3 each of their cocktails…which then was presented to us at the judging table to evaluate until there were only two contestants left.

It was so fun to see so much creativity and to try their cocktails from which only one could be the winner…it`s not easy to beat 39 others and there were more than one great cocktail in the bunch! …so not so easy to judge either. There´s many aspects to look at and think about and at the same time you cannot be too slow because the cocktails keep coming!

I saw so many creative presentations but the taste and the overall impression also has to live up to the beautiful presentation…and I think the winner lived up to all aspects of a great tasty cocktail without beeing too sweet or too anything! it was just perfect balance and innovative beautiful garnish fit for the cocktail and the theme.

L’ American è Don Raffaè

Here`s the winning cocktail created by Bello Ilaria (Bar Talea di Tor Vaianica (RM)

The text on the note in Italian is the quote from a song by De André, that says “you like Campari or want the coffee”? They are 2 of the ingredients of the drink and the title of the song la Don Raffaè. The quote on the note makes the whole drink theme with how it tasted even better! just excellent! and very creative!

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L’ American è Don Raffaè

2cl Red Vermouth Carlo Alberto

2cl bitter Campari

1cl China Martini

1,5cl Patron XO Caffè

O,5 Bitter Cioccolato (Bittermen`s Xocolatl Mole)

Congratualtions to the winner! and cheers to all the contestants! Here`s a little picture parade of the contest, the hotel and beautiful Portofino:

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The view from the terrace at the beautiful Excelsior Palace Hotel where the contest was held.

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This hotel was built in 1901.

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The views….

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From my balcony…

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The Lady Drink Competition:

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Stage is ready for the contestants…

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And so are we…(me on the right and on the left, Laura Marnich (Zuma bar, Dubai) the third judge, Elizaveta Evdokimova (Moscow) is unf missing in this picture)

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Getting ready to work…

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And it`s on!

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And the drinks start coming in, so much creativity!

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So many beautiful drinks!

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Speaker and co-organizer of the contest, Gianni Merenda and one of the ladies preparing her three cocktails.

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And in the end…the two finalists….out of 40 cocktails, where the L’ American è Don Raffaè won…

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The winner, Bello Ilaria with the founder of the event (on the right) Danilo Bellucci.

Portofino

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The harbour in Portofino

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They say the emerald waters in this area comers from the deep cliffs underwater creating layers of light…

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This is so mediterranian….

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Portofino seen from the church on top.

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Wild cliffs and sea on the other side.

And last…yet another view from the hotel in Rapallo, sunrise on the last day and time to leave this beautiful place. Thank you Lady Drink and Italy for having me! hope to come back.

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