"YOU have to put the ice in the glass..."
True, but you try making a Dark and Stormy cocktail blindfolded.
But before I have to take out a super-injunction, my blindfolded bartending in Neon Cactus is not a sex game gone badly wrong but a challenge from Gosling’s Rums party organiser Tom Clore.
He challenged me to make one of their trademarked cocktails in a blindfold because that is what brand owner Malcolm Gosling asks his trainees to do.
"I hadn’t the heart to tell Tom I’d never actually had a tot of rum in my life, but it would have been insulting to Ricky and Cas not to taste their creations."
So here I am taking on veteran barman Tom and uber experienced Cactus bartender Amanda Nowicki in a three way blindfolded battle. Our task is to see who can do the best job of mixing a shot of Black Seal rum, ginger beer, a squeeze of lime and tons of ice.
Tom goes first and on home turf he is both quick and accurate producing a very strong cocktail with the minimum of mess.
I’m next and it's a lot harder than it looks as I blindly spill every ingredient all over the pristine bar. It’s more than 25 years since I last stood behind a bar so my feeble effort is little more than a valiant failure.
Finally, Sarah steps up to her bar and proceeds to wipe the floor with the pair of us – fast, the right amount of rum and no ice spilled.
“Your Dark and Stormy was pretty good for an amateur, but you failed to squeeze the limes in at the end which is vital for this cocktail,” Sarah told me magnanimous in victory.
So with the humiliation of that schoolboy error ringing in my ears I sat with Tom in Azucar bar to find out a bit more about a dark rum that has been in production since 1806, but a brand I’d never heard of.
“We’re running a series of party events across Leeds to celebrate Bermuda’s National Day because Gosling’s is made exclusively on that island,” says Tom.
“The story is that James Gosling set sail for American with £10,000 worth of stock, but the charter broke down. So he ended up on Bermuda and decided to set up his own rum making business as he knew sailors stopping off wanted a tot when they landed .
“Dark and Stormy is made with Gosling’s Black Seal rum, which gets its name from when empty champagne bottlers were taken from the officer’s mess refilled with rum and sealed with black tar.”
So that’s the PR spin, but in my experience bartenders are usually honest about what they sell. The question is: in a bar that sells 50 varieties of rum, is the dark version - a drink I’d always though was an old man’s tipple - flying off the shelves?
“They’re no doubt that dark rum is becoming much more popular with young people and I think it’s because they see it as a nice refreshing drink for the summer” says Ricky while mixing a jug of punch.
“Some of our cocktails have 12 ingredients but the rum ones we’re doing this week are pretty simple and can easily be recreated at home.”
Fellow bartender Cas has created his own special cocktail, Gasanova’s Love Bunch, to mark Bermuda’s birthday. All you need is Dark Seal (25ml), lemon juice (25ml), orange juice (25ml), grapefruit (25ml), passion fruit syrup (12.5ml), grenadine (7m) and loads of ice.
Not to be outdone, Ricky also offered us another cocktail called Bap’s Bermuda Punch - dark rum (25ml), lime juice (25ml), vanilla gonne (15ml), pineapple puree (25ml), pineapple juice (50ml) and loads of ice.
I hadn’t the heart to tell Tom I’d never actually had a tot of rum in my life, but it would have been insulting to Ricky and Cas not to taste their creations.
The first surprise was how the fruit juices really take the edge off the strong rum creating a really smooth taste. I was also pleasantly surprised how the fruity mixes created the sort of drink best enjoyed on a bar terrace during what is likely to be a short Leeds summer.
In the end there wasn’t much to choose between the two cocktails but I thought Gasanova’s Love Bunch just edged it thanks to the grapefruit.
Don;t worry that you've missed Bermuda day - you can still get along tot he following bars and discover their rum creations:
Azucar, 5 Brewery Place, Leeds, LS10 1NE. Tel: 0113 243 5761 www.azucarbar.co.uk
Bar room bar, 37 Call Lane, Leeds, LS1 7BT. Tel: 0113 243 0315 www.barroombar.com
Brooklyn Bar, 50 Call Lane, Leeds, LS1 6DT. Tel: 0113 2443932 www.brooklynbar.co.uk
Call Lane Social Tiki Bar, 38 Call Lane, Leeds, LS1 6DT. Tel: 0113 2470285
Neon Cactus, 35 Call Lane, Leeds, LS1 7BT. Tel: 0113 2458400 www.neoncactus.co.uk
Sandinista, 5/5a Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, LS2 8JP. Tel: 0113 3050372 www.sandinistaleeds.co.uk
Smokestack, 159a Lower Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6LY. Tel: 0113 2452222 www.smokestackleeds.co.uk
Trio Bar and Grill, 44 North Lane, Headingley, Leeds, LS6 3HU. Tel: 0113 2036090 www.arcinspirations.com/trio/
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