Imbibe readers may remember Dr. Cocktail’s challenge in his Rototo column in the Nov/Dec issue. He tantalizingly offered up a sumptuous cold-weather cocktail of his own creation, but pulled it back at the last second because of a long unavailable ingredient. He would reveal the recipe, he said, plus the formula to make the unavailable ingredient, if readers requested it—as they have!
This is a drink I named the Addams’ Apple in honor of Chas Addams, creator of the Addams’ Family and author of some of the funniest (and darkest) cartoons ever to appear in the New Yorker. It’s a holiday drink. Thus my humor also trends to the dark side. But here’s the deal: it tastes like a cold cocktail of hot apple pie.
2 oz. Applejack
1 oz. apple cider
1/2 oz. pimento dram
2 dashes orange bitters
Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker loaded with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and if you want to do it up right, garnish with an apple slice that’s been soaking in brandy (Calvados is best) for a week, but no more. Drink the cocktail, chew on the apple.
Here, though, is the worm in the apple: It’s been a long time since pimento dram has been readily available in the U.S. What is pimento dram? It’s a Jamaican liqueur (both homemade and commercial) with a rum base flavored with the pimento berry. Hmm. Pimento berry. Is that the red wadded-up thing stuffed into a pickled cocktail olive? Nope, that’s something entirely (and blessedly) different. The pimento berry was encountered by seafaring British explorers in the 18th century. The natives called it “pimiento” (anglicized to pimento.) Once they tasted it, however, the English gave it a new name based on its flavor. They called it “allspice” because it seemed to encapsulate the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove—all it one. It remains a favorite in Jamaica, but the current sole producer, Wray & Nephew, steadfastly will not import it to the States. They are missing out on a good bet though, especially in the winter.
So, what is to be done? Well, a couple of other serious (and estimable) doctors of the cocktail have developed formulas that re-create this genuinely superb cordial. I advised, and both Chuck Taggart of gumbopages.com and the team of Chad Solomon and Christy Pope (celebrated New York City bartenders and owners of Cuff & Buttons Cocktail Catering) have devised two turnkey pimento dram formulas. Remember, it was originally a homemade “folk” liqueur, so nuances of flavor varied anyway.
Chuck’s Jamaican Pimento Dram (Allspice Liqueur) No. 3
2-1/4 cups 151-proof Demerara rum
1/2 cup whole dried allspice berries, crushed
3 cups water
1-1/2 lb. brown sugar
Crush the allspice berries in a mortar and place in a 1-liter jar with a rubber seal. Cover with the rum and allow to steep for at least 10 days, agitating the maceration daily.
Pour through a fine strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquor as you can, then pour the strained liquor maceration through another strainer lined with a coffee filter (this’ll take a while).
Make a simple syrup with the water and brown sugar; heat until dissolved, then allow to cool. When cool, combine with the rum maceration and allow to age for at least one month. Decant and enjoy.
This will almost fill two 750 ml. bottles (we use the ones they sell fizzy French lemonade in, because of that nifty resealing rubber-lined ceramic stopper), so you can cut the recipe in half to makes less, unless you want to give some away.
Chad & Christy’s Pimento Dram
2 cups Lemon Hart 151 Demerara Rum
1/2 cup Myer’s Dark Jamaican Rum
1/2 cup whole allspice berries
3 cups water
1 1/2 lbs. granulated white sugar
1 oz. Angostura bitters
1 oz. burnt sugar
Crush the allspice berries with a mortar and place in a glass jar. Cover with the rum and seal tightly. Let the mixture steep for 14 days, agitating daily. Pour the mixture through a fine strainer (like a chinois) pressing on the solids to extract as much of the spiced rum as you can. Pour the liquid again through a coffee filter.
Make a 1:1 simple syrup using your sugar and water, using gentle heat and stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let the syrup cool, then add it to the infused rum along with the Angostura and the burnt sugar. Bottle the mixture in two clean/sterilized 750 ml. bottles and let it rest for 1 month. After that, go crazy with it.
Both of these versions are simply excellent, and though they are preparation-intensive, the resulting liqueur is incredibly versatile and well worth the effort.
Let me know how you like the Addams’ Apple!
This is Doc, returning you now to your regularly scheduled program.