A well crafted cocktail made with quality ingredients can provide us with magical flavor experiences that we might not discover anywhere else.

As we explore Rum’s origin and history we have learned that from its earliest “Kill Devil” incarnation has always been mixed to create different libations. From Punches made of other Liquors, fruit juices and spices to the more complex modern cocktails, over time certain ingredients stand out as commonly used with Rum.
 
Together we are going to explore how some of these components evolved over time to become go-to mixers in the hospitality industry as well as in our homes.  One of Sour, two of Sweet…
 

1. Simple Syrup

From the Classic Daiquiri, the Rum Sour, or the tropical Jungle Bird cocktails simple syrup is a key ingredient to help balance the acidity and add a touch of sweetness to many libations.


 
Easy to make the syrup is a 1:1 balance of sugar and water that is heated in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Then it is just a matter of bottling and refrigerating until you want to use it.
 
Sometimes you will see Rich Simple Syrup referenced in a cocktail and that refers to a Simple Syrup that is made with two parts sugar instead of one. 
 

2. Velvet Falernum

In my personal Rum journey, Velvet Falernum was one of the first Caribbean created mixers to go with cocktails like the Corn n Oil and Rum Swizzle. Created in the 18th century Falernum is a mix of Rum, spices, sugar, and lime juice. In 1890 Rum blender John D. Taylor adapted the recipe to the modern recipe that is still used today by Richard Seale of Foursquare Rum Distillery.

In recent years a few other Falernum products have been released that have been hit or miss with bartenders and cocktail creators especially ones that high alcohol by volume. Best to experiment and decide what you like best.

If you are unfamiliar with this product, I recommend starting with the John D. Taylor since it is easiest of the Falernums to find and creates a foundation to base future experiments upon.

While researching this article I came across this recipe courtesy of Haus Alpenz.
 

Bajan Legend

- 1 oz John D. Taylor Velvet Falernum
- 3 dashes Angostura Bitters

Directions: Stir with ice, strain into double rocks glass and garnish with lime wheel.
 

3. Grenadine Syrup

This tasty elixir is a mixture of pomegranate juice, sugar and water known for the sweet and tart flavors it introduces to a cocktail as well as the red color it infuses into a drink.

In Camper English’s article written for Academics he chronicles how in 1862 in Jerry Thomas’ “How to Mix Drinks” the first known bartender guide, recipes refer to raspberry or strawberry syrup. 50 years later over 100 recipes called for Grenadine as an ingredient. This is well worth the read if you are curious to see how this concoction has evolved to being an ingredient in easily over a thousand cocktail recipes today.
 
Like Simple Syrup this Spirit suppresses the harsh flavors some un-aged or minimally aged Spirits add to a drink. Grenadine syrup is relatively easy to find, but you can also make it at home with using a combination of pomegranate juice, sugar, rose or orange water, and it is highly recommended to use minimally aged Rum or Vodka as a preservative.  


 
One thing to be aware of if you are purchasing the syrup, make sure to read the ingredients. They are certain companies that sell products that are Grenadine in name only and are inferior chemical creations that do not provide the flavor you desire when creating a cocktail with Grenadine in it. 
 

Grenadine Syrup recipe

- 2 ½ cups of pomegranate juice
- 1 ½ cup of sugar
- 12 drops of Orange water
- Splash of Vodka or minimally aged Rum

Directions: Add 1 ¼ cup of pomegranate juice and ¾ cup of sugar to a small saucepan. Simmer and let bubble until it is reduced to about a 1/3 of original volume. Add the remaining juice and sugar along with the Orange water.

Warm on low until all of the sugar has dissolved. Let cool, add splash of Vodka or minimally aged Rum, then use a funnel to pour into the bottle. A favorite Rum cocktail that uses grenadine is the classic Rum Sunrise a riff on the Tequila Sunrise cocktail.
 

Rum Sunrise

- 6 oz orange juice
- 2 oz minimally aged Rum (ex. Don Q Cristal or Bounty)
- 1 tbsp of Grenadine

Directions: Fill a glass halfway with ice. Add Rum and orange juice to glass and stir. Slowly pour “drizzle” Grenadine into the drink. As the Grenadine settles it will change the color into the namesake “sunrise” color. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by The Branch (@thebranchhtx)


4. Curacao

Dating back to the 17th century Curacao was created by Dutch traders. They discovered the Laraha Orange on the southern Caribbean island of Curacao. The traders were already working transporting oils, spices, and Spirits and discovered that the extract of a Laraha Orange actually made a great orange Liqueur. 
 
The flavor profile of Curacao is distinctly different from other kinds of orange Liqueurs as each one provides its own level of sweetness and flavor. When shopping the shelves you will notice that Curacao can be either blue or orange in color. This color difference is only due to a coloring agent and does not affect the flavor of the true Curacao Liqueur.  
 

Like Grenadine, they are some chemically concocted imitators in the market so do your homework so you have a quality cocktail experience. A classic Sidecar recipe is made interchangeably with either Curacao or Triple Sec and is a good way to experience this citrus forward cocktail.
 

Rum Sidecar

- 1 oz Curacao
- 1 oz lemon juice
 
Directions: Put ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake hard and strain into Coup glass. Garnish with orange peel.
 

5. Orgeat Syrup

Pronounced Or-zhat this syrup came into existence in the 18th century as a shelf stable barley oil-water emulsion that almond oil was added to to improve the flavor and over time became the primary oil used in the emulsion. Then people started tinkering with it adding sugar, cinnamon, and rose water and discovered that this syrup went well with Brandy and Rum. This syrup became so popular that it appeared in Jerry Thomas Bartender Guide in 1862.
 
Its popularity waxed and waned until the 1930’s Victor Bergeron of Trader Vic’s fame began using this as one of his secret ingredients in quite a few of his tropical cocktails such as his world famous Mai Tai, Eastern Sour and Samoan Fogcutter. Now it has become a staple ingredient found on the back bars around the world.   

Unlike some of the other syrups we have covered this one is not that easy to make at home but is worth a try if you are so inclined. There are quality versions of it being produced by Fee Brothers, Latitude 29 Formula, and B.G. Reynolds that you can find at your local stores or online. Always avoid the cheap imitations.
 


Basic Orgeat Syrup recipe

- 2 cups of toasted almonds
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- 1 ¼ water
- 1 tsp orange flavor water or rose water
- 1 oz Vodka or minimally aged Rum ex. Bacardi Superior

Directions:
1. Chop two cups of toasted almonds then grind in a blender.
2. In a pan, cook the sugar and water on medium heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.
3. Add almonds and let the mixture simmer on low heat and stir until the mixture boils.
4. Remove from heat, cover, and let it sit for three to twelve hours.
5. Strain mixtures through three or four layers of cheesecloth. Squeeze cloth frequently.
6. Stir in orange flower or rose water, as well as spirit of choice to liquid.
7. Use a funnel to pour liquid into a glass bottle.
 

6. Fruit Juices and Sodas

At this point we have covered some of the interesting and storied mixers that are commonly found in Rum cocktails but we would be remiss if we did not mention some of the common ingredients you will see time and again in your favorite cocktail recipes.



I was taught when it comes to fruit juices that if you are not going to fresh squeeze your own, use products that are as natural and as unsweetened as possible. A good many cocktails already have sugar added and sweetened fruit juices will knock carefully crafted drink recipes out of balance. 
 
With most recipes that involve Soda the sweetness of the flavor profile has been taken into account and if a brand is named it is best to stick to that to stay true to the desired flavor of the cocktail creator. For example Rum mixed with Coca-Cola versus Rum mixed with Pepsi are two very different flavor experiences.


 
Hopefully this article has inspired you to think about your favorite kind of cocktail mixers and how easy or difficult some of the ingredients are to make at home. While it is always interesting to explore a Spirit neat, it is something special to enjoy a well crafted cocktail made by a master of their craft.  
 
Now think about your favorite cocktails and ponder if you have a favorite ingredient in your drinks.
 
Cheers to your good health!