Here are some ideas to assist you with plotting the menu for this fun hosting experience.
It is hard to go wrong with cheese. From fresh cut slices and crackers, grilled cheese sandwiches, or shared plate full of fried Mozzarella cheese sticks, let’s face it - cheese is a great way to start a gathering.
When pondering a Rum pairing, a Ti Punch is a good juxtaposition with an aged Swiss and a baked cracker. Mature (not overly sharp) Cheddar or aged Gouda pairs well with Rum Old Fashioned and Manhattan cocktails.
If you prefer to sip Rum neat, try Rhum Barbancourt Five Star, an eight year old Rum from Haiti, or Chairman’s Reserve, a five year Rum from the island of St. Lucia with a citrus or lemon Stilton for a delicious experience.
A minimally aged Agricole Rhum paired with Camembert or Humbolt Fog Blue cheeses will impress your guests with its bold earthy flavors. They all provide distinctly different flavor profiles that bring out some intriguing nuances and flavors when paired with the recommended cheeses.
All about the greens
Have to admit personally I am not one who enjoys salad so I referred to the expertise of Kapri Robinson, President and Engagement Ambassador for Chocolate City’s Best. She recommended the following: “Big mixed green salads with roasted chicken, sunflower seeds, goat cheese, cucumber, cilantro and cashew dressing and fruity vinaigrette. I tend to find myself making Daiquiris (be it blueberry, strawberry, pineapple, or classic) with Rum to go with these salads. I prefer Rums like Havana 3 year or Brugal Extra Dry in my Daiquiris.”
Traveling the Caribbean and coastal United States my appreciation of a good cocktail paired with fish centered meals can be a true delight but is also a tad tricky as the wide variety of flavors can be challenging to pair. Here are a few suggestions to help you with your culinary journey.
Ceviche, a Latin American dish made with fresh raw fish that is cured in citrus juice with fresh tomatoes, onions, and spices, pairs well with citrus forward cocktails like the Rum Cooler or Rum Cosmo.
Flying fish, Cod, Tilapia, Salmon and White Fish can be found baked, fried, steamed, and stewed all depending on the imaginations of the chefs or traditional island recipes.
A good Rum Punch can be a safe go-to, but also a Rum Rambler, Corn-N-Oil, or Mojito tend to go well with a variety of fish dishes.
Bring on the meat!
When discussing Rum and meat dishes my mind thinks immediately of steak. Steak and aged Rum is a culinary match made in heaven as the grilled flavors of the meat and the combination of wood, caramel, and unique nuances of the spirit compliment in a wonderfully flavored dance.
Personally, I enjoy a dram of Mount Gay XO, Privateer Navy Yard, or Facundo Exquisito when enjoying a steak or barbecue brisket. Cocktail-wise, a Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof Navy Grog, or a classic Q.B. Cooler pair well with all sorts of beef dishes.
When not in the mood for beef, the question I find myself asking is do I want the pork or the chicken dish. While discussing food pairings with Kapri she mentioned that “savory Pork Chops with mashed potatoes and green beans pairs well with a Chet Baker cocktail made with El Dorado 12.“ For your sipping pleasure, a good many pork dishes pair well with Real McCoy 5, or Appleton 12 especially things like pork ribs and Cha Sui pork.
Chicken, oh the wonderful variety of dishes; from fried, oven roasted, and grilled there is something to make most omnivores happy. The cocktails and Rums to match can be as simple or as complex as one desires.
For example, Fried Chicken and Macaroni and Cheese pairs well with Rum and Coca-Cola or a Three Dots and a Dash. A spiced oven roasted chicken can be an interesting (in a good way) pairing with a 1944 Mai Tai, or Scorpion tropical cocktail.
Grilled Chicken kabobs and aged Rhum Agricoles like Rhum JM XO are a surprisingly good match as the flavors of the Rum match up nicely with the meat and pepper flavors of the meal. Finally Jerk chicken, plantains, red beans and rice and a glass of Wray and Ting (Wray and Nephew Overproof and Ting soda) is simply one of my favorite food and drink pairings when it comes to chicken dishes.
There is a lot to be said for Rum and dessert pairings (All of it good!). In general, you could spend an entire evening exploring the pairing of different Rums and chocolates.
For example Brugal 1888 or Ron Santa Teresa (both Sherry finished Rums) and a variety of dark chocolates are excellent pairings. For those who enjoy drinking dessert, a chocolaty Bushwhacker cocktail may just be what the doctor ordered. (Just make sure someone else is driving.)
Arroz con leche (Mexican Rice Pudding) with its cream and spicy profile goes well with Havana Club Selecion de Maestro or Ron Barcelo Onyx with the sweet and spice of both the pudding and the Rum complimenting each other.
Cakes with a lot of icing with Rum can get overly sweet for a lot of people’s palates, but toasted coconut cake is a surprisingly good match with Bacardi 8, or for a funky touch pair it with a glass of Hampden Estate Rum. Interested in pairing a cocktail? Try a Missionary’s Downfall, Coffee Grog, or El Presidente with a slice.
Finally, is pie your thing?
Mississippi Mud Pie pairs well with a glass of Rum-Bar Gold Rum or Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva. If chocolate is not your thing, try a slice of Apple Pie and Monymusk Special Reserve or Don Q 2007 Single Barrel for a complimenting pairing.
Spirited experiences like shared meals are among some of my favorite memories working in the industry as a writer. It is my hope this article will inspire you to find your own creative pairings and host a dinner in the future.
For further exploration the next time you are at a restaurant with a good Rum menu, ask for pairing recommendations. You just never know what you might learn from the experience and help you create your own spirited dinner. Cheers!