What you see here is the beginning of my newest obsession: the books of Charles H. Baker, Jr. His Gentleman’s Companion books are well-known and well-trod in cocktail circles, so I’m not jumping into some unknown source material. Rather, I was fairly unprepared at the beginning of my cocktailing journey to enjoy the drinks in his books. Now, after five years of mixing and tasting, it seems obvious to me that Charles H. Baker and I, were the time-space continuum not an obstacle, would be drinking buddies. Our tastes converge along many lines, and frankly the man seems like he was a self-contained party. He spent time in the company of Hemingway and William Faulkner as well as movie stars, musicians, socialites and royalty. He married (many times), he traveled the world, and most importantly he wrote about all of it. And because he did all those things, I probably should have listened to the man years ago, since we have both come to the same conclusion:
…all really interesting people—sportsman, explorers, musicians, scientists, vagabonds and writers—were vitally interested in good things to eat and drink; cared for exotic and intriguing ways of composing them. We soon discovered further that this keen interest was not solely through gluttony, the spur of hunger or merely to sustain life, but in a spirit of high adventure.
It isn’t summiting Everest or piloting a hot air balloon around the world, but there is a certain amount of adventurousness requisite to the cocktailian. For Baker, it was traveling the world in search of those recipes. For us, now, it’s more archaeology than adventure, but we still reap the spoils in our dusty exploring of tomes like his.
This drink comes from volume two of his Companion books, from his travels through South America. Simple, straightforward and delicious, the only trick to making this drink well is to taste for the tartness of your limes and adjust the sweetener accordingly.
2 oz best medium dark rum (Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva)
1½ – 2 tsp strained honey (or agave nectar)
2 tsp or so lime juice
2 tsp fresh egg white
Shake with big ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with 3-4 drops Angostura, or a mist of spray bitters. Garnish with an orange twist and serve.
Regarding execution, there are only a few notes. First, we used a mist of Urban Moonshine Organic Maple Bitters instead of Angostura—with delicious results. If you’re using honey, it will seize up as soon as the ice hits it, so you need to stir, stir, stir to dissolve the honey in the rum and/or lime juice before you add the rest of the ingredients and shake. Agave nectar doesn’t suffer from the same coldness issues, but the drink won’t have the same honeyed flavor.
Those caveats aside, this drink is delicious. The quality of the rum is important, and the flavor of the Gran Reserva really carried this. The light notes of tart and sweet from the lime and orange were lovely, and the bitters on top of the drink provide a spicy aromatic note without profoundly affecting the flavor of the ingredients in the glass. Despite the fact that it’s essentially a dressed up summer-staple daiquiri, the orange peel and bitters make this perfect for wintertime sipping, and its small size make it perfect for a quick drink before dinner.