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The Rum Diaries: Valentine’s Day Edition

February 12, 2012

Playing Cupid can be a fun thing to do for a bartender. But what are the best mixers for rum to use at home to make a delicious and interesting drink for your Valentine? While it may be contrived Hallmark Holiday sentimentalism, the ultimate goal is to make your sweetheart happy. We have a classic cocktail for you… 

For this Valentine’s Day edition of The Rum Diaries, let’s do a little cocktail archeological work, shall we? Let’s talk about a drink so named for a creature as exotic and strangely elegant as love itself.  Let’s talk about a drink born in the tiny little island of Cuba, a place not so unknown for its passion. Ah hell, let’s talk about a drink that’s pink and just a little bit feminine but can still pack a wallop when made deftly. 

Let’s talk about the Flamingo. 

The Flamingo belongs to the lexicon of (mostly rum based) drinks popularized in Cuba around the era of Prohibition in the US and it was no coincidence that Havana was an escape from the abstinence practiced at home. It was a place of excess and romance, much like Las Vegas would later become. Those Americans who could afford it flocked there for the nightlife, gambling, and outright revelry. 

Many celebrities were known to be regulars at places like the famous Bar El Floridita. In fact, the famous actress and founder of United Artists, Mary Pickford had a variation of this very typical Cuban drink named for her. 

Constante Ribalagua, according to King Cocktail, Dale Degroff, is said to have invented this version. Though like so many others, we are seemingly left without exact documentation to prove this. 

Degroff’s version from the seminal cocktail book, Craft of the Cocktail, is a very tasty, light tipple with only 1 oz of Rum to stand up to the equal part of pineapple juice and the rest. I found myself skipping over this drink after making it once as a young bartender in search of something more, well, boozy. 

It was when the dashing gentlemen of Employees Only showed me their own variation one night during a private party with Denizen that I rediscovered the potential of these ingredients. 

Few bars in the world can boast the amount of female attention that EO barmen receive and so I think this is a damn good drink to grease the wheels on Valentine’s Day… 

Flamingo

Adapted from Robert Krueger, Employees Only, New York 

2 oz Denizen White Rum

1 oz pineapple juice

1/3 oz EO grenadine*

1/3 oz  fresh lime juice

1/3 oz simple syrup (1 part water to 1 part sugar dissolved)

Pour all ingredients in a mixing tin, add ice, shake, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish by ‘floating’ several drops of grenadine designed any way you like in the center of the glass. 

*Should you not have a source for grenadine, use 1 part POM wonderful juice or similar and 1 part turninado sugar. Heat the juice in a saucepan then add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Bottle and stir before using.

 

 

As you begin to experiment with this drink, you will see how these very typical Cuban style ingredients pop up and repeat in different combinations and ratios. Rum, lime, pineapple, and grenadine are staples of these beverages and they seem to really play off the grassy, earthy, tropical fruit notes in fuller and unabashed styles of rum, like Denizen. We will come back to Cuban cocktail ingredients in a later post. For now, go on and enjoy this drink with your sweetheart.

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