Rum, punch and the new wave
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Opinion - Digression apart, this column has the intention of keeping you, Constant Reader, aware of the vagaries of modern drinking; whether beer, wine or spirit is your tipple.
Needless to say, the majority of these experiences require a good deal of imbibition to relate, review and recount, but let us be clear that my liver has never been more fighting fit!
So this column starts it nascent life with a blow to the hardcore gin fanatics who have suddenly seemed to burst from every nook and cranny.
With over 250 different and registered brand names, South Africa is literally stuffed to the gills with the many and varied juniper-laden white spirit, available in all sorts of flavour compounds and styles.
For instance, a new arrival at the bar, the “Wildcraft Equinox 79”, is from Môreson in Franschhoek, and is a 100% chardonnay distilled with nine botanicals, six of them foraged from the estate.
Unctuous aromatics, floral filled and spice whiffs aplenty, the first nose might suggest a robust grappa (or grape husk brandy as Italians want the G-name for themselves) but with the addition of pink grapefruit, some muddled basil leaf and diced strawberry, and finished with a dry tonic (Fever Tree or Swann for choice) and served with edible flowers makes for a conversation piece in itself.
But I digress. The first volley, ie gin is a dead duck is backed by bartenders and craft spirit producers the world over. Let’s not forget “Mezcal” from the Swartland, and the booming if alarming rise of “moonshine” producers, but the spirit on the lips of the coming trend wave is rum. And why, with the amount of sugar produced in SA, there hasn’t been authoritative efforts produced before now, is one of the questions that keeps me up at night.
But there is light on the horizon or “rumrizon” as I like to call it, with the boys at Whistler Distillery in the Free State. Having dropped past the bar with the spiced, dark, and coconut versions of their delicious efforts, we tasted them with the obvious cola, mint and soda, and spicy ginger beer by Fitch & Leedes.
With the price point near on the industrial Captain Morgan and Spiced Gold, my fervent hope is that we might see more of it proliferating through KZN’s drinking holes in the near future.
A little closer to home, like Ballito, is a new distillery, Blackstrap, taking its name from that gooey by-product of sugar production that historically began the rum trade in the Caribbean and Latin/South America.
Attributed to the Spanish, and soon taken fully over by enterprising pirates of mixed origin, rum has never really had its time in the limelight.
But back on the track of homegrown efforts (not a sativa or indica kind), the boys at Blackstrap have formed “Ginsala” - yes, a white spirit with juniper at its head, and as they say all the flavours of the East Coast.
I will bide patiently away waiting for their rum, which needs time in the barrel, and sip at the various other delicious drinks they offer at Alchemy, their sidebar to the distillery.
As it is a time of abstinence for a great many at this time of the year, I perhaps ought to drag into the occasion the subject of “mocktails” and other non-alcoholic options available these days.
From a beer perspective, the Germans cover the lager style adequately with “Becks”, but the “Erdinger” non-alco for those who prefer the more rounded, slightly sweeter Weiss style is also comparable.
If it’s cider you prefer, then you’re going to be hard put to find one in the country, but there are both French and Swedish options available through online stores.
Quickly becoming a firm favourite of mine, simply for the ease of service, is “The Duchess”, a virgin gin and tonic, where the alcohol was reverse osmosed out, leaving all the botanical flavour without the sting. Available in original, floral and soon to be released “Greenery” (obviously a herby style), the range fits for those who like G&Ts but don’t want to suffer the consequences.
So anyway, I hope my vitriolic episode hasn’t rendered you null and void, but rather has pressed a little thirst button and made you ready to hit a bar somewhere near you and broaden those taste sensibilities.
* Mo Therese is an ardent carouser and aficionado of all things bibulous; be it wine, beer and spirits. Having tended bar from an early age, his journey through the world of bars, hotels and restaurants led him to be ensconced comfortably at Café 1999 and Unity Bar in Musgrave. If offered a tequila, he will normally roll over and let you pet his belly. He sometimes blogs on [email protected] He can be followed on Instagram and Facebook for more facetious commentary on modern life and drinking trends.