How to Make Improved Old-Fashioned Rum – Robb Report
The problem with rum Old Fashioneds is that they are so boring.
That’s not always true – sometimes it’s worth making sweeping statements just to annoy rum people, who are a particularly loud kind – but I insist that it’s mostly true. While a touch of bitter and a kiss of sugar bring out the best in a bourbon or rye whiskey, most rums lack the oaky punch or gritty finish that makes the Old Fashioned model shine. Plus, aged rum almost always has sweetness and spice in those exact places on the palate anyway and adding more of it feels like sprinkling sugar on ice cream.
There are ways around this, of course. You can use an unusually old rum, which will provide the oaky complexity you want, or a rum with an unusual personality, such as those from Jamaica or the “agricultural” rums from the French Caribbean. Or you can do what they do in Barbados, and you can do a corn oil.
Corn N’ Oil is a Barbadian classic from at least 100 years ago, made with rum, a lime/clove/almond liqueur called Falernum, bitters and possibly lemon juice green, but maybe not (more details below). As far as cocktail names go, that’s about as bad as it gets – “Corn N’ Oil” sounds like a gas station in Iowa, but the best explanation I’ve read (albeit without proof, but there is nothing else to go on) is that the name is lifted from the bible, Deuteronomy 11:14, “then I will give you rain for your land…that you may gather up your corn, your wine and your oil.”
What’s unusual about Corn N’ Oil is that although it definitely originated in Barbados, there is no definitive account of how it is made, or even what it is. . Some recipes use a full ounce of lime juice, essentially making it a Daiquiri, while some only use a squeeze of lime like the Ti’ Punch and some don’t use any at all. Some people say it should be on a large piece of ice like an Old Fashioned, while others recommend shaved ice like a Mai Tai. Many, if not most, insist on a dark rum, claiming that the darkness in it is the “oil” of Corn N’ Oil, while others point out that not only does Barbados generally not produce dark rum , but to quote no less than one authority as Barbadian master distiller and rum legend Richard Seale, “black rum doesn’t exist”.
All this ambiguity frustrates some people, but not me. In the absence of dogma, this is the opportunity: what should this drink be? How can he be his best self? Personally, I leave out most of the lime juice – I leave the Daiquiring to the Daiquiris – but I always include a bit, a light touch of acidity which, combined with the spice of the falernum, brings the beverage. This version plants its flag more towards the restless and boozy kingdom, territory that pays homage to what I believe to be the strengths of Corn N’ Oil, that is to say an Old Fashioned rum. One that isn’t so numbing, overwhelming, endlessly boring.
corn and oil
Add ingredients to an Old Fashioned glass with a large piece of ice and stir 10-15 seconds to cool. Garnish with a lime twist or a lime wedge.
Notes on ingredients
Rum: The majority of recipes recommend Cruzan “Blackstrap” rum, which is a two-year-old rum from St. Croix that has had enough caramel coloring added to make it black, and enough sugar and flavoring additives to mimic the dark richness. of molasses. It certainly works quite well as part of this drink, smooth and dark and intense, although it’s too much to use a full 2 oz. and is aggressively non-traditional – Barbadians are rolling their eyes at the “black oil” dark rum float, which appears to be a bizarre attempt to reverse-engineer the recipe to match a misunderstanding of the name.
Personally it’s such a Bajan drink, I like to use a Bajan rum, like Mount Gay Eclipse, or really anything aged from the amazing Foursquare distillery. He has depth but is also gentle and friendly. Although if I feel like breaking the rules a bit, adding up to an ounce of Jamaica’s big, funky Smith and Cross adds much-loved character.
Falernum: Barbadians are humorless about Falernum, which they claim is and can only be a rum-based liqueur with lime, sugar and optional spices, originating from the noble island of Barbados. . They sure have the facts on their side, and when it comes to trademarks, the benchmark is John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum, which has all the requisite claims of authenticity.
That being said, there are other falernii – or falernum knockoffs, if you insist – like the alcoholic modern Brovo and the alcohol-free Fee’s or BG Reynold’s, all of which taste very different from each other but still carry the flag of falernum. Personally I’m not too strict on the definition, but I still think that in Corn N’ Oil, John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum tastes better, its lighter spice profile not weighing down a drink already heavy on bitters (NB: If you’re curious about falernum and have 71 minutes to kill, everything you could want to know is here).
Lime: Just one push. I like a quarter ounce or less. And if you can be bothered to muddle your lime wedge at the bottom of the glass, you better do it – the lime oil in the zest really adds – but if it hurts too much, don’t. don’t worry, it’s still worth the drink.
Angostura bitters: I guess it depends on the rum you’re using, but my general recommendation is to go mild. Their use is necessary, but a good stroke is enough. Too many spices become too heavy for the lime.
Ice: The drink tastes good but you chill it, but like all Old Fashioneds, I prefer a big chunk of ice. The only caveat here is that it cools more slowly, and your first sip of a corn oil that isn’t chilled and diluted enough tastes a little weird, because your palate isn’t used to having small amounts of acidity in your Old Fashioned. But as the ice melts, the drink settles on itself, and like all good drinks, the whole world starts to make sense.