The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2015

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Page 129 of 136

december 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  129 W hen Boston bartender Stephen Siuda first tried RumChata as part of a simple shot cocktail a few years ago, he liked everything about it. "I was out with friends at a bar, and somebody recom- mended I try something called a Cinnamon Crunch Shot, combining Fireball Liqueur and RumChata that paid homage to the classic breakfast cereal," he recalls. "I was intrigued by the product right away." When called upon to develop interesting drinks with fall flavors, Siuda realized RumChata's distinctive flavor and consistency could help him and his fellow bartenders at Boston's Strega Ristorante expand the scope of its customer base as well as the creativity of its bartenders. With the launch of his latest cocktail, the Rum Roast, he touted himself a full-on fan of the product. Although Strega is known for its expansive wine selection (upwards of 1,700 bottles), Siuda recognized there was an audience—espe- cially Thursdays through Saturdays—actively seeking new cocktail drinking experiences. "When I was asked to develop our 2015 fall cocktail menu, I wanted to create something with a warm and vibrant flavor profile, especially with RumChata's eggnog-like con- sistency," Siuda continues. "My goal was to give the finished cocktail a real spicy Thanksgiving/Christmas palate and feel. I thought back to the impact that shot with RumChata made on me, and I used that as a starting point." Just as in Siuda's case, bartenders and consumers are discovering that two- and three-step cocktails reveal just how versatile RumChata is. While it is delicious on its own, or over ice or neat, it can end up being a go-to bar essential for a variety of recipes. With the Rum Roast, Siuda started with equal parts Fireball and RumChata, and then factored in but- terscotch and banana liqueurs, as well as house-made natural caramel. He then shakes the mix, strains it into a Martini glass and finishes it with a dash of cinnamon powder. Even if Siuda's first major RumChata cocktail is winter- themed, he says that what sets RumChata apart as a cream liqueur is the fact that it can work as a year-round liqueur, in a variety of recipes, from summertime sorbets and coladas to a coffee creamer or an enhancement to hot chocolate and chai tea. "After launching the Rum Roast, we have had requests from our customers to mix RumChata up with a variety of things to see what we come up with," Siuda continues. "Also, we found that when people see the bottle on our bar, they immediately want to know what it is. I have played around with it, and mixed it with other kinds of spirits, such as Disaronno. I have enjoyed discovering that it is one of the most versatile spirits I have experienced in a long time. I predict we're going to be doing a lot of interesting things with it before the winter season is over. There are literally millions of ways we can combine RumChata and never run out of new ideas." Although RumChata has Latin American origins, with its original inspiration being horchata, Siuda observes that the spirit is very much a perfect fit for one of Boston's top Italian restaurants. To get his point across, he draws similarities between RumChata and the tomato sauce that's the founda- tion of so many Italian dishes. He also refers to the diverse tastes of the restaurant's customers. "Like a good base tomato sauce in Italian cooking, RumChata can be adapted for any flavor profile, from mild to sweet to spicy, because it's so balanced and works with so many different kinds of ingredients," he says. "Furthermore, while our restaurant has one of the best wine lists in the city, we find the Thursday to Saturday crowd is adventurous and is always looking for new things to try. As word of the brand is just getting out there, it will be exciting to see how it catches on with our customers and how it will grow in the next few months and years." Siuda believes it is poised to become a staple that will spark bartenders' creativity any time of year. "It's a gift for bartenders that keeps on giving," Siuda affirms. "My fellow bartenders and I look forward to seeing how far we can take RumChata in things we will be creating through the year. It can be a bar basic, and yet there is nothing else out there quite like it." Bartender Stephen Siuda's Rum Roast cocktail starts with equal parts RumChata and Fireball, as well as but- terscotch, banana liqueurs and house-made natural caramel. There are literally millions of ways we can combine RumChata and never run out of new ideas."

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