The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2012

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by Rachel Burkons T Rum Running Tales his year marks the tenth anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail, and as we all eagerly await our arrival in NOLA, we'll be whetting our appetite for cocktail goodness by dreaming about this year's official Tales cocktail, the Rum Row, a rum-based variation on the Old Fashioned created by Dominic Venegas, a NYC-based bartender currently crafting a premiere bar program at New York's NoMad Hotel. The annual Tales cocktail competition draws entries from some of the biggest names in the industry, all vying for a chance to have their cocktail served at all the Tales of the Cocktail official events, as well as a nifty cash prize of $1,250. "It's very flattering," said Venegas of his win; "I'm very honored to be chosen, especially after just coming off of [last month's] Manhattan Cocktail Classic, where I was surrounded by so many talented friends and peers. I knew the competition would be tough!" Knowing that there would be some fierce cock- tails up for consideration, Venegas approached his cocktail with great consideration for the industry's current trends. "I was thinking a lot about what everyone would be doing, and how hip mezcal and Bols Genever are right now, and I knew people would probably get a little crazy with it." With that in mind, Venegas turned to a classic cocktail that not only embodies the spirit of Tales, but is also a personal call of choice. "The Old Fashioned is a favorite cocktail of mine, both to make and to drink, and I've tried to mix it up with different spirits—I've tried with everything under the sun," says Venegas. "But rum has always been a favorite of mine because it's naturally sweet so you don't need to add too much to it." Although Venegas calls an Old Fashioned "a very simple drink," he finely-tuned the ingredients in his winning cocktail in order to highlight the rum properly. "I blended a few different kinds of sugars, and ended up going with Muscovado sugar. It's the kind of sugar used in gingerbread, and it is very earthy and has a lot of flavors." 2012 Selecting one-two rum punch of El Dorado 12 Year Old Rum and Banks 5 Island Rum, Venegas knew there was one other key ingredient to suc- cess for this cocktail: water. "I knew how strong rum can be, and I needed to add some water—but just a litte! Some people may think water dilutes the spirit, but it really helps open it up and calms it down, stretches it a bit further." Whether the winning difference in Venegas's quaff was a splash of water or just one drop of Bitter- men's Burlesque Bitters ("It really is just one drop!" confirms Venegas), the end result was sheer suc- cess. Here's to the Rum Row at this year's Tales! RUM ROW 1¼ oz. El Dorado 12 Year Old Rum ¾ oz. Banks 5 Island Rum ¼ oz. water 1 barspoon Muscovado sugar 1 dash Angostura Orange Bitters 1 drop Bittermens Burlesque Bitters Naval orange peel Place one barspoon of Muscovado sugar in an Old Fashioned glass. Add orange and burlesque bitters, water and 3–4 ice cubes. Stir for 5–7 seconds. Pour in rums and garnish with naval orange peel, squeezed over and dropped in. Dominic Venegas of New York's NoMad Hotel.

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