Followers of Summer Fruit Cup may recall January’s Ginger Beer tasting; well, with all those samples about, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to experiment with a ginger beer cocktail and my cocktail of choice is the Dark ‘N Stormy. This drink is synonymous with one rum: Gosling’s; let’s have a quick look at that first.
The story of Gosling’s Rum starts in 1806, when James Gosling, the son of a spirits merchant, was sailing with £10,000 of stock across the Atlantic to North America. Unfortunately, his charter ran out part-way through the trip and he only made it as far as Bermuda.
James set up shop on the island, first in St. George and then in Hamilton, and in 1824 his brother joined him. In 1860, the Gosling brothers received their first batch of rum distillate and, by 1863, they had finished development of the rum that was to become Gosling’s Black Seal Rum.
Why Black Seal?
Originally the rum was sold by the barrel and people would bring their own bottles to fill. Around the time of the First World War, Gosling’s recycled the empty Champagne bottles that they acquired from the British Naval officers’ mess (who enjoyed their bubbly) and, to keep the corks in place, they sealed them with BLACK SEALing wax.
Back in the present day, Gosling’s have four different rums in their current UK range:
#1) Gosling’s Black Rum (40% ABV)
This has a lovely thick & sticky texture and is a good example of what a typical dark rum, in my opinion, should be. There are hints of treacle and is slightly reminiscent of fruit cake; when I tried some drizzled over a piece of Dundee Cake, it worked a treat.
#2) Gosling’s Gold
This rum was quite fresh and balanced, with no over-powering flavours. Specially designed for mixing, it makes a fine simple rum cocktail and is an all-round great rum for cocktails.
#3) Gosling’s 151 (75.5% ABV)*
A high-proof version of the Gosling’s Black, this is my favourite of their current range. The dark flavours of Black Rum are concentrated by the higher proof. I have had other high-proof (70%+) spirits, but few are as sippable and tasty as this. It is exceptionally strong and so IF you are going to drink it on it’s own, only have a small portion.
#4) Gosling’s Family Reserve (AKA “Old Rum” [US])
This has a great nose, reminiscent of toasted sugar. It is exceptionally soft on the palette and you can hold it in your mouth to really appreciate the flavour with only a very tiny burn. This is still obviously a dark rum, but is less sticky than the Black; I found a hint of coffee bean on the finish. A perfect sipping rum.
* Gosling’s also bottle their rum at 140 proof (70% ABV), but this version is not currently available in the UK.
The Dark ‘N Stormy is one of the most prolific ginger beer cocktails (rivaled only by the Moscow Mule), but where was it created and what is its connection with Gosling’s Rum?
The drink is thought to have originated shortly after World War I when it was invented by Naval Officers on the island, who used to add some of the local rum to their home-made ginger beer. The Dark ‘n Stormy refers to the dark clouds formed when the black rum mixes with the ginger beer see below similar to weather conditions that only a fool or madman would sail under.
What I find really interesting about this drink is that the name Dark ‘n Stormy is trademarked and that, in order to be called this, it must contain Gosling’s Dark Rum and Ginger Beer, although the exact proportions of the ingredients are not prescribed. It is optional to add a squeeze of lime.
So, with the rum and the history dealt with, now to the tasting. In our quest to find the perfect match for Gosling’s Rum, we tried 27 different ginger beers. We used a 2:1 ratio of ginger eer to Gosling’s and added a squeeze of lime wedge. Here are the results:
#1 Fevertree Regular
Well balanced, refreshing and moreish; the flavour moves smoothly from rum to lime to ginger.
#2 Fevertree Diet
A bit musky, a bit savory. Tingly, rather than fiery; not as good as Fevertree Regular.
#3 Great Uncle Cornelius
This was a still variety of ginger beer with strong apple flavours and less ginger. Not a good combination.
Not a good match for Gosling’s; it is certainly fiery, but the flavours of the rum are lost.
A flat flavour-profile and too sweet. A poor example of a Dark ‘N Stormy.
#6 Hartridge’s Celebrated
A little dull; this drink lacks depth and character.
#7 Hartridge’s Regular
A very respectable Dark ‘N Stormy: good and fiery, and not too sweet. Complements the rum.
#8 Fentiman’s Original
Good strong ginger flavours: pow! The rum is maybe slightly overpowered by the ginger, but this isn’t a serious issue.
#9 Fentiman’s Cool
A bit buttery. Quite a smooth drink, but the rum is masked. Still, this is refreshing.
#10 Heron Valley
A tasty mix: the rum comes through, along with a medium amount of fieriness from the ginger.
#11 Breckland Orchard Chilli Ginger Beer
Delicious; one of the best. The flavours of the rum can be fully appreciated and match the warmth of the ginger well. In addition, the lime adds a little freshness. This isn’t your usual Dark ‘N Stormy, but is very tasty and full of flavour.
Sweet, like spiced lemonade or gingerbread coffee. Quite good, but a touch too sweet.
Easy to taste the rum, could do with a bit more ginger, but is, nonetheless, a good drink.
#14 Luscombe Cool
Cooling, with hints of sweet buttercream and ginger. Very pleasant and refreshing.
#15 Old Jamaica
Pretty good; a nice balance of rum, ginger and lime. Sweet, but very tasty.
#16 Luscombe Hot
The rum and the buttery-ness of the beer work well together, producing a lovely finish and a good, fiery punch.
#17 Old Jamaica Diet
Very similar to the regular and easily the best diet Dark ‘N Stormy that we tried.
#18 Bundaburg Regular
OK, but a bit unbalanced. This ginger beer tasted much better on its own.
A touch on the sweet side, but refreshing all the same. A good example of a Dark ‘N Stormy.
#20 Bundaburg Diet
Very artificially sweet, not a good drink.
Flavourful, easy to appreciate the rum. Flavours of toasted dark sugar. Ginger comes through and lingers at the end, lime adds a little extra zing. Really tasty.
#22 Marks & Spencer Ltd. – Extremely Fiery Ginger Beer
I thought this may overpower the rum but this isn’t an issue, the drink is a bit bitter in the middle but otherwise pretty good and very fiery.
#23 Crabbie’s Fiery Ginger Beer
Excellent, good balance of rum/ginger/sweetness has a warm finish that pleasantly lingers.
#24 Marks & Spencer Fiery Ginger Beer
A bit bland, rum flavours are lost and there is not much ginger fire.
#25 Marks & Spencer Gastropub Authentic Ginger Beer
Rather unpleasant, bad mix of flavours, disappointing.
Rather syrupy, not fiery enough but it does compliment the rum well. Would be better with a bit more bite.
#27 Crabbies Cloudy
Not a bad combo but I would prefer to drink this on it’s own and Crabbie’s fiery in a Dark ‘N Stormy.
If you have never tried a Dark ‘N Stormy I suggest you do and with warmer weather on its way it’s worth mentioning that this makes a lovely cooler. My top tips for Ginger Beers would be Breckland Orchard, Gosling’s Own, Luscombe Hot and Crabbies Firey, for those with a sweet tooth may I suggest trying Old Jamaica.
Special thanks to Sarah and Kirsty from LoveDrinks, who helped to make this article possible.