I first came across Pimento (or All Spice) Dram in the back pages of Ted Haigh’s Vintage Cocktail Forgotten Spirits, here he laments the loss of this product along with a number of others such as Creme Yvette and Boker’s Bitters. It was this book that has been a large inspiration for this series of articles.
Pimento Dram is a rum-based liqueur (in this case bottled at 22%ABV) that used to be more widely exported and was a popular product during the American Tiki Cocktail craze. One of its enduring attractions was it’s versatility and the fact that a small amount was needed to change the flavour of the drink. Despite all this, during the 1980s expiration ceased and it was only really available in Jamaica.
Pimento Dram is named after the berries of the Pimento Tree which is indigenous to the Caribbean (it has nothing to do with the little peppers stuffed in olvives) . These berries are also known as Jamaican Pepper or Allspice; this last name came from the resemblance in taste the dried berries have to a combination of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.
A quick online search shows a plethora of home-made Pimento Dram recipes, it appears if people couldn’t buy it they’d make their own; but these days there is an easier alternative, The Bitter Truth Pimento Dram
The Bitter Truth is a German company founded in 2006. The specialise in bitters and other unusual cocktail ingredients. Among other products they have revived Celery Bitters and Jerry Thomas Bitters.
On with the tasting…
Lovely, rich, sweet & sticky nose. Hints of cloves, cinnamon, marzipan, sarsaparilla and strawberry liquorice/twizzlers.
Very soft on the palate with a warm/fiery cinnamon coming through followed by cloves and the sweetness of root beer. On the finish the cinnamon is there again. It’s a sweet flavour akin to cinnamon balls or Big Red gum. Very pleasant not as sweet as I expected. The cinnamon leaves a tingle on the tongue.
#2) Lion’s Tail
[40ml Bourbon, 10ml Pimento Dram, 10ml Lime Juice, 1tsp Sugar Syrup, 1 Dash Angostura Bitters] SHAKE – This was invented by L.A. Clarke
The classic Pimento dram cocktail, it has a predominant flavour of bourbon but with a little sharpness from the lime and a sweet spiciness from the Dram.It is really nice balanced though and it a good way to enjoy the Pimento dram in a subtle way. Very enjoyable. –
#3) Almost Rye
[50ml Rye, 10ml Pimento Dram: BUILD & STIR – Lemon Twist]
I like the way the Pimento Dram adds a little sweetness and spice to the whisky, in that way it reminds me a bit of an old fashioned. The rye gives the Pimento Dram a bit of strength behind it but the latter is till front of stage with the rye only playing a supporting role. That said, I quite like this drink and would have it again.
[30ml Dry Gin, 10ml Apricot Brandy, 10ml Orange Juice. 2 Dashes Pimento Dram,1 Pinch Ground Cloves SHAKE]
I added a little extra Pimento Dram to the original recipe I had. I don’t think I’d have though that Apricot Brandy (a favourite of Sir Alec Guniness) and Pimento dram would work well together but they do. The jamminess of the Apricot Brandy goes well with the sweet spiciness of the dram, which is brought by the pinch of cloves. The orange gives the drink a freshness and the gin is a suitably subtle base spirit. This drink is not really about the gin but more about the other ingredients.
#5) None But The Brave
[30ml Brandy, 10ml Pimento Dram, 5ml Lemon Juice, 5ml Rum, 1/4tsp Sugar Syrup: SHAKE]
Surprisingly smooth, the spice of the Dram and the dark rum are a good combo. The brandy provides a warming base and the lemon juice gives the drink more balance, stops it from being too sweet. That said, although the cocktail was quite nice it didn’t wow be as much of some of the others.
#6) Balm Cocktail
[50ml Dry Sherry, 5ml Cointreau, 5ml Pimento Dram, 1 Dash Orange Bitters: STIR}
Given the small quantiles of the Cointreau and the Dram I was sceptical as to whether this was going to be any good, but actually it was. It’s a very subtle but noticeable adjustment to the sherry but it sweetens it very slightly and adds a little spice and a little citrus. gave this to someone who doens’t really like sherry and they finished this off.
I had to experiment with this a bit and found that 10ml added to 50ml Dry gin and 10ml of vermouth was the best combination. I think it works quite well with the Pimento Dram providing a good contrast to the Dry Gin and Vermouth, this is a little but like a Sweet Martini but with the wine dryness the Dry vermouth provides.
I didn’t like this that much another liqueur seems to throw the flavour balance off, perhaps substituting the Marashino or violette for the Pimento Dram would work better.
#9) Gin & Tonic
This works particularly well with a citrusy gin (like Foxdenton) or tonic (like Fentimans) I add 5ml to my usual single G&T (2:1 ratio). I seem to recall that some recipe for Gin and Tonic do call for the use of sugar syrup so I guess this is a bit like that but with extra spice.
I think it’s great that there are so many industrious individuals bringing back these forgotten spirits and Pimento Dram is certain one I was very keen to try when I heard it had been brought back. It’s a pretty unique product and there isn’t really a substitute. There now also an All Spice dram made by St Elizabeth in Austria but I’ve yet to try it.
My favourite cocktails were Almost Rye and Lion’s Tail and out of the three “modification cocktails” the Martini was a clear winner.