Now comes a tweet from El Señor Mustachio de Dinero: “The secret of very early retirement is that almost everyone makes money after retiring. Too much happy energy to avoid it.”
Well, by gum, Pete…that’s a true statement, I guess, but you use the phrase THE SECRET when you ought to be using the phrase A SECRET, and why is that? For an equally important secret of very early retirement is THIS: most people had rather be swinging in a hammock nude under a palm tree and quaffing a rum drink of their choice than, say, getting rickets because they’re so pasty white from spending so many hours under the fluorescent zizz-bulbs that they’re incapable of manufacturing even a single molecule of fat-soluble secosteroids–AKA vitamin D–on their own.
Which, it occurs to me, isn’t much of a secret at all.
But nonetheless: RUM & HAMMOCKS, BUBBA! That’s what keeps me hearties hauling at the oars! If beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, rum is proof that God absolutely adores us and wants us to adore him straight back.
I therefore propose that what’s needed in the early retirement game is not another slogan or exhortation; not another guide to having guys named Roth and Ira ladder your backdoor…no, what’s needed is a primer on RUM & HAMMOCKS and perhaps casual nudity by someone foolish enough to write it.
I am that fool.
There are seven things you need to know about rum, but only one about hammocks.
1) Rum is grown in the ground.
With a few intermediate steps between there and the bottle, of course.
For dark rums: a byproduct of sugarcane refining is molasses, which gets fermented by wild yeast and double and/or multiple distilled. The distiller may and probably will add a tiny bit of caramel to darken the rum, but not the chewy and/or artificial sort. What’s used more often than not is “spirit caramel,” a burnt sugar. And as you might expect, black rums are darks that have been aged in charred barrels.
Light rums are made pretty much the same way, except the yeast is usually cultured and charcoal filtration is used to take out the coloration and a good bit of the flavor. But a more neutral-flavored rum makes a nice base liquor that doesn’t overwhelm the mixer when the mixer’s the highlight of the drink. I’m thinking of your Long Island iced teas and mojitos and such, but not necessarily fruit juice concoctions.
2) Captain Morgan and Kraken and such are the celery salt of rums.
Nobody needs celery salt. All you need is celery…and salt.
If a distillery has to doctor up its rum with vanilla and nutmeg and cinnamon and cloves, etc., it was terrible rum to begin with and it’ll still be terrible rum even with eleven secret herbs and spices dumped into it. You like cloves in your rum? Buy a decent bottle and some real cloves and have after it.
Furthermore, abominations like Malibu and Bacardi Dragon Berry aren’t fit to cleanse wounds.
3) For an excellent sport-utility rum, try a Bermuda beauty named Gosling’s Black Seal.
Gosling’s ($20/fifth) is my go-to rum both for sipping and for mixed drinks, especially the Dark & Stormy. The Almighty had to sleep late on the seventh day because after he knocked off work on the evening of the sixth he drank a few too many celebratory Dark & Stormies.
Recipe? Fill a Collins glass or tiki mug (this!) with ice, squeeze a big slice of lime over the ice and stir with a swizzle stick (trust me…you want to coat the ice with the lime juice), pour in a shot and a half or two shots of Gosling’s, fill to a half-inch from the rim with ginger beer, and stir the whole drink. Alternately, try floating the rum on the ginger beer as shown below. Either way…wow.
As I said, use ginger beer…not ginger ale. A big bold rum deserves a big bold mixer. What you want is a good Caribbean one like Reed’s, which you can commonly find at grocery stores. Gosling makes a ginger beer too, but it’s way sweeter than it oughtta be.
Gosling’s, as I mentioned, is eminently sippable. So are Myers’s Rum and Coruba, both from Jamaica. Coruba’s usually priced to please at $18-20/fifth. A fourth sipper is the Dominican Republic’s Brugal Extra Viejo. It’s a nice blended dark with some easily identifiable notes–coffee and smoke. You can find it for around $27. Interesting fact about Brugal: it’s aged in American bourbon barrels that by law can only be used for one batch, which has created a big secondary market for used barrels. Myers and Coruba and Brugal are all good mixers, too.
4) If it’s white rum you want, try Appleton White (~$20).
I’m an Appleton White guy because it’s a little less sweet than other light rums (especially 10 Cane and Cane Run), and as you might’ve guessed from my dark recommendations, I’ve got fond memories of Jamaica. Very fond memories.1
Which raises an interesting point: a great deal of the pleasure of rum arises from its associations. This is why I try not to be a rum snob (except, of course, in the case of Kraken and similar pisswaters.) Hey, if Bacardi 151 brings back the best night of your life–or at least what you remember of it–then dance with who brung ya.
5) If you think good rum is too expensive, try doing the math.
You can’t pick up a bottle of rum and see the thirty-dollar price tag and set it straight back down because you think it costs too much. Understand that you’ll get as many as seventeen 1.5 oz. drinks out of it. Even a six-pack of Sam Adams costs nine bucks these days, so when you crunch the numbers you’ll see that you’re breaking even or even coming out ahead. And good rum is often cheaper than good beer.2
In like vein, when you’re deciding whether to reach for the top shelf or not, you should compare the cost per serving between the bottles. That $30 fifth of rum? You could pinch pennies and stoop and blow the dust off the $12.99 swill down near the floor, but you’re talking about a cost savings of only about a buck a drink.
So let me ask you this. If I was the bartender and you sat down and ordered a beer and I gave you the choice between a one-dollar Milwaukee’s Best and a two-dollar craft IPA, would you order the Milwaukee’s Best?
I didn’t think so.
6) But truly, there are rums for all levels of wealth.
If you want to start reaching over the top shelf for the super-calls, try Flor de Cana 12 (~$35). It’s a Nicaraguan golden that’s great on ice. If you like rum you should try it at least once.
And while we’re on Flor de Cana: if you really want to try the good stuff without breaking the bank too badly, go for Flor de Cana 25. It’ll set you back something like $130 a fifth, but you’re talking about one of the top thirty rums in the world, here. Nowhere near the likes of El Dorado Millennium (~$700/fifth), but still good enough to hold its own.
7) Three unusual rum drinks to try.
You can google up any number of rum-based drink recipes. I want to suggest, though, that once you’ve had your fill of the typical tiki drinks3 you start branching out.
But while we’re on tiki drinks, the gold standard source of tiki recipes–both for drinks and for foods that pair wonderfully with them–is Trader Vic’s Pacific Island Cookbook ($2.99 used in hardcover). It’s the big kahuna of tiki bar culture. No bar or cookbook collection should be without one.
Anyway, three of what let’s call “hammock drinks” that you should try are the Bermuda Black, the Thai Basil Daiquiri, and the Cucumber Cooler. These recipes are more complex than your basic boat drinks, but they’re guaranteed to impress the SHIT out of your friends.
Which brings us to #8: the most important thing you need to know about hammocks.
And to conclude, a word on casual nudity.
Or at least a video. Note that this is not me–I wouldn’t do that to you.
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- I once met a Rasta named Rodney in Lucea who swore that he kept bees in his weed-patch. He offered to sell me some honey, but at that particular moment I happened to be walking around with my MOM, of all people–an evangelical Christian–so the opportunity passed me by. I went back to look for Rodney later but nobody would admit to knowing him and I never saw him again. It maketh me to weep, my friends.
- No, I’m not factoring in the cost of the mixers because they’re a personal choice. Just bear in mind what bar-bought well drinks cost and you’ll see that you’re coming out WAY ahead.
- Rum, fruit juice, grenadine, maraschino cherries, paper umbrella.