It’s always interesting to dip into the complex world of spice — think about when one walks into a spice shop and the aromatic mélange of scents tantalises one's olfactory senses, mingling in the air around the jars, packets, sachets and dried goods.
Spice is a diverse term, however, with various meanings, even in cocktails. For example, the delicious spicy margaritas served at Coccoloba at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa involve local scotch bonnet, seasoning peppers and jalapeños. Spiced rum on the other hand begs for a spicy ginger beer partner, and is itself spiced with citrus, peppercorn, allspice, vanilla and flavoursome barks like cassia. “Spicy” then can mean the heat of capsaicin in peppers or flavours from the collection of seeds, fruits, barks, roots and pods that make up the global array of spices one might find in a kitchen.
Whichever specific spice is being referred to, these are no mere powdered flavouring agents; civilisations and dynasties have risen and crumbled to dust on spice trade routes, and in Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel "Dune," there are entire planets controlled by spice!
Come November and pumpkins carved into mawkish faces, spices become latte-fodder for the local coffee shop, and the base of nutmeg-laden soups. The old spice road of antiquity merges with the elements of the New World; mulling spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, clove, allspice and cardamom are infused into storage fruits like dried raisins, apricots or apple.
When mixing drinks with spices, we often lean on dashes of our friendly bitters bottles such as Angostura or Peychaud’s — alcoholic tinctures infused with herbs and spices. Nutmeg or cinnamon can be microplaned over a drink for an extra spice note on the nose as you sip it, or we may make our own spiced syrups or cordials.
Spirits tend to lend themselves better for such drinks when aged, as the former bourbon, sherry or Cognac barrel itself imparts spice notes to the liquid as it ages. Have a look at the flavour notes on a rye whisky, armagnac or aged pot-still rum, and it reads like a mixed spice packet recipe.
So what are we drinking this autumn to spice up our lives? How about this gluggable rum-laden spice-bomb you can easily knock up at home?
SPICE LIKE US
1.5 ounces/50ml Black Tot Finest Caribbean Rum
1/2 ounce/15ml fresh lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 lime wheel
1 stem of candied ginger
Add rum, lime and bitters to a chilled ice-filled glass. Top with ginger beer. Stir and garnish with lime wheel, candied ginger and cinnamon powder.
Jim Wrigley is the beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.
This article appears in the November 2021 print edition of the Camana Bay Times.