Happy Hour  — 2 Ways to Make a Captain’s Blood

A tiki-esque Daiquiri with a hint of bitter and spice.

Speaking of bitter Daiquiris, here’s a classic: The Captain’s Blood. 

This one isn’t quite as aggressively herbal or root-y as any of the drinks I wrote up last week. Instead, it takes the Daiquiri, a rum sour that effortlessly straddles the line between elegant classic and tiki basic, firmly into tiki territory, adding a couple dashes of bitters and a hit of Velvet Falernum, a sweet, spiced liqueur that is an essential ingredient in many top-tier tiki drinks. 

Look around online and you’ll find any number of recipes for this cocktail, including a few that don’t use Falernum at all.

I think there are a number of good ways to make this drink, but you have to use Falernum. John D. Taylor makes the standard bottle, and if you plan to make any other tiki drinks this summer, you really need to keep one around the house. Falernum will certainly come up in this newsletter again. (There are also non-alcoholic versions available, but I don’t recommend these.)

You should also try to use a pretty good aged rum. Ideally, you should use a Jamaican rum — something like Appleton Estate Reserve 8 Year, which runs about $30 or $35 a bottle, depending on your location. But the less expensive, widely available Appleton Signature will work too. 

If you don’t have an aged Jamaican rum hanging around your bar cart, I’m also partial to the oaky Flor de Caña 7, the dark-sweet El Dorado 8 year, and the dry-yet-flavorful Scarlet Ibis. Even something like Cruzan Aged Dark, which you can get for as little as $12 a bottle in some parts of the country, will produce a decent version of this drink. But an age statement Appleton really shines here. 

Like I said, there are multiple recipes, and they diverge quite a bit in proportions. One theory of this drink is to make it rum forward, with a one-and-a-half-ounce spirit base and quarter-ounce portions of all the other ingredients. 

This makes for a smaller, almost shot-like drink that, despite the inclusion of lime juice, reads a little like an Old Fashioned variant. It’s a more brooding, more focused version of the drink — good for a nightcap. 

Captain’s Blood (Small)

  • 2 dashes angostura bitters

  • ¼ ounce rich simple syrup

  • ¼ ounce John D. Taylor Velvet Falernum

  • ¼ ounce fresh lime juice

  • 1 ½ ounce aged dark rum, such as Appleton Estate Reserve 8 Year

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker.

  2. Add ice, then shake until thoroughly chilled.

  3. Strain into a coupe. 

As much as I like the smaller version of the drink, I slightly prefer something bigger and zestier, with more conventionally tiki-esque proportions. (Compared to most classics, tiki drinks run a bit large.) 

In this case, the drink takes the form of a 2:1:1 sour with bitters and a Falernum add-on. As a result, the Falernum is less prominent in the mix than in the smaller version above; it’s a background flavor booster rather than top-billed ingredient.

This version is oversized and perhaps a little bit over-eager. But it’s incredibly satisfying — complex and spiced without being grumpy or self-serious — and it makes for a great happy hour cocktail on a summer afternoon.

You can’t go wrong with either version of this drink, but if you only try one, this is the slightly better cocktail. 

Captain’s Blood (Large)

  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters 

  • ¼ ounce John D. Taylor Velvet Falernum

  • 1 ounce rich simple syrup

  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice

  • 2 ounces aged dark rum, such as Appleton Estate Reserve 8 Year

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker.

  2. Add ice, then shake until thoroughly chilled.

  3. Strain into a coupe. 

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Happy Hour - A Dark Rum Daiquiri

Demerara rum and Demerara sugar, together in one glass.

Recently I pitched the Daiquiri as the ultimate summer drink. I stand by that assessment. But with a few modifications, you can make a winter-friendly version as well. The trick is to use dark rum and dark sugar syrup. (And yes, it still tastes great in hot weather.)

For this version, I don’t add salt or absinthe, and I don’t tweak the basic 8:3:3 ratio. It really is just rum, plus lime and sugar syrup in equal proportions. 

Instead of the bright, salty, herbaceous flavor of my favorite light rum Daiquiri, this version is rich and cocoa sweet, like an ice cream bar coated with dark chocolate. I typically use Demerara gum syrup, which gives it an even thicker and more distinct mouthfeel. But you can use a basic 2:1 Demerara syrup if you don’t want to go through the extra steps. Just blend two parts Demerara sugar with one part water for several minutes, then store the syrup in the fridge.

As is so often the case, this drink, which I’ve noted before, works because the ingredients match well: In addition to the Demerara syrup, I use an aged Demerara rum — El Dorado 8 year. 

I’m a fan of the entire line of El Dorado Demerara rums, all of which are affordably priced, but the 8 year is a particular favorite because it’s so well suited to cocktails. It’s not quite as heavy and overpowering as the 12 year, but it has more oak-barrel character than the 5 year. It’s neither too heavy nor too light, like a jacket that’s the perfect weight for late fall. 

This Daiquiri is creamy and decadent, easy to drink but worth savoring. It also runs ever so slightly sweet — which is how I like it. If you find it too sweet for your tastes, try boosting the lime juice before you cut the sugar. 

Winter Daiquiri 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker

  2. Add ice, then shake until thoroughly chilled. 

  3. Strain into a coupe or Nick and Nora glass. No garnish. 

On a really hot day when you’re drinking outside, try serving this cocktail in a double rocks glass over crushed ice — like a fix.

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