I just returned from a trip to Seattle, where I didn’t go to a single cocktail bar. Nor did I enjoy the happy hours for which Seattle is famous. Instead I enjoyed cocktail hour with my travelling companion and our mutual friend at our friend’s house in Phinney Ridge, where there is both a sauna and a hot tub in the backyard and the temperature was in the high 20s. The cocktail we typically enjoyed was a Dark and Stormy.
Here’s a tip for you travelling cocktail lovers: not everyone shares your love. Your hosts may not have the stocked liquor cabinet and pantry shelves filled with syrups and bitters to which you have grown accustomed. You do not want to burden them with spirits and bitters they won’t use again, so a good strategy is to decide on a cocktail you will make your specialty for the duration of your visit and announce that you are in charge of happy hour.
In Seattle, the cocktail that makes eminent sense is the Dark and Stormy, that combination of dark rum and ginger beer invented by Goslings of Bermuda, which has been distilling rum since the mid-1850s. But the reason to drink a Dark and Stormy in Seattle is not the rum, it’s the ginger beer. The city is a hotbed of small-batch, artisanal ginger beers such as Rachel’s, Timber City, Malus, Dry Sparkling and probably more.
Each brew has its own story: Dry Sparkling sodas were invented by Sharelle Klaus, mother of four, who wanted delicious things to drink while she was pregnant. The founder of Malus, John Struble, claims that his is the only fermented ginger beer in Seattle.
Rachel’s Ginger Beer, started in 2009 by former waitress and bartender Rachel Marshall, has taken Seattle by storm, with a hot location in Pike Place Market, 80 employees, and distribution throughout the city’s more high-end grocery stores. Marshall says her success is due to friendliness and that there’s nothing complicated about making ginger beer. Her brew is the simplest of the lot: simply Chinese ginger, sugar, lemons and water.
Finally, Timber City takes its name from Seattle’s old nickname of Timber Town, and claims that its brew is so gingery it “brings a spice you simply cannot find anywhere else. This is not a soda, it’s a tonic; an elixir.”
Seattle loves ginger beer so much that you can find Australian and Californian varieties on grocery store shelves, too. With this bounty to choose from, what is a visiting northerner to do but experiment?
Now, here’s the thing. The one cocktail here that could legitimately be called a Dark and Stormy, according to Goslings, is version number four. Goslings insists that an authentic Dark and Stormy must use Goslings Black Seal Rum, and they’re serious. In 2015 the company took liquor conglomerate Pernod Ricard to court for federal trademark infringement because it advertised, on its website, a Dark and Stormy made with… Malibu Island Spiced Rum. Shocking.
Prepare to break the law, people.
Dark and Stormy I
Light and refreshing – an excellent post-sauna restorative.
1 lime wedge
1 tsp birch syrup (my friend still had some from our last visit)
2 oz Don Q Anejo Puerto Rican Rum
2 dashes Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters
4 oz Rachel’s Ginger Beer
Muddle lime wedge with birch syrup in the bottom of a shaker. Add rum, bitters and a handful of ice. Shake briefly, then strain into a tall glass filled with 3 or 4 ice cubes. Add ginger beer. No garnish.
Dark and Stormy II
Altogether darker and stormier.
1 lime wedge
1 tsp birch syrup
2 oz Myers’s Original Dark Rum
3 dashes rhubarb bitters
4 oz Bundaberg Ginger Beer
Follow instructions above.
Dark and Stormy III — the Whitehorse version
Pale and turbulent. Fever-Tree ginger beer is available at Riverside Grocery, and it’s hopping spicy.
½ oz lime juice
1 tsp ginger syrup
2 oz Appleton Estate Signature Blend rum
1 dash Fee Brother’s Whisky Barrel-Aged Bitters
4 oz Fever-Tree Premium Ginger Brew
Lime wheel for garnish
Pour lime juice, ginger syrup rum and bitters into a cocktail shaker. Add a few ice cubes and shake briefly. Strain into a tall glass over ice, add ginger beer and garnish with a lime wheel.
Dark and Stormy IV (Death and Co version)
This one beefs up the ginger syrup and uses soda water for bubbles, in case you can’t find a good ginger brew. Hot Tip: Whitehorse Liquor Corporation sells Gosling’s Black Seal!
2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
¾ oz lime juice
1 ounce ginger syrup
1 lime wheel and 1 slice of candied ginger for garnish
In a shaker, combine all ingredients except for club soda. Add ice and shake briefly. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice cubes. Garnish with lime wheel and candied ginger on a toothpick.