Friday, June 07, 2013

Cocktail of the Week: The Dark & Stormy

Let me help you clear that ginger beer from last week out of your fridge. Here’s another drink to use it in. Only be careful what you call it.

The Dark & Stormy, one of the two unofficial national cocktails of Bermuda, has a marvelously evocative name. Dark rum, ginger beer. What could be simpler? A lot, it turns out, once the lawyers get involved.

Blame the Royal Navy for the drink’s existence. Back when it was still issuing a daily ration of rum to sailors, it opened a ginger beer bottling plant at its primary base in Bermuda. The rest of the story writes itself. Gosling Brothers, Ltd., founded in the islands in 1806, became best known for a particularly dark variety of rum first sold only in barrels, then in repurposed champagne bottles liberated from the officers’ mess and resealed using black wax. Hence the name Gosling’s Black Seal rum.

In the 1970s, the company trademarked the Dark & Stormy name, usually rendered Dark ‘n Stormy. As this Diffords Guide article explains, “it is the name of the drink that is protected under law, not its ingredients.” What does this mean? You won’t get hassled by the man if you pour a dark rum other than Gosling’s Black Seal into your ginger beer. But if you choose another brand, choose another name for the resulting beverage while you’re at it, because in the eyes of the law it ain’t a Dark & Stormy. Or a Dark ‘n Stormy. Sorry. The nuances of trademark elude me.

For decades Barritt’s Ginger Beer of Bermuda was the favored partner in this drink. Now Gosling’s makes their own. (I’m still using Crabbie’s out of England.) In America lime juice is typically added, a Yankee innovation that would be frowned on in the islands where even the lime garnish is deemed optional. Some recipes use simple syrup, and at least one deploys peeled ginger root for an additional boost of spice. Dale DeGroff cooked up an alternate take that deploys two kinds of rum as well as pineapple and orange juice, which at least in terms of ingredients pushes the drink closer to a rum swizzle, Bermuda’s other unofficial national cocktail.

My own version trusts the ginger beer to do its job but ups the ante with lime bitters for an extra tropical punch. I haven’t consulted with my attorneys to see whether this change violates the law, so as the legal fog clears I’ve filed a claim on the name The Tenebrous & Gusty. Whatever you call it, it’s one of the great refreshments of summer.

The Dark & Stormy

2 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal rum
3 oz. ginger beer
2 lime wedges
2-3 dashes of lime bitters

Add the bitters to a highball glass filled with ice. Pour in the Gosling’s Black Seal rum. Top with ginger beer. Squeeze the lime wedges into the drink, then add them to the glass. Stir.