Of all the winter citrus available right now, my favorite has got to be clementines. You're surely familiar with these sweet, seedless, easy-to-peel little oranges that are often sold in netted bags. I forgot how much I absolutely adore them. I brought some home a couple of weeks ago and since then my husband and I have been going through them by the bagful. So when Diplomático Rum asked me to make a cocktail using their Reserva Exclusiva and some fresh, seasonal ingredients, I knew clementines were going to be making an appearance.
Diplomático Rum is made in Venezuela from sugar cane honey and molasses. The Reserva Exclusiva is made from both pot still and column still rums aged up to 12 years. The dignified fellow on the bottle is Don Juancho Nieto Meléndez, a somewhat legendary character who lived in the region where Diplomático is made in the late 19th century. He was a rum connoisseur who traveled extensively and studied the effects of different ingredients and environmental conditions on the flavor of rum. Diplomático calls his "dedication, savoir-faire, chivalry, and authentic personality" the inspiration for their products.
Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva is an all-around excellent rum. I'd always assumed it was good, perhaps because the dark bottle and gorgeous postage stamp label lend it a certain air of gravitas. I really became familiar with it at the Boston qualifier for the Diplomático World Tournament that I got to attend last fall, where I was able to try it straight as well as in several amazing cocktails whipped up by local bartenders. It has a delightful flavor, oaky with honey-vanilla sweetness at the end. This is a rum that dedicated bourbon drinkers could seriously appreciate. And in cocktails, well, it's just fantastic.
If you're feeling a little stressed, I highly recommend making a cobbler. The first step is to put your fruit at the bottom of a shaker with some sugar and muddle it well, which is a great way to take out some tension. Add the booze and a bit of ice, shake, and strain into a glass. Then, in case you didn't manage to muddle all your worries away, it's time to crush your ice. And unless you have one of those fancy refrigerators with a touch-screen and an ice crusher, this will probably involve banging on cubes of ice with a blunt object. I used to employ a dish towel and an ice cream scoop for this purpose, but now I've got my nifty Viski Lewis bag and mallet for the task. Whatever you use, it's sure to be quite cathartic.
The cobbler is a very old classic cocktail. The formula is simple: liquor, sugar, and fresh fruit. It's traditionally made with sherry. If you've never had a sherry cobbler, I highly recommend whipping one up. I used the recipe from Jerry Thomas' famous 1862 Bartender's Guide to make a blood orange sherry cobbler not too long ago, and I can't remember the last time I was so blown away by such a simple drink. Simple often works best when you want to showcase fresh ingredients, so I adjusted Thomas' recipe a bit to include the Diplomático and some beautiful, fresh clementines. This cocktail is bright and vibrant and utterly delicious - the perfect drink to celebrate the start of spring.
Styling notes: Lewis ice bag and mallet from Viski, wooden muddler from Muddle & Stir, and Bar Birds cocktail picks from Prodyne, available on Amazon.
Clementine Rum Cobbler1 1/2 oz. Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum
1 oz. Lustau East India Solera Sherry
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 clementine oranges, peeled
Combine the sugar and clementines in the bottom of a shaker and muddle well to release the juices, being careful not to let any squirt into your eyes. (Not that I speak from experience or anything. Just, you know, a warning.) Add rum and sherry and fill the shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and strain into a rocks glass. Fill with crushed ice. Garnish with more clementine slices and a sprig of mint or an edible orchid.