I read in a little known newspaper (clue; easily recognisable at a distance due to the colour of the pages) that financial analysts are predicting a ‘return to the roaring 20s’ when the global Covid plague has well and truly abated. Whilst the ravages of the pandemic are far reaching and have left deep scours in our economy, job security and sanity, there are at least a few things which have benefited from the nation-wide house arrest. Speaking personally, my cooking, for example, has made the stratospheric leap from ‘utterly inedible’ to ‘almost acceptable’. The underlying catalyst behind this kind of improvement is a marked increase in the focus that we place on the quality of the food and drink we consume in our homes. The UK has undergone a remarkable transformation from the 1980s to date in terms of the quality of food and drinks that are readily available to us. Supermarkets groan with the weight of fresh fruit and veg, British meat and wines and spirits from around the world. We care more now about what we eat and drink than ever before.
One specific area which underwent a revolution during the grizzly lock downs of the last year or so is the noble art of the home made cocktail. Once upon a time no self respecting gent would host without knowing how to knock up a blinding Old Fashioned, Tom Collins or Martini for his invitees. Point in case; when Tom played by Matt Damon in ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ completes his reinvention of the self from rags to riches by demonstrating to the aghast Gwyneth Paltrow that he can now make a blinding Martini. “Look at you now…” she comments, dripping in mirthless irony with just a dash of condescension (fair enough – he did just club your ludicrously handsome boyfriend to death with an oar).
Knowing what base ingredients to use when making your own cocktails is the first, and most important step you can take in this rather rewarding Bacchant journey. I’ve always loved rum and whiskey based cocktails the most, but, on the rum front, never really known where to look. Don Papa Rum was the answer all this time.
This rum is unusual not only due to its utterly exquisite flavour profile and quality, but also due to its origins. It is made on the little Island of Negros in the Philippines using sugar cane which is famous for its exceedingly high sugar content and fibrous constitution. The brand was created in 2011 by Stephen Carroll, who had worked for many years at Remy Cointreau and so knew the spirits industry inside out. He spotted the potential for an exceptional rum specifically as a result of the sugar cane from Negros, and a decade later we are enjoying the fruits of his labour.
Don Papa rum is distilled from that cane and then aged in American oak barrels for more than seven years before it is blended to create a consistent ‘house style’. Don Papa benefits from American laws which protect their domestic whiskey industry and prohibit the re use of American oak casks meaning that they can be sold, post usage, at a highly competitive rate.
The dashing mustachioed chap on the label of each bottle is Dioniso Magbueles. In a rather titillating twist of fate, Dionisio, a derivation of Dionysus, was the Roman god of serial boozing and general licentious behaviour – how apt. Dionisio, aka ‘Papa’, was a sugarcane farmer in the late 1800s who had been instrumental in freeing the little island of Negros from its Spanish colonial overlords. His rather stern expression looks back at you as you make your first ever pour of Don Papa in a way that says ‘you’ll never look back after this, my friend’.
Try the ‘Don Collins’ to get the ball rolling, using a high ball glass piled with ice. Pour in a measure of Don Papa Rum, add 15ml of lemon juice, then pineapple juice then the grenadine and garnish with a wheel of orange.