A COCKTAIL’S ingredients often tell a lot about the environment where they first came together. Many classic cocktails were born in a dark city bar or speakeasy by a meticulous and brooding bartender looking to create complex, boozy elixirs. Some cocktails are born by mistake, stumbled upon like Alexander Fleming discovering penicillin (champagne is rumored to have been a mistake). In contrast, this month’s contribution is a cocktail of practicality.
The Dark ’n Stormy has strong seafaring ties. Pragmatic in its composition, the elements come from a fortuitous meeting of the two main ingredients—ginger beer and dark rum—in time and space. Dark Rum is distilled from fermented sugar cane molasses, which was the main crop in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea; and ginger beer was a time-tested remedy for sea sickness and nausea employed on the European vessels trolling those waters for trade and conquest. Mix the two, add a squeeze of lime, and you have the Dark ’n Stormy—reportedly named by a weathered sailor comparing the drink’s dark hue to the color of storm clouds.
Last month, I collaborated with Live Oak Beverage Director and Head Bartender, Will Witherow, to share his take on Irish Coffee in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. In anticipation of April showers, we thought a Dark ’n Stormy would fit the bill for this month’s celebratory cocktail. The secret to Witherow’s Dark ’n Stormy is his scratch ginger beer. Admittedly, the recipe yields a larger batch of ginger beer—he pours a lot of them at his bar—but it can be scaled up or down to meet your needs if the proportions are held constant. Also, a batch of ginger beer can be used to make a variety of mules (a family of cocktails that mixes spirit and ginger beer, most notably the Moscow Mule) or consumed on its own, remembering that the wine does give it some proof.
For this recipe, you will need a soda siphon to carbonate the ginger beer if making the scratch version. If you prefer to skip this step, a high-quality store-bought ginger beer like Fever Tree works well. With respect to rum, the classic version uses Goslings Black Seal, but I have found Cruzan black strap rum, Kraken, and Zaya all work well. Without further ado, the Dark and Stormy with scratch ginger beer.
The Dark ’n Stormy
• 2 ounces dark rum
• scratch ginger beer (see recipe below) or a highquality
ginger beer (we suggest Fever Tree brand)
• ½ ounce fresh lime juice
• Fresh lime wheel for garnish
Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in rum and fill remainder of glass with ginger beer. Add fresh lime juice and garnish with a lime wheel.
Scratch Ginger Beer
makes approx. 1.5 liters, filling an average soda siphon with some excess
• 1 liter ginger juice (see below)
• 5-6 ounces water
• 3 ½ cups simple syrup
• 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
• 2 teaspoons ground coriander
• Zest of 1 lime
• Zest of 1 lemon
• Pinch of dried ginger flake
Combine all ingredients in a pot and slowly bring to a boil. Turn off heat and allow to steep to taste, then strain and place in a container or soda siphon. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Fresh Ginger Juice
• 1 ½ pounds fresh ginger, peeled and roughly
• 1 bottle dry white wine
Place ginger in a Vitamix or another strong blender. Pour in enough white wine to cover the ginger. Blend until completely combined.
Michael Curcio is the co-founder and owner of Bo & Ivy Distillers, located in northeast Washington D.C. Will Witherow is the beverage director at Live Oak Del Ray located in Alexandria, Virginia. You can find them online at boandivy.com and on Instagram at @bo_and_ivy_distillers, and @liveoakdelray.