More refreshing than a tropical sea breeze
The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club began “under a calabash tree” in 1844, founded by British army officers and Bermudian sailing enthusiasts (“royal” was added to the name in 1846, after Prince Albert became a patron of the private club). In the 1940s, Trader Vic popularized its namesake cocktail.
The club co-hosts the Bermuda Race, a biennial yachting competition that is the world’s oldest regularly scheduled ocean race. It begins in Newport, Rhode Island and ends (where else?) in Bermuda.
Of course, Newport has hosted a lot of yachting races, including the most famous of them all, the America’s Cup (from 1930 to 1983). Speaking of which, this September will see the 34th sailing of that fabled race. And earlier this week, the Louis Vuitton Cup races (to determine which team will challenge the current holder of the America’s Cup) started in San Francisco.
All of this has put us in a seafaring mood here at Kitchen Riffs central — and made us ponder what beverage we should enjoy while following the racing events. Well, what could be more appropriate than the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail?
This refreshing mix of Barbados rum, lime, Cointreau, and falernum has a tangy tropical taste that goes down easy. It’s perfect for beating the summer heat we’re now experiencing in most of the US.
Best of all? You don’t need to wear one of those silly little yachting caps to enjoy it.
Recipe: Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail
Although Bermuda makes some fine rums, they don’t really work in this drink. Instead, you need amber Barbados rum — it has a flavor profile that combines better in this cocktail. Most liquor stores in the US carry the Mount Gay Eclipse brand of Barbados rum, which is reasonably priced and of good quality.
It may be a little harder to find falernum, a ginger- and lime-flavored syrup. Fee Brothers makes a good commercial one, which many liquor stores carry. Alternatively, you can buy it from Amazon (at a price). Despite the hassle, falernum is worth acquiring — it’s a popular ingredient in many tropical and Tiki drinks, such as some versions of Planter’s Punch and The Zombie.
I learned about The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail from Ted Haigh’s excellent Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. My recipe is very slightly adapted from his (see Notes).
This recipe takes a few minutes to make, and serves one.
- 2 ounces amber Barbados rum (you really need the unique flavor profile of Barbados rum to make this drink properly)
- ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- ~¼ teaspoon Cointreau (to taste; see Notes)
- 2 teaspoons falernum
- lime slice, wedge, or wheel for garnish (optional, but attractive)
- Add the rum, lime juice, Cointreau, and falernum to a cocktail shaker that is half-filled with ice.
- Shake hard until the shaker frosts — 20 to 30 seconds.
- Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably one that’s been chilled) and add optional garnish if desired.
- Ted Haigh’s recipe calls for 2 dashes of Cointreau – so we’re talking maybe an eighth of an teaspoon. The drink needs more, IMO. I like ¼ teaspoon, sometimes a bit more. So I recommend experimentation to find the amount that works for your taste buds.
- Barbados amber (gold) rum has a wonderful fragrance, and is a bit mellower than other Caribbean rums. As noted above, Mount Gay Eclipse is the brand you’re most likely to find in the US, and it’s affordable. You might also see Cockspur’s Fine Rum or Doorly’s 5-year.
- Not surprisingly, better rums make better cocktails. So if this drink becomes a favorite of yours, you might want to seek out a higher quality Barbados rum, such as Mount Gay Extra Old, Cockspur Bajan Crafted 12-year, or Doorly’s XO.
- My usual reminder: I’m naming names here, and my opinion is my own. I receive no compensation from anyone to tout their products.
- The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail is considered a “tropical” drink (meaning it’s a fairly simple and refreshing cocktail that uses rum and citrus). But it’s also a precursor to Tiki drinks, which usually add a number of other ingredients, making them more complex. And BTW, August is going to be Tiki Month on Kitchen Riffs!
Messing About in Boats
The first Bermuda Race was held in 1906 — and some considered it “an act of rebellion.” Why? Because the yachting establishment thought it would be “insane for amateur sailors to race offshore in boats under eighty feet” in length. Reportedly, critics were so pessimistic about the boats’ survival chances that some delivered funeral wreaths beforehand, so that deceased sailors could receive proper burial at sea.
The critics did have a point. Sea conditions between the northeastern US and Bermuda can be rather rough (because of the Gulf Stream’s strong currents and frequently gusty winds). Even cruising from NYC to Bermuda on a large ship, I’ve noticed quite a bit of motion.
Fortunately, the Bermuda Race proved to be a success, though only three entries took part the first time. The race was run yearly until 1910, when the organizers switched to a biennial schedule. The race now takes place in even-numbered years, with the next sailing scheduled for June 20, 2014. The largest number of entries ever was in 2006 (the 100-year anniversary of the Bermuda Race), when 265 yachts took part.
Unlike the America’s Cup, the Bermuda Race has always been meant for amateurs. Some professional sailors do take part now, but they typically make up only about 10 percent of crews.
The America’s Cup began in 1851, by the way. So how can the Bermuda Race claim to be “oldest”? Well, the America’s Cup race doesn’t occur on a set schedule. Instead, a race is triggered when a challenger steps forth to contest the cup. So it can’t match the claim of the Bermuda Race to be the oldest regularly scheduled ocean race.
Fortunately, you don’t need to know any of this to enjoy a Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail. And you certainly don’t need to own a yacht — or even a toy boat for the bathtub. All you need is a bit of a thirst.
So let’s raise a glass, shall we? Here’s to fair winds and following seas.
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Bermuda Rum Swizzle
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