Black strap rum, known for its sweet flavor and dark hue, might be the Rodney Dangerfield of rums: It gets no respect. But you’d be surprised by how far it has come as a style of rum and how good it tastes in cocktails.
According to BACARDI® rum ambassador Juan Coronado, the reason people are down on black strap rum has to do with its history and how it used to be produced.
“This dark rum was known for being a blend of rums mixed with black strap molasses, the darkest molasses in the third boiling of sugar making,” says Coronado. “This made the rum overly sweet and heavy.” And because it went through so many hands, explains Coronado, the black strap rum of old was bought and sold by profiteers, so it was very difficult to trace.
BACARDÍ® Black rum, on the other hand, was developed to pay homage to black strap rum while taking a more innovative production approach. BACARDÍ’s maestros de ron select heavily charred bourbon barrels, which are flushed with hot water to remove any traces of bourbon before aging the rum.
The barrels impart smoky notes and darken the color drastically. Unlike with other BACARDÍ rums, the maestros minimize the use of any filtration after aging in order to capture all of these robust flavors and color, before adding a dose of caramel to bring the blend into the black strap style it’s meant to represent.
“BACARDÍ Black surprises the palate,” says Coronado. “You get richness, smoky flavor and a medium body, so it’s not too heavy.” The rum also carries flavors of banana, tropical fruit, caramel and vanilla.
And while the rum can be enjoyed on its own, says Coronado, it truly shines in cocktails, adding smoky notes to a Hot Toddy (“you really taste the molasses,” he says), as well as in drinks like the Blackbird, with amaro and bitters, and the Tormenta Negra, with ginger beer and bitters.
“Every time I go to Puerto Rico, the birthplace of the Piña Colada, I order the Original Piña Colada Dirty, which comes with a float of BACARDÍ Black on top,” says Coronado, noting that the rum also has a lot of cooking applications. He likes to use it to add smoky notes to tropical desserts like pineapple upside down cake, or a creamy tres leches cake.
As the world continues to discover black strap rum, Coronado is upbeat about its possibilities. “Black rum mixes well with pineapple, so it’s already being used in a lot of Tiki drinks,” he says. “But the rum can really create layers of flavor in the glass, even with something as simple as Coke. Our hope is that more and more bartenders will discover its beautiful fruity smokiness. It’s yet another testament that rum is the most versatile and complex spirit in the world.”