Rum is a versatile spirit. Though it’s often employed in refreshing, citrusy drinks like the Daiquiri or rich, tropical drinks like the Painkiller, rum is a complex liquor loaded with flavor and nuance that is just as successful in stirred, spirit-forward cocktails. Aged rums, especially, can bring oak and spice notes to traditional whiskey drinks like the Old Fashioned—or, in this case, the Toronto.
The Toronto is part Old Fashioned and part Manhattan, combining Canadian rye with the bitter Italian amaro Fernet-Branca, simple syrup and aromatic bitters. It’s deep, dark and bittersweet. At The Patterson House in Nashville, Strategic Hospitality beverage director Matthew Tocco wanted to make a version of the Toronto cocktail that swapped out whiskey for aged rum.
Tocco’s version, called Brother’s Keeper, uses Ron Zacapa Centenario, a blend of rums aged between six and 23 years that has aromas and flavors of dried fruit, oak, leather, tobacco, coffee and vanilla. He keeps the fernet, tweaks the sugar by using a richer demerara sugar syrup, and adds chocolate bitters to the mix.
"Rum is a product that comes from sugar, so pairing it with sugar makes sense,” says Tocco. “A lot of people associate rum with sweet, fruity drinks, but there are a lot of different ways you can apply it.”
With its bittersweet profile and the unmistakable hint of Fernet-Branca, the Brother’s Keeper is recognizable as a Toronto variation, but the rich rum and chocolate bitters move the taste in a different direction. The drink shows what rum can do when swapped in for whiskey, and it may inspire you to experiment with rum in other spirituous whiskey classics.
- 1 1/2 ounces Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23 rum
- 1/2 ounce Fernet-Branca
- 1/2 ounce demerara sugar syrup
- 5 drops Angostura bitters
- 5 drops chocolate bitters
- Garnish: orange peel
Add the rum, Fernet-Branca, sugar syrup and both bitters into a mixing glass with ice, and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a rocks glass over 1 large ice sphere.
Express an orange peel over the top of the drink to release its oils, then garnish with the peel.