While for many years, rum was seen as an ingredient mostly useful for crafting Tiki drinks or Caribbean cocktails, the last decade or so has seen a meteoric rise in the use of the sugar cane-based spirit in drinks everywhere. One such inclusion is in the Clarita, from Belgian bartender Ran Van Ongevalle. The founder of Pharmacy, a cocktail lounge in the seaside community of Knokke in Belgium, Van Ongevalle’s Clarita was the winning drink at the 2017 Bacardí Legacy Global Cocktail Competition. The cocktail is a stirred beauty that pairs Bacardí Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron eight-year-old rum with amontillado sherry, crème de cacao, sherry and saline solution.
Of course, as part of the Bacardi competition, he and the other competitors were required to use Bacardi rum as the base of their cocktail. Van Ongevalle selected the oldest expression, the 8-year old aged rum, a rich and indulgent rum mostly recognized for its quality as a sipping rum rather than its use in cocktails. It brings a decided elegance and assertiveness to the Clarita, but those making the Clarita at home—rather than for an international cocktail competition—could consider a substitution, including younger Bacardi rums. As for the crème de cacao, which adds silky sweetness to the drink, Van Ongevalle says, “I’m from Belgium, I had to use chocolate.”
Sherry, which is seeing more and more use in drinks, pairs beautifully with rum, adding some salinity, nuttiness and depth while giving the drink even more body without raising the alcohol content much. And as far as salinity goes, Van Ongevalle also uses a bit of saline solution, which is as easy to make as a simple syrup is, just using salt instead of sugar and adjusting the proportions to around 1/4 ounce of salt per ounce of water. This bit of salt acts very much like it does in sweeter dishes, enhancing flavors without being noticeably “salty.”
Similarly, the two dashes of absinthe, while assertive, is more about adding additional subtle notes than overtly changing the flavor profile, as are the few drops of olive oil that glisten on the surface of the drink. “The most important thing about our drinks is having perfect balance and flavor,” says Van Ongevalle. “If we go too experimental, it won’t work. We want surprising elements, and we also want people to just feel satisfied.”
- 2 ounces Bacardí Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron eight-year-old rum
- 1/3 ounce amontillado sherry
- 1 barspoon crème de cacao
- 2 dashes absinthe
- 1 dash saline solution
- Garnish: Olive oil
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled coupe.
Garnish with 3 drops of olive oil.