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London's rum affair rekindled

18 October 2004
London's rum affair rekindled

Rum is set to take an even firmer grip on the capital with two new openings in the next month. The renaissance of what was once a hugely popular drink - back in the 18th century - is continuing steadily as the nation's bartenders propel the rum-based Mojito and Daiquiri to star status, finally nudging the Cosmopolitan off its top spot.

The latest watering hole to covet the Caribbean tipple is Floridita, an offshoot of the legendary Cuban bar and restaurant of the same name that is set to open in London in a couple of weeks. A joint venture between Conran Holdings and Havana Holdings, it promises to serve the best Daiquiri in the world. And it probably will, too - if top London mixologist Nick Strangeway has anything to do with it

Strangeway is heading up Floridita's team of 12 bartenders, who will sell up to 4,000 Daiquiris a week once the place gets going, he reckoned. This place is huge. At 6000sq ft, it occupies the space once taken by Conran venture Mezzo. But with cocktails starting at £6, and about 14 Daiquiris in one bottle of rum - Havana Club, in case you're wondering - well, you do the maths: the place has potential.

Fuelled by the classic rum cocktail, the venue is expected to attract large crowds, who should also be drawn to Strangeway's "Nuevo" cocktail list, which promises intriguing contemporary twists on other Cuban classics, such as the Apple Tea Mojito.

The Daiquiri, though, will be the name of the game here. It was invented by the original Floridita's barman, Constantino Ribalaigua Vert - Constante to his mates - and downed by the dozen by its number-one fan, Ernest Hemingway.

Strangeway will even attempt to match your chosen Daiquiri - he will offer seven different types - with a cigar in the Floridita's cigar lounge, La Casa del Habano, along with coffee and chocolate pairings. "These flavours really complement a cigar," he declared.

"If you compare the price of rum to malt or Cognac, you get much better value for money and better quality," said Strangeway, who has put together a list of more than 40 rums for the serious imbiber. "And I've narrowed it down to quality - there's nothing on here that makes up the numbers."

A good rum feels like "angels dancing on my tongue", declared flying bar consultant Angus Winchester, who is set to open the Notting Hill Rum Club next month when he gets back from his travels (I caught up with him in Sydney). Actually, he was referring to Mount Gay's Tricentennial rum, which is one of his all-time favourites, and is destined for the list at the club.

More a rum enthusiast's get-together, the club will be held at the award-winning Notting Hill bar Trailer Happiness (www.therumclub.com). For a small membership fee it promises a discount on the bar's 40 rums and access to the coveted Members' Rums - a list of rare, limited-edition ("and fantastically expensive") rums charged to the drinker at cost price.

Though don't expect world domination just yet. "Every year someone declares that rum is the new vodka, but nothing will overtake vodka. Rum will get the closest though," predicted Strangeway.

Shorts

In the stars Next week Plateau restaurant in London's Canary Wharf will host the first in a series of astrological wine tastings, with speakers including the legendary astrologer Shelley von Strunckel. Bollinger Champagne and biodynamically produced wines will feature in the line-up accompanied by dishes which focus on the featured signs' tastes. For example, for Libra, head chef Tim Tolley will create a menu "reflecting Libra's traits of sensuality, subtlety and balance". Von Strunckel, with a little help from top perfumier Roja Dove, will use her talents to describe the aromas and tastes unique to each star sign, then link them to wines selected by head sommelier Michael Simms.

Cider month This month also sees the celebration of "real" cider and perry. The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) is using October to highlight the differences between keg cider and the tasteless fizz widely available in pubs across the country. Gillian Williams, Camra's director of cider and perry campaigning, said: "Real ciders and perries are natural living products made from many types of apples and pears. It is the different methods of production and the varieties of fruit which gives each drink a unique, wonderful taste." The search is also on for a winner of the newly launched Cider & Perry Pub of the Year competition. Go to www.camra.org.uk/cider for more information.

Pairing potential Coffee and whisky are regular bedfellows, but how often has the science of pairing the two been analysed? Er, never - until now. Roastmaster Jeremy Torz, of artisan coffee company Union Coffee Roasters, and master blender Richard Paterson, of whisky company Whyte & Mackay, have got together to explore the partnership, coming up with six specific pairings, which, they claim, build on flavours and introduce a range of different top notes. Torz and Paterson said: "It's time for restaurant and bar managers to think much more holistically about their offerings, so every aspect is considered, not just the wine list or price."

That's all folks
I bid you a fond farewell as Caterer's drinks editor after 10 years in the hot seat. Thanks for all your feedback, contributions and words of encouragement.

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