Skipper Doug here, filling in for the Galley Pirates….
On SV Night Town, our drinking tastes usually run to the quick and simple: a good craft beer, a glass of wine or a strong Dark and Stormy. But last summer, my Galley Pirate asked me to concoct a signature drink for the boat.
I maintain no pretense to be a mixologist, but the craft cocktail movement gave me rich fodder to start my journey. On a delivery last year with our dear friends Gary and Torie aboard their lovely SV Solitude we made what we thought would be a quick stop in Charleston to ride out a strengthening low off the South Carolina coast. We ended up staying a week as the low stalled and we took heed of the old adage that “gentlemen never sail to weather.”
That gave us ample opportunity to explore Charleston, which is one of our favorite ports outside of the Chesapeake. Gary, who is a talented mixologist and takes great pride in mixing a good cocktail aboard Solitude, led us to The Belmont, which features superlative drink menu and a very cool vibe. Being a sailor from Newfoundland (home of Screech Rum, worthy of a whole book of blogs), I, of course, settled on a rum concoction called the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. Perfection: I decided to recreate the drink when we returned to Annapolis.
The key ingredient in the RBYC, in fact in many island-themed cocktails, is falernum, a Caribbean simple syrup with a flavorful twist. A good liquor store can get you a bottle, but being married to a Galley Pirate, I thought it best to make my own.
You can find lots of recipes on-line but I started with Kaiser Penguin’s. Why? No lime juice. A bath of falernum may sit for a while (the RBYC only needs half a measure) so why put something perishable in when you want the stuff to last? Besides, if a drink calls for lime juice, just mix it in fresh when you make the drink.
The key ingredient in this simple syrup is not sugar, but rum (shocking, I know). I tried several rums (some dark, some light) but, like Kaiser Penguin, prefer Wray and Nephew’s overproof rum. A 151 like Bacardi or Lemon Hart is a good substitute, but the raw flavor of Wray and Nephew’s gives the falernum a nice bite. I’m pretty sure you can get drunk on the stuff just by sniffing the bottle.
Anyway, here are the Falernum ingredients:
4-6 ounces of rum
Handful of cloves
Palmful of allspice
1 nutmeg, ground
Palmful of anise seeds or 5-6 anise stars
Skin of 2 limes
1/2 cup rough cut ginger
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
10 drops of almond extract (optional).
Chop the ginger. No need to take the skin off since it will be strained.
Pour the rum in a large soup bowl.
Dry fry the cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and anise for about 5 minutes, until very aromatic.
Add the dry spices to the rum, along with the ginger and lime skins. Let stand, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 24 hours (the best batch I made sat for 3 days).
After 1-3 days, make the simple syrup (note that this recipe doubles the usual amount of sugar. Don’t skimp, the sweet thickness with be offset by the rum later).
Add the sugar and water to a medium sauce pan.
Heat over low, stirring constantly. Once the solution clarifies (5-10 minutes), remove from heat.
Strain the rum and spice mixture through double layer of cheesecloth into the simple syrup. Stir in the almond extract, if desired. Bottle and let cool.
And, save the spices! A spoonful added to any sweet smoothie recipe gives the drink a tasty island flavor.
You can also make a non-alcoholic variety. We use it for our mint ice tea or in a ginger iced green tea (great for soothing a seasick crew member!). To do so, just substitute water for the overproof rum and keep the same simple syrup ratios.
Now back to the Night Town (the cocktail, not the boat). We love gin or vodka gimlets, so when my Galley Pirate asked for a drink recipe, I started with that and my favorite cocktail from the night at the Belmont: the RBYC.
The Night Town Cocktail
5 parts vodka
3 parts lime juice (fresh or bottled)
½ part Falernum (I up it to a little more than 1 measure if I use fresh lime juice).
Pour the ingredients over ice into a cocktail shaker, close and shake vigorously. Strain over ice into a tumbler and garnish with a lime wedge and maraschino cherry.
We were flattered to be able to serve this cocktail at the Baltimore Harbor Lighthouse last summer. Commissioned in 1908, Baltimore Harbor Light was the last lighthouse constructed on the Chesapeake Bay. Our family lived within view of this lighthouse for 17 years but never got the opportunity to get inside until it became privately owned. You can view the video of the “Making of the Night Town Cocktail” below for for an unedited demo. Stressing unedited. And looking at the video closely, keep in mind that you do NOT need WD-40 to make this cocktail! It just happened to have a prominent place in this 109 year old structure in the bay. No surprise!
There’s nothing like having a Night Town Cocktail 55 feet above the Chesapeake Bay. Cheers!