Thursday, March 5, 2009

Meeting Chesterfield Browne

March 3

Chesterfield Browne, mixologist who also works with Mount Gay Rum, was in New York so I was invited to a little press sit-down at Barolo to talk about rum and taste some products from Mount Gay, in particular, the new 1703 Old Cask Selection that's set to go on the market by May.

"There's a demand for aged products in the USA," Browne said, citing that as a reason for why the 1703, a new product from Barbados-based Mount Gay that is a blend of rums with maturity that ranges from 10 to 30 years, is slated to be released in the United States before it is available in Barbados.

Even the Mount Gay Rum Extra Old went through a packaging redesign to better reflect that it is an aged product.

He added that the trend nowadays veers more towards people drinking less in quantity, but more in quality.

Along with the 1703, we also tried the flagship Eclipse rum (maturity range of 2-7 years) and the Mount Gay Rum Extra Old (maturity range 8-15 years).

Browne said he wouldn't recommend the 1703 for mixing, but the Extra Old is versatile in the sense that it's a more aged premium blend that can be sipped alone, yet still good for mixing. The Eclipse is definitely one that works well with maknig cocktails. In a pocket-sized Mount Gay Rum "Cocktail Kit" with recipes all created by Browne, the drinks all feature tropical ingredients with the Eclipse, like the Passionate Paula made with rum, passion fruit liqueur, light cream and cream of coconut.

I asked about drinking in Barbados, whether it's mostly tropical drinks in this style or if there are also American-style classics. Browne answered that since Barbados is frequented by tourists, bartenders do try to keep on top of different styles of drinks, even the old traditional American classics.

Browne also said many of the young women of Barbados are very much into cosmopolitans and the whole "Sex and the City" style of drinking where they go out to have cocktails with their friends. However many people in Barbados, him included, are very much "rum shop people."

The rum shop could be described as Barbados' answer to the British neighborhood pub, except with bottle service...minus the astronomical bottle service prices. It's where people gather to talk and drink and enjoy each other's company.

Browne enjoys the atmosphere of the rum shop, the conversations that take place.

"The people are real," he said.

In rum shops, customers can order rum of varying sizes and a mixer of their choice (Browne's a fan of Barbados-made ginger beer or ginger ale) with a bowl of ice.

Browne said that if you say rum, you will be served Mount Gay, but the rum shops also serve other rum brands and other spirits. Those need to be asked for by name.

The largest amount of rum one can get at the rum shop is a 750 mL serving. Buying the larger size is probably more economical, but as Browne explained, since people like to buy each other rounds, ordering the largest size doesn't necessarily work. Because then the next person feels the need to also purchase a large size, and so on and so forth. So it's more common for groups to order a flask (or 200 mL) or a 375 mL bottle, and share that.

Browne told one story of a lady from a church who told people that everyone could learn from the people drinking at rum shops.

"She said, 'They know love. I saw six men sharing a flask!'," Browne said with a hearty laugh.

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