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Premium Spirits

A Rum for Your Money


Zach Brinley [Photo: Pete Byron]


Zach Brinley introduced Brinley Gold, his family’s premium flavored rum, to Florida last year, and already it’s in such hot spots as the Rum Barrel in Key West, the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando and Blu Sushi in Naples.

“The reception in Florida has been fantastic,” says Brinley, who divides his time between the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, where the family’s rum distillery is, and his office in Hoboken, N.J. “Florida is a cocktail-heavy and rum-heavy culture,” he says.

Brinley Gold rum has only been around since 2002, after Brinley’s family bought a failing distillery in St. Kitts and brought in Michel Joly, a French winemaker who had been trying his hand at making rum in the Caribbean. The Brinleys’ first product was vanilla rum. It won a gold medal at the International Rum Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the same year it was introduced.

Brinley recalls the near-disastrous first show. They had just barely started shipping out of the Caribbean. In fact, they were one of the first to export internationally from St. Kitts. They shipped several cases through air freight and packed four bottles in their suitcases. They arrived for the show, but their shipment did not, leaving them with only three bottles for tastings and one for the judges’ table. Brinley says that by day two the rum was gone and he was sweating — with still one day left. But word on the show floor was that the Brinley rum was so good it was gone in a day and a half. That and the gold medal, he says, launched the product.

Brinley has added mango and lime to the company’s product line, which includes coffee and coconut. He boasts all natural flavors in his rums — from vanilla imported from Madagascar to coffee and mangos from Brazil and limes from Tahiti. Brinley Gold rums are 72-proof, almost double what you’d typically find on liquor store shelves, and sell for about $20.

Mojito MoJo

Northerners tout the Mojito as the latest and greatest new cocktail, but in the South, its cousin, the mint julep, has been around for decades.

Ernesto Plagata, general manager of acclaimed Ortanique on Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile, says there’s nothing new about the Mojito. It’s always been around and has always been popular. He should know; Ortanique has made the Miami Herald’s annual “Hot List” for Best Mojito since 2002.

The ingredient list is simple: Rum, sugar, lime, fresh mint and club soda. Ortanique’s bartender, Joel Garcia, chooses Bacardi Superior rum. The sugar syrup is made in-house. Each Mojito is freshly made. Nothing is premixed.

Says Plagata: “It’s our most often ordered cocktail. Often it’s the first cocktail, but you can drink them anytime.”

Go to LinksLinks: For Ortanique's Mojito recipe, go to the Links page.

Cocktail Hour


Amy Elhassan [Photo: Michael Price]

A trio of cocktail specialties from Amy Elhassan, bartender at Ristorante BOVA, one of Boca Raton’s hottest restaurants.

Lychee Martini

“Where everybody else is using regular vodka, I tried a different approach and used vanilla vodka. It has a great taste to it.”
2/3 ounce of Stoli vanilla vodka
½ ounce of Cointreau
2 ounces of lychee syrup
1 lychee as garnish

Pomegranate Martini

2 ounces of Ketel One Citron
½ ounce of lemon juice
½ ounce of Pom Wonderful (“the best kind of
Pomegranate juice”)
½ ounce of Pama liquor

BOVA-tini

“A house specialty. The tamarind puree has a bite to it. Not so froufrou.”
2 ounces of Ketel One Vodka
½ ounce of Cointreau
½ ounce of pineapple juice
½ ounce of tamarind puree

Commanding a Premium

Ultrapremium spirits are on a roll, says John McDonnell, COO of The Patrón Spirits Co. “We’re into a cocktail culture. Domestic beer is declining. The demographics are in our favor now. When people drink, it’s based on an occasion, and there is more of a repertoire of spirits to choose from now than years ago,” says McDonnell, a 24-year veteran of the spirits industry who ran the Florida market for Seagram.

The Patrón Spirits Co. is headquartered in Las Vegas, but McDonnell still lives and works in Florida when he’s not on the road introducing Patrón in new markets.

“People are demanding quality, and the ultrapremium spirits category is poised for growth,” McDonnell says.

Patrón is an ultrapremium brand, all-natural, all hand-made. The only machinery in the manufacturing process is used to put the liquid into the hand-blown, hand-numbered bottle. Patrón tequila is made from 100% blue agave from Mexico’s Jalisco region. Most mass-marketed tequilas contain half that amount.

Patrón sales were up 65.6% for the year ended in June.

Patrón Cosmopolitan

“Women are falling in love with this drink. The tequila takes away the sweetness.”

How to Make It:
2 ounces of Patrón Silver
¾ ounce of Patrón Citronge orange liqueur
Splash of cranberry juice
Squeeze of lime
Lime wheel for garnish

You’ll need a pint glass, ice, a shaker and strainer and a martini glass. Combine all the ingredients into a pint glass filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.