Bermuda is the host country for the 35th America’s Cup, set to take place in 2017, a competition for the oldest trophy in international sport (dates back to 1851) that features the fastest boats and the best sailors in the world. The first leg of the competition, the America’s Cup World Series held in October 2015 saw plenty of celebrants drinking Bermuda’s national cocktail, the Dark ’n Stormy, a mix of Gosling’s Black Seal rum with Gosling’s ginger beer. As Gosling’s is both the official rum and the official ginger beer of the 35th America’s Cup – sailors, Bermudians and spectators will be knocking back this cocktail a lot over the next two years and beyond.
Family owned Gosling’s is the oldest business in Bermuda. It all began in 1806 when James Gosling, the oldest son of wine and spirit merchant William Gosling, set sail from England bound for America but was becalmed at sea for so long that the charter ran out. James and his merchandise put in at the nearest port – Bermuda. When James learned the British navy used Bermuda as a stop off point to replenish supplies, rather than continue on he set up shop. Sailors at that time and up until the nineteen forties were given a daily ration of rum.
The distinctive black rum destined to be Black Seal was first formulated in about 1860. As always it’s still blended and bottled in Bermuda but comes from several Caribbean islands. Distilleries in Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados make the Gosling’s rum from a base of molasses. These distinct rums are then blended and aged in once used American bourbon barrels re-charred to a heavy toast. Caramel is added to keep the colour consistent. The result is a dark, deep, complex full-flavoured rum with a gingerbread finish.
Gosling’s rum began seven generations ago – seven stubborn generations ago according to the company’s own advertisements (the eight generation is just getting involved). Malcolm Gosling is the first generation to export the rum so the Dark ’n Stormy can be made correctly off the island. “My father and his brothers and his dad had no desire to get into the export business,” said Malcolm. “People would try the drink and want Gosling’s rum to make it but they had to come to Bermuda to get it.”
The Gosling’s Black Seal rum is so synonymous with Bermuda it’s everywhere on this tiny 21 square mile paradise of pink-sand beaches, gorgeous verdant golf courses and turquoise waters. The ubiquitous Bermudian fish chowder, dark, thick with shredded fish and deliciously savoury is served with cruets of Black Seal rum and Outerbridges Sherry Peppers sauce to add at will.
Roofs of homes in Bermuda are designed by boat builders with wood beams and ribs, covered with limestone slate and painted with a lime wash or non-toxic paint – all to collect rain water for household use. Once completed a “roof wetting ceremony” is held using Gosling’s rum, primarily an excuse for a party.
“We all acquired a taste for rum at a very young age,” said Andrew Holmes, Brand manager at Gosling’s Export. “Black Seal rum was traditionally rubbed on teething babies gums to calm them down.”
Today just about every bar in Bermuda has a version of the national cocktail. At Marcus, the hot new eatery in the Hamilton Princess, they call it the Darker & Stormier, as they make it with a spicy house-made ginger beer. The Reefs Resort does a Dark and Stormy float with vanilla ice cream. Devil’s Isle does “Farm to Bar” cocktails, using fresh squeezed juices, home infused syrups, homemade bitters and great creativity. Their Rumballiach is a Gaelic twist on the Dark ’n Stormy mixing Black Seal rum with Drambuie, lime juice, Bermuda honey and ginger beer.
The original recipe is the first modern classic cocktail inducted into the US based Institute for Cocktail Excellence “Mixology Hall of Fame” which honours the best-of-the-best drinks. The best ever result of becalmed at sea. www.goslingsrum.com
The Cocktail recipe: Dark & Stormy
It’s a beautiful looking drink that’s surprisingly simple to make. You fill a glass with ice and ginger beer (Gosling’s or any good version works) and float Gosling’s Black Seal on top. “The cocktail looks like a dark, stormy night with the colour of a cloud that only a fool or dead man would sail under,” said seventh generation owner of the rum company Malcolm Gosling. Stir it well before you drink it or your first gulp will be straight rum.
6 oz ginger beer
2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal rum
Fill glass with crushed ice. Add ginger beer. Pour rum gently on top so it floats. Stir until it looks like a storm cloud, then drink.
Photo 1 – Malcolm Gosling is the heir to the business and the first in seven generations to export the rum so the Dark ’n Stormy can be made correctly off the island.
Photo 2 – Seven generations and counting – purevyors of Bermuda’s national beverage and the choice of sailors everywhere – especially in the America’s Cup!
Photo 3 – 2 on Left: The essential ingredient to the Dark ’n Stormy – Gosling’s Black Seal Bermuda Black Rum. Middle right: The Dark ‘n Stormy, Ready To Drink Rum Cocktail. Right: The other essential ingredient to the Dark ’n Stormy – Gosling’s Ginger Beer.