Riding Out Gosling’s Dark n’ Stormy in a Can
I have a deep-seated connection with both Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and, of course, the legendary cocktail made with the same, but I also have an inherent mistrust of things I love that suddenly decide to come premixed… in a can…
When the press release for the soon-to-the U.S.-market Gosling’s Dark n’ Stormy cocktail in a can first skidded across my bow (actually, I first read this “article” in a popular drink-y magazine), I initially didn’t know what to think. I was confused, adrift, somewhat happy and simultaneously, very, very worried.
Even before I became a professional sailor, I had developed an early thirst for Black Seal (a name that comes, incidentally, from the fact that they used to seal the used champagne bottles the rum originally came in with black wax before export and not from any sort of relationship with flippered mammalians).
Bermudans have an almost fanatical obsession with what seems to be their only tangible national export: Gosling’s Black Seal Rum. One of my close schoolmates hailed from Bermuda, and I was always intrigued by his cheeky ways, colonial customs and small island sensibilities. I learned much from him about all this small British territory flung out way out into the Atlantic. But the mere mention of Gosling’s brought a steely eyed reverence to his eyes, followed by a wistful yet impassioned treatise on this hallowed national tonic. Honestly, he spoke of it as if it was their greatest cultural contribution, miles ahead of the Marconi mainsail and the ability to wear knee socks and shorts and call it formalwear. Far and away, the most lasting impression I got from him was that of a religious devotion to his sacrament — Gosling’s and the Dark n’ Stormy.
Ah the Dark n’ Stormy. Local legend has it, that the Dark n’ Stormy first originated at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club where tradition held that Gosling’s was poured first and then a quick shot of soda helped mix the drink. One time a busy bartender preparing a delicious rum drink for a visiting sailor accidently hit the ginger beer button on the soda gun and filled the glass before floating the dark rum on top and the sailor, looking at the glass, he was heard to remark ‘nobody in his right mind would sail out under a cloud that dark and stormy’. Like all cocktail origin stories, this tale is merely conjecture, but for all intents and purposes, I’m convinced.
Those of us stateside not connected with the yachting world, have become acquainted with this delicious concoction in recent years, due mainly to the explosion of the cocktail oriented culture, and the increasingly wide availability of that other Gosling’s product: its own brand of ginger beer. In Bermuda, the traditional mixer had long been Barritt’s Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer, but Gosling’s brand provides a sweeter, less biting version, designed perhaps to be slightly more forgiving to the American palate by presenting a much smoother entry. But this sweeter variety has had some drawbacks: well before the Gosling’s ginger beer was introduced on the mainland, Gosling’s introduced a premixed Dark n’ Stormy on the island in 12 oz cans, which, according to my Bermudan buddy, resulted in something of a kerfuffle.
This 12 oz. canned version was intended to be poured into two cocktails, served over ice. In practice however, locals would simply stash a six-pack on ice and proceed to drink the cans as they would a sixer of beer. The consequences of this mistake are obvious and so, the Gosling’s family decided to take their canned cocktail back to the drawing board before reintroducing it to our market.
And the biggest question regarding the new Dark n’ Stormy rollout, specifically why it was now being offered in an 8.4 oz. can (the same size as Red Bull cans) had an answer: For our safety.
While we, as Americans, seem to be a generally responsible people, the lingering aftershocks of the Four Loko disaster/litigation/responsibility for violent drunkenness are still being felt. For those of you not up to speed on what exactly this is all about. This step-by-step how-to should bring you up to speed as well as explain exactly how to re-create the drink that should have probably never have been.
Whether or not the early love affair I held for Bermudan rum led me towards a career at sea, or if my love of sailing engendered a stronger bond with sweet fermented sugar cane distillate is of little importance. The first time that dark, syrupy, delicately spiced spirit hit my lips I fell hard for Gosling’s, and the Dark n’ Stormy. From experience gained while actually living aboard several sail boats, mixing drinks on a less than well equipped vessel is difficult, and the hassle of needing to buy two things just to end up drinking a delicious beverage out of a well stained coffee mug is simply too much. Who needs it!? Real men can just drink from the bottle right? Sure, if you’re also the kind of guy who doesn’t own a fitted sheet and instead of owning a trash can just uses plastic takeout bags hung from kitchen cabinet handles.
So why in this great age of convenience had there been no other solution to the lazy man/degenerate sailor’s cocktail conundrum? Why had no liquor magnate done for cocktails what dipping dots did for ice cream? Well it’s finally happened, and now you, just like a real live NASA astronaut, can soon get your Dark n’ Stormy fix from a can.
Again, keep in mind; this isn’t just any cocktail. We’re not talking about a partnership between Scheweppes and Beefeater, or Absolute and Red Bull. We’re talking about arguably the king of the two ingredient drink, a perfect companion for summer sunsets and the real reason why people still sail to Bermuda: the Dark n’ Stormy.
So what does this new energy-drink size cocktail (though the effects are quite the opposite) actually have to offer? Having now tippled a few glasses of this canned concoction and prattled on to you at length, I’ve arrived at a few conclusions:
First: It’s delicious. Perhaps a bit sweet for my tastes, but make no mistake, crack a can over ice in a tumbler and enjoy, but please, do drink it over ice. If not for the civility of the action, do it for your own benefit. One can, over two cocktails and I am already doubting the advertised 9% alc./vol. tag at the base of the can. I’ve already lost two sheets to the breeze.
Second: My confusion over the smaller sized cans was quickly put to rest after finishing my first one and a quick Skype conversation with some friends on the island. Downsized or not, the sweetness and easy drinking flavor merely masked the fact that quality, and not quantity is the name of the game. (Note: I’m on my third can at the time of this writing, and am wholly expecting to get a chiding and slightly condescending phone call from my editors about professionalism and not writing content while half in the bag.)
Third: While I might have previously thought myself old fashioned in the sense that I, as a grown-ass man, should mix my own cocktails out of a well stocked bar, I have been humbled by the simple convenience of this well balanced, satisfying drink. Would I keep the bar stocked with these cans? Yes. Would I necessarily admit it to my guests? If I’d already had one… then maybe.
Fourth: Um… Let’s sail to Bermuda!
First: This easy to transport canned cocktail must, I repeat MUST be kept out of the hands of every high schooler with a fake ID. I confess that if I could have bought this in high school or in my early years of college, I would have certainly had a.) much more fun, and b.) many more school mornings suffering through a spiral of shame unable to comprehend basic mathematics and simple grammar.
Second: If you are beyond the age when tailgate parties, pre-gaming before heading to the bar, and daytime heavy drinking anytime other than Sundays make getting this drunk, this convenient, than easily transported mixed drinks might not belong in your repertoire anymore. But I won’t judge.
Final (Groggy) Thoughts
The Dark n’ Stormy really is a perfect warm weather cocktail. On nice days, when all you and your friends want to do is head to the beach/go for a sail/lounge in the park, it really is just a pain to bring a liquor, mixers, shaker, rocks glasses, ice bucket and ice and etc. out to where you want to do nothing more than enjoy yourselves even if you’re just looking to get nicely loaded on a beautiful day with some equally epicurean crewmembers. In these situations, convenience and portability are the determining factors. And, if this is going to make it easier to imbibe the nectar of the molasses gods than say a six-pack of Bud Lite, then by all means.