(Hollywood, Ca.) June 2010. “What do you think about when you think about rum?” asks Juan Coronado, Bacardi Regional Brand Master Apprentice, in his lilting Caribbean accent. The crowd responded with the obvious answers first: tropics, islands, good times. A few people went with drink associations: mojito, daiquiri, Cuba libre. Then the more introspective in the bunch blurted out answers they probably didn’t mean to say in public: pirates, sexy, devil temptress….
Based on those responses, it was my conclusion that rum is more than just a summertime drink, it’s an evocation of lifestyle. And no one is more tuned into that lifestyle than the people at Bacardi, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of alcoholic beverages.
For the past 15 years Bacardi has been introducing new flavors of rum into the marketplace. Torched Cherry, 2010’s just in time for summer offering, proves once again that the trendsetters at this distiller have their fingers finely attuned to the public pulse.
At a lavish LA launch event, Bacardi hosted a select group of media and other invitees, all of whom demonstrated a distinct interest in drinking. The event was held at the fashionable My House located on the corner of La Brea and Hollywood Boulevards, (one of those clubs that don’t bother putting a sign on the door, you just have to know where it is).
Bacardi flew in experts from all over the country, certified mixologists from New York, Phd chemists from Miami, product developers from Chicago, all to deconstruct the rum for this audience (even though, I’m pretty sure the crowd was mostly just interested in drinking.) And educational it was.
Like some of the Bacardi representatives who insinuated that rum actually courses through their veins, rum is a beverage that seems to runs deep within all of our collective heritage. From the original aguardiente (literally burning water) that was distilled on the sugar cane plantations of the 17th century, rum found its way throughout the Americas and into Europe. In fact it became so popular in the American colonies that our forebearers were said to be consuming three gallons a person for every man, woman and child walking around on the continent at that time. By the mid 1700’s rum was the ration of choice for the British Navy, not to mention a favorite beverage of our friend the pirate, an association that sticks to this day.
In 1862, Don Facundo Bacardi decided he could manufacture a better product so he set up shop in a Cuban smoke house that he shared with a colony of fruit bats. (So that’s why there’s a bat on the label!) The good Don experimented with fermentation and distillation, refining the drink so it could compete with European brandies. Well guess what? It caught on. And with the advent of prohibition in the 1920’s, Cuba and Bacardi Rum became the place to go and the thing to drink. And the modern Bacardi Company, still family owned, works hard to keep that market edge today.
“I met her in a club down in old Soho, where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola,” sang Ray Davies of the Kinks, and I think these Bacardi designers were listening. Torched Cherry Rum, “combining the bold taste of Barbados cherries with the light infusion of Torch Plant aloe", when mixed with Coke, tastes just like…well, cherry cola. Its light, its refreshing, and its consistent with the famous “Latin spirit” that Bacardi sells so well.
But why stop with rum and coke? Especially when you’re at a party with certified mixologists. How about a Torched Cherry Pom Spark with equal parts Sprite and Pomegranate Schnapps, or a Torched Cherry Burnt Berry with cranberry and maraschino cherry. Well, you get the idea. And if you don’t, you can sign up to have drink recipes downloaded to your iPhone. (Can’t you see it now, a crowded bar, thirty patrons deep, and you’re yelling out drink recipes that have been texted over a mobile device…. See how much better technology makes our lives.)
I have to give the Bacardi people a lot of credit. They really do their homework. They stay in touch with your local bartender, keeping on top of what people are drinking and what trends are emerging. They attend trade shows, food shows, flower shows. They know more about what you like than you do. And thank goodness for that, because they really do know how to mix a good drink!
According to the old ditty, “its ten fathoms deep on the road to hell, so yo ho ho and a bottle of Bacardi Torched Cherry Flavored Rum ”. Those pirates of the Caribbean never had it so good.
Greg Jacobs is a writer living in the South Bay.
photo credits: Greg Jacobs