Just in case I didn’t get how seriously Chesterfield Browne takes his rum cocktails, he proved their gravitas when he pulled out the nutmeg. Not the ground stuff we shake from a spice jar into eggnog, mind you. He travels with an actual golf-ball sized nutmeg seed, which smells heavenly and from which he grates fresh nutmeg into drinks calling for the spice.
He produced the seed from the depths of his travelling bar kit — which also holds such can’t-make-a-rum-cocktail-without items as a grater, lime press, muddler and shaped corers for those specific garnishes — and expertly grated a sprinkle of nutmeg atop my rum punch.
We had met up on a sunny afternoon to talk rum and drink rum over a rum-themed lunch at the Metropolitan Grill in Calgary. Browne is the international brand ambassador for Mount Gay Distilleries so he knows a thing or two about the spirit.
“Fresh is always better,” he said in his lovely Bajan lilt in answer to my raised eyebrows.
Not only did the completed drink compare with the best I sampled when I was in Barbados last year — no small feat given the thoroughness of my rum punch quest — it looked just as pretty. Served in a wine goblet with a fresh cherry garnish, the blood orange-hued liquid begged me to take a sip, using the aroma of the freshly grated spice to clinch the seduction.
“It’s all about the presentation of the drink,” said Browne. “So you must have your tools.”
Browne had travelled to Canada toting a black felt carrier not unlike what Dexter, the serial killer character on the Showtime hit of the same name, uses to store his very different tools. Seriously, it’s not an outlandish comparison. Browne is based in Barbados, where Mount Gay is located, so to get the word out about the rum he travels a lot; about 255 days a year. Browne won’t leave the Caribbean island without his bar tools and airport security almost always searches his checked luggage because of them. No butcher knives in there, but enough sharp steely instruments to give the airport heavies pause.
Fortunately for me, the bar tools arrived safe and sound with Browne.
Over the course of our lunch and cocktails we talked about everything from the merits of cooking with rum (try it) to the spirit’s ongoing renaissance (thanks to the mojito, for one). I also found out you can age rum punch in an American white oak barrel for six months to create a more complex cocktail. Well, not you personally, or even me. But someone who knows what he’s doing — like Browne.
“We just make good rum,” he said.
Cheers to that!
Chesterfield Browne's Traditional Rum Punch recipe
Chesterfield Browne's Virgin Honey cocktail recipe
Bajan Comfort Foods
Victoria’s Art of the Cocktail