Cocktail City: Cocktailian Culture

Bar None

with Debbian Spence-Minott

Thursday, February 07, 2019

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As we indicated in our inaugural Cocktail City article, the first definition of the term cocktail appeared in 1806: 'stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitter'. Cocktailians like Jerry Thomas (known as the founding father of American mixology and the bartending profession) and Harry Johnson were undoubtedly the two greatest masters of the bartending craft in the 1800s. Both gentlemen agreed that the greatest accomplishment of a bartender lies in his ability to exactly suit his customers. To do this, the bartending professional must inquire what kind of drink the customer desires and how he wishes it to be prepared. The bartender must also study the tastes of his customers, and, strictly heeding their wishes, mix all drinks to their desires and tastes. As a result, the bartender will gain the esteem and respect of his patrons.

In the mid-1980s, young bartenders, who were not necessarily schooled in the old cocktailian culture, and who were also tired of making the usual white wine spritzers — Bloody Marys and Tequila Sunrises — hit the scene. These modern mixologists offered more contemporary mixes and named drinks in such a way that may cause one to raise an eyebrow; for example, 'the Blow Job cocktail: coffee liqueur, Irish cream and whipped cream. Frozen drinks were the new hit craze. Bartenders were exploring, innovating and ultimately creating. Today, bartenders all around the world continue to express their creativity and cocktail genius. And often, we welcome the travelling bartender to our shores to share what makes their cocktails so special. Meet Brian Maxwell, visiting international rum ambassador and bartender, who shared his cocktail experience using Rum-Bar Rum.

Thursday Food (TF): Tell about the passion project you're currently working on.

Brian Maxwell (BM): The passion project I'm working on is to bring the heart of Jamaica and Jamaican rum to the rest of the world. We saw another rum documentary and wanted to take it a step further. We can bring the taste of the great Jamaican rum flavour that funk and hogo. There's really a different vibe when drinking Jamaican rum that you can't capture anywhere else, so we wanted to bring that vibe through cocktails and history.

TF: What is your connection to rum and Rum-Bar Rum?

BM: What's interesting about my connection to rum is, I have worked in the bar and restaurant business for about 20 years, and my first time in Jamaica about five years ago is when I really, really fell in love with it. The passion, the culture and specifically the distinct flavour that is Jamaican rum that you don't find anywhere. Rum can be made anywhere, but Jamaican rum has a special heart to it and I really feel that with Rum-Bar Rum. Especially when I visited the Worthy Park distillery; we spent time in the cane fields and saw so much history. Things that most people never get to experience. When I think rum, I think of the love and culture; I really think Jamaica, and that's why I have a connection with Rum-Bar Rum.

TF: Did the tour of the Worthy Park Estate make you appreciate the brand any more?

BM: Yes, and yes again! I was really blown away by the hospitality and the feel. I had no idea just how much cane was being grown in Worthy Park and it was like being in our own rum city.

TF: How is this project going to shed more light on Jamaican rum and Rum-Bar Rum?

BM: I was really thinking that the more we dig into the history and the production of the rum itself, the more information we have to give to the rest of the public. And that feeling that we always discuss that you can't get anywhere else. Through the rum is how we plan to share that feeling with the rest of the world.

TF: Of the Rum-Bar and Worthy Park, what's your favourite of the products?

BM: I actually first fell in love with the Rum-Bar White Overproof. I use it a lot. It's a great ingredient in cocktails, I have cooked with it and that's what we've used most in tropical cocktails. The Worthy Park Single Estate is such a good sipping rum, we've made Old Fashions with that, and other cocktails. Sometimes, if there's a cocktail that's traditionally made with whiskey, I'll use rum and wait for their reaction and usually they can't believe that it's rum…..Jamaican rum!

Did You Know? Jamaica has six rum distilleries. Join the Bar None team as we visit a few Jamaican rum distilleries in 2019. Keep reading!

The Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards 2019 committee has announced an inaugural designation of Bartender of the Year at this year's Jamaica Observer Food Awards. Who will be nominated? Who will win? Bartenders/Mixologists, are you ready? Continue to follow @jamaicaobserver and @bartendingacademyja for more information about this very prestigious and exciting nomination and award.

Readers' Feedback:

Imagine if we embraced life's moments, big and small, without reservation. Together, we might fill the world with contagious joy.

Please share with me your cocktail experiences or comments on the above article at, or follow me on IG @debbiansm #barnoneja.

Debbian Spence-Minott

An Alumna of the US Sommelier Association

CEO of the Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines

President – Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists (JUBAM) Limited

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