An average spirit is around 40 percent alcohol, or 80 proof. Some whiskeys, particularly “cask-strength” bottles right from the barrel, get up to 50 percent or higher. Formidable navy-strength gin: 57 percent.
Rums? They can climb even higher. Plenty of bottles — notorious 151s, for instance — are all alcohol, zero flavor, best for lighting on fire or spiking questionable frat-party punches. But high-quality overproof rums actually have a long history in tiki cocktails. And recently, Plantation Rum master distiller Alexandre Gabriel set out to create an overproof rum that would shine in such drinks. Together with some of the world’s foremost rum experts and historians, he created the O.F.T.D., or Old Fashioned Traditional Dark rum, a blend of rums from Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados that clocks in at an incredible 69%.
It’s boozy, enough to leave your tongue tingling when you sip it straight. But the layers of flavor are incredible. It’s dark and rich, tasting of caramelized sugars and toffee, with a complex sweetness that just cries out to be used in cocktails. Proceed with caution — a drink with two ounces of this is almost twice as strong as a drink with two ounces of standard rum — but you’ll find that a little of this rum goes a long, long way. Take it for a spin in tiki classics or elsewhere, as with these three cocktails.
Easy: Rum & Coffee
A powerful rum like the O.F.T.D. will not get overwhelmed by other powerful flavors, such as coffee — it makes itself heard wherever it is. And the rum’s pleasant sweetness, which reminds us of caramel, cinnamon, and toffee, is a perfect match for coffee. Shake it up with cold brew and a little simple syrup and it’s a killer after-dinner drink.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 ounce of Plantation O.F.T.D. rum, 2 ounces of cold brew coffee, and 1/2 an ounce of simple syrup. Shake until well-chilled and the drink gets a bit frothy. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a few drops of Angostura bitters.
Intermediate: Navy Grog
This overproof rum was designed largely with tiki drinks in mind, so it’s no surprise it shines in some of the classics, like a Navy Grog. Unlike many cocktails from the tiki canon, the Grog doesn’t require any funky ingredients like orgeat, passionfruit, or falernum; just lime and grapefruit, honey, and lots of rum. Using three different rums creates layered flavor, while the rich, dark O.F.T.D. jumps to the fore. Be careful with this guy. It goes down like a dream, but it’s as boozy as two stiff drinks. (Recipes for this drink vary; we like to go a little heavy on the grapefruit and lighter on the lime.)
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 ounce of Plantation O.F.T.D. rum, 1 ounce of white rum, 1 ounce of gold rum, 1 ounce of honey syrup (that’s 1 part honey stirred together with 1 part hot water, so it dissolves more easily) plus 1 ounce of grapefruit juice and 1/2 an ounce of fresh lime juice. Shake all that up very well. Fill a large glass or tiki mug with crushed ice and strain the cocktail on top. Dash on some Angostura bitters and grate a bit of nutmeg on top. Garnish with some tiki crazy — palm trees, umbrellas, plastic monkeys, or just grapefruit half-moons and lime wheels.
Advanced: Dark Rum Flip
We know we haven’t quite reached the holiday season, but when we tasted this rich rum in all its sweet complex glory, we knew we needed to try it in a flip — with cream and a whole egg. What you get isn’t too far from eggnog; the rich, creamy texture tames the high-proof rum, so you really get to appreciate its flavor.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces of Plantation O.F.T.D. rum, 1 ounce of half-and-half, 1 ounce of simple syrup, and 1 whole egg. Shake all that up without ice to aerate it — that’s called a “dry shake” — and then add ice and shake again for a “wet shake,” to chill it down. Strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg.