Mulled Rum with Don Papa Small-Batch Rum
Although I’ve always thought of rum as a drink from the Caribbean, it’s actually made in other sugar-producing countries too. The base alcohol for rum is made by fermenting and distilling sugarcane molasses or juice and that distillate is then aged, so any country that grows sugar cane is likely to produce rum in one way or another. Until relatively recently though most rums from the Philippines, the home of Don Papa, were consumed locally or used for mixers. Despite not being top of mind for me, the Philippines is the third-largest rum producer in the world with only America and India ahead in terms of volume. And, Don Papa is the country’s first premium rum, aged for 7 years and made from the finest sugar cane molasses the islands can produce. Of course, what you should do with this delicious premium rum, full of butterscotch and vanilla notes and redolent with cinnamon and orange, is sip it. If you plan on using it in a cocktail do so with care – as I hope I’ve done in the mulled rum cocktail I’m sharing here.
Technically, the rum is not really mulled because I’ve added it after spicing Kent pressed apple juice. So, as the alcohol is added into the hot apple juice, it isn’t ever brought to the boil, so there’s no danger of spoiling the delicate aromas. Rather, the spicing and citrus I’ve used is intended to enhance the mulled rum and make a drink that is just a little lighter if, like me, you are cautious about drinking spirits neat – especially ones like Don Papa which, once you pour yourself a small glass to sip, are so moreish.
The name Don Papa was inspired by Papa Isio, a leader of the Philippine revolution in the 1890’s – against the Spanish authorities who had ruled since the 16th century. Although the sugar industry in the Philippines pre-dates Spanish colonisation, it was under Spanish rule that the importance of sugar cane grew. Perhaps there’s some irony in naming the country’s leading premium rum after one of the fathers of the Philippine revolution then? Don Papa was actually created in 2011, the brainchild of Stephen Carroll, a former executive at Remy Cointreau. Designed a premium rum, aged for 7 years in American oak barrels and distilled from one of the oldest strains of sugar cane grown in rich volcanic soils on Negros, near the active volcano of Mt Kanlaon it has a cult following in the UK. Known as ‘Sugarlandia’ Negros is the Sugar Capital of the Philippines and Don Papa comes from Hacienda Rosalia, an historic Sugar Cane plantation founded by the 19th-century sugar baron, Victor Fernandez Gaston who was a pioneer of sugarcane cultivation in the region. Carroll set up a new company, the Bleeding Heart Rum Company to manufacture the rum in Negro. They currently produce a total of seven rums, including a ten year aged and a sherry cask-aged rum. All their rum comes in stunning bottles with the kind of retro-styling that you might associate with a Graham Greene novel. Mine also arrived with a charming green glass complete with silver macaque – perfect for a mulled rum!
If you’d like to try my Mulled Rum recipe, here’s how to make it.
An easy recipe for Mulled rum with apple juice
- 30 ml Rum I used Don Papa
- 300 ml Unfiltered pressed apple juice
- Pinch Nutmeg
- 1 small Cinnamon Stick
- 3-4 Cloves
- 1/2 Orange
- 1/2 Lemon
- 1 slice Orange
- 1 tsp Honey
Put the spices in the muslin square and tie up with string to make a neat bundle.
Put the apple juice, lemon juice and orange juice in a microwaveable jug or small saucepan
Add the muslin spice bag
Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, either in the microwave or on the hob. Remove from the heat and allow to infuse for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours
Remove the spice bag
Reheat to just below boiling
Stir through the rum and honey to taste
Pour into a mulled wine glass
Serve with a slice of orange to garnish
The point of this way of making mulled rum is that you never boil the rum. By adding it to hot fruit juice, you just release all the aroma of the rum without losing the mouth of the drink. While it has all the warmth of a classic mulled drink, it retains the finesse of the spirit used to build it.
The spicing is very light and designed to enhance rather than overwhelm the spice notes in the rum itself while the citrus fruits just help to balance the apple juice base.
I have a feeling I’ll be making this mulled rum all winter. Perfect for a warming pick-me-up on a chilly evening, it’s also not particularly high in calories or in alcohol. So, while you can hardly claim it as one of your five a day, your liver may thank you.
You can buy Don Papa rum from Harvey Nichols and other online wine and spirits merchants.
Looking for a white rum cocktail? Check out my Daiquiri recipe – it’s one of my own favourites!