Caribbean Cocktails at Home:  Dark N Stormy

Caribbean Cocktails at Home: Dark N Stormy

Good Morning, Good Morning!  Today, we dive deep into the Dark n Stormy story (and recipe!).  A drink that looks like a sailor’s worst nightmares but tastes like a spicy rum infused daydream.  Truth be told, its origins lie in a shipwreck that spiraled into the founding of an island based rum that we all know and love!

Did you know that the Dark n Stormy is the unofficial drink of Bermuda?  Bermuda, known as the shipwreck capital of the Atlantic, is known to sailor’s and captains for its unexplainable “triangle” of riddles that have continually resulted in the historical wrecks and mysterious disappearances of vessels of all shapes and sizes.  Lucky for us, the misfortune of an English Clipper, The Mercury, did not go unsolved.  Instead, it resulted in the founding of an Internationally known rum and the creation of one of our favorite Caribbean cocktails!

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The Mercury- the ship that started it all.

In 1806, after 91 days at sea bound for America, the ship commanded by James Gosling managed to avoid the 200 square miles of deadly reef surrounding the islands, only divert the ship to port in St. George’s, Bermuda.  The oldest son of wine and spirits purveyor William Gosling never made it to his final destination however.   Instead, he remained in the islands and flourished.  And, in 1857, upon seeing a market in the thirsty British Naval Officers and Sailors, he began the business of making rum.  Gosling’s rum.

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Gosling’s Limited Wine and Spirits was founded in 1857 by James Gosling

The rum was sold in barrels up at first, anxious consumers bringing their old bottles in for a “fill up” at the distillery and storefront.  During World War I however, the Goslings began bottling the rum in Champagne bottles and sealing them with black wax, giving the dark and sweet concoction its well known “Black Seal” name.

The “black” rum was a perfect compliment to spicy ginger beer, another favorite drink of the British.  After the war, a ginger beer factory, owned by the Royal Naval Officers Club, discovered this match of this combination.  A healthy splash of Gosling’s Rum was synchronicity with the piquant mixer.

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As for the name the Dark ‘n Stormy, it was coined by a sailor who, while enjoying the cocktail, commented that it was the color of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under.

As you can’t patent a drink recipe, you can trademark a name and that’s what Goslings did with the Dark ‘n Stormy. Kind of like what Pusser’s Rum did with their Painkiller cocktail. So if you make a Dark ‘n Stormy with anything other than Gosling’s dark rum, you’re breaking the law. – Sailing Scuttle Butt

So, much like Pusser’s hold on the Painkiller name, the Gosling family held the claim to fame on this spicy and sweet favorite maritime cocktail, the Dark N Stormy.

I have great news for you this time…To make this eye catching concoction, you won’t need a blender!  You also won’t need to go spend hundreds of dollars at the liquor store on a plethora of ingredients.  No, for this drink, you’ll simply need four simple ingredients….

Bitters- This is NOT an ingredient in the original Dark N Stormy, but it is found in the libation of the same name served in most establishments currently.  It’s the way I have always made them and the way they have always been served to me (and I order them frequently!).  Bitters act as a “salt” component in a cocktail.  Prior to the wide spread use of citrus fruits in drinks, it was used to bring out the complimentary flavors in beverages and mask heavy the taste of over proofed alcohols and dumb down the sweetness of overly sugared mixers.  I have played around with ALL types of bitters.  I even made my own line of them while working at the Bowery!  For this cocktail though, I prefer the traditional Angostura Bitters.  A concoction that has been on the market since the prohibition days, Angustora Bitters was once used for “medicinal” purposes and can still cure an upset stomach in soda water or a case of the hiccups when doused onto a lemon sprinkled with sugar.  A staple behind most bars in the world, Angostura is the bitters of choice in many classic cocktails…Sazeracs, Manhattans and the Old Fashioned, to name a few!

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Ginger Beer- It is rumored that the original Dark N Stormy’s origins lie with Barritt’s Ginger Beer.  Later, when the Gosling’s began producing their own ginger beer and trademarked the name, Gosling’s Ginger Beer was the only one a bar keep could “legally” use to make the Caribbean based concoction.  Both of these varieties are fantastic in both Dark N Stormy’s and Moscow Mules, the cocktail’s vodka counterpart.  But, I prefer the simplicity and spice of Fever Tree Ginger Beer.  It’s a bit more spendy than its counterparts, but it only has three ingredients…pure cane sugar, carbonated spring water and ginger root.  Absolutely delicious!  But, if you have your favorite spicy soda, roll with it.  You literally can’t make this drink taste bad 🙂

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Rum-  Your day to day aged rum won’t do the trick for this recipe!  For this favored tantalizing treat of mariners, you will need something with a stronger pep in its step and depth in its color.  The dark char from barrel aging and molasses blend that goes into these particular rum varieties adds dimension and compliments the spice for the ginger beer quite perfectly.  Goslings Black Seal Black Rum is the obvious choice, but on St. John, we use Cruzan Black Strap most frequently.  Another one I enjoy is Kraken Spiced Black Rum.

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Cruzan Black Strap is the Virgin Islands choice for Dark N Stormy’s!

Now, the key to making an excellent Dark N Stormy is not necessarily simply in the ingredients.  But quality ones never hurt 🙂  The creative keys to this particular cocktail is all in how you stack those ingredients in order to create that tumultuous thunder storm like illusion in the glass.  You will want to start with a slender highball glass and the above items in order to build the perfect storm.

2 ounces Black Rum

4 ounces Ginger Beer

4-6 dashes of Bitters

Take your highball glass and pour the measured ginger beer into it and then pack the glass FULL of ice.  I’m talking ice that reaches over the top of your beverage vessel.  The compounded ice is key to making sure your stormy ship doesn’t sink.

Take the measured rum and pour it, ever so slowly, over the top of the ice and ginger beer until the rum is gone or it reaches the top of the glass.  If you have a little extra room at the top and you want to add more rum…I’m not going to judge you 🙂

Dash the bitters over the top of the drink, garnish with a lime wedge and take a look at your stormy masterpiece.  It should look something like this:

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I know this is common sense, but every time I serve one of these, I make sure the guest is aware that they need to stir the drink prior to enjoying it.  If you drink straight from the top, you’re going to get a sip of strictly rum and bitters.  Instead, squeeze the lime, give it a swizzle stir and enjoy the delightful beverage that has been tantalizing the taste buds of sailors around the Caribbean for hundreds of years.

Some of you have asked about keeping all of these cocktail posts in one place so you can access them quickly.  I’m going to start providing the link to each article at the bottom of every Caribbean Cocktails at Home post so that you have your libations recipe rolodex at your finger tips!



Lime in the Coconut

Up next, the Rum Punch!

4 thoughts on “Caribbean Cocktails at Home: Dark N Stormy”

  1. These posts are so much fun! I love making cocktails and I have been making painkillers for a while now and so enjoy them. I have been trying to make a rum punch as good as the bar at Red Hook Ferry, but just haven’t mastered it yet. I look forward to reading your recipe on that cocktail! I am going to try the Dark and Stormy next! Thanks for the guidance. Can’t wait to be back on island next June!! Just booked my ticket!!!

  2. LOVE the Dark ‘n Stormy at Longboards ~ it’s that homemade Ginger Beer that does it. I kid myself that the Ginger is so good for me!?! At home, when I go out to restaurants and get a longing for a little STJ, I get them to make me one BUT I also get them to muddle some jalapeños in their for a little ‘extra’ kick that most of the can Ginger Beers lack ~ sooo good!

  3. Our first bar on our first trip to St. John was Aqua Bistro. We had just arrived to Concordia –unpacked our stuff at the cabin, changed into shorts and T-shirts, and then headed back down the road to Coral Bay for dinner. We stopped for a drink and our first ever cocktail in the Caribbean was a Dark ‘n Stormy. As we sipped this delicious discovery with the ocean breezes at our back, we knew we had found Paradise.

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