Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hummin' along

As we quickly approach the summer months here in Chicago, it is perhaps with no better timing that the hum Spirits Company announced a contest in search of a signature cocktail for the season...

hum (no caps here) is a 70 proof spirit produced by cold tea maceration of four very distinct botanicals - hibiscus, ginger, cardamom, and kaffir lime - in pot still, cane sugar rhum.  Founded and developed by Chicago mixologist Adam Seger (formerly of Nacional 27, Tru, and The French Laundry), hum is reminiscent of Italian-style amari, possessing a slightly bitter, yet sweet profile with tons of depth and herbaceous complexity. 

I considered a number of different ways to integrate hum into a cocktail and came away with a few ideas worth pursuing.  The first was a botanic-forward approach in which I paired it alongside Citadelle gin, Lillet Blanc, a couple dashes of Regan's Orange No. 6, and garnished with a wide swath of lemon zest.   The result was a nice harmony of all the aromatics, and with hibiscus and ginger notes at the forefront, it definitely put hum on display without drowning the lingering bontanicals of gin and Lillet on the finish.  I gave this another try swapping Lillet for either Cocchi Americano and Dolin Blanc (a quinquina and dry vermouth, respectively), both of which were pleasant variations, but Lillet was my preference.   This cocktail seems meant for a warm summer afternoon, it was vibrantly refreshing and faintly reminded me of a lighter, less bitter version of a Negroni.  Given the marriage of hum with French-based Citadelle and Lillet Blanc, this one was called Le Bourdonnement (The Hum).

Le Bourdonnement
1 oz Citadelle gin
1 oz hum
1 oz Lillet Blanc
2 dashes Regan's orange bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice until well chilled and strain into an old fashioned glass with a large cube of ice. Garnish with a wide swath of lemon zest.

Le Bourdonnement

Next up I wanted to come up with a long drink and gravitated towards the use of a nice spicy ginger beer, my favorite being Fentimans.  Various ideas came to mind before I settled on a version of a buck cocktail.  Traditionally, bucks (also known as mules) are cocktails which combine a base spirit, ginger beer/ale, and a citrus juice.  There are several popular examples of this category including the Moscow Mule (vodka, ginger beer, lime) and the Dark & Stormy (Gosling's Black Seal rum, ginger beer, lime)...both of which represent pretty straight-forward concoctions.  I wanted to give my cocktail a more tropical feel and integrated a few other ingredients that I thought would pair nicely with the pungent profile of hum.  Banks 5 Island rum is a terrific blended rum comprised of rums from, you guessed it, five islands (Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, and Java).  It has a ton of complexity for a light rum and stretches from bits of funky vegetal notes common to Jamaica to those more tropical hints from Barbados.  Overall, I thought it was a nice compliment to hum...and with a touch of coconut water, lime juice, and of course, the Fentimans, we have the St. Barths Buck.

St. Barths Buck
1 1/2 oz Banks 5 Island rum
3/4 oz hum
3/4 oz coconut water
1/2 oz lime juice
3-4 oz Fentimans ginger beer

Shake all ingredients except ginger beer with ice until well chilled.  Strain into an ice filled collins glass, top with the ginger beer, and stir gently to combine.

St. Barths Buck

Lastly, a more classic, crisp, up cocktail with fragrant notes of cucumber and citrus to pair along with hum.  With the integration of cucumber and rose petals, Hendrick's gin was an obvious choice here.  I combined it with Cocchi Americano, an Italian aperitif wine with some subtle quinine that gives it a very slight bitterness.  To boost the cucumber a bit, I went with a small amount of homemade cucumber vodka, and rounded it all out with some bright acidity from lemon juice, the zest and its citrus oils providing the garnish.  With all the botanic notes, the name came easy.

Botanical Garden
1 1/2 oz Hendrick's gin
1/2 oz hum
1/2 oz Cocchi Americano
1/2 oz cucumber vodka
1/4 oz lemon juice

Shake all ingredients with ice until well chilled, double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe and garnish with lemon zest.

Botanical Garden

And with that, my three entries for the hum summer cocktail challenge.  Thanks very much to The hum Spirits Company for the opportunity and please visit their Facebook page to view all the entries.

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