Since the pandemic first began, I’ve always been on the lookout for ways to both continue imbibing and to support the brewers, distillers and bartenders upon whom I’ve always depended in the past. Mostly, that’s meant picking up six packs from local breweries and bottles from local distilleries, but last week I stumbled on another exciting way to support bartenders around the country … while also sampling an extremely exciting cocktail.
This opportunity comes in the form of a cocktail kit that is a collaboration between Tales of the Cocktail Bartender of the Year Julio Cabrera of Miami’s Café La Trova, the mail order cocktail kit service Shaker & Spoon, and online liquor shop ReserveBar. Together, they’ve put together a kit to replicate one of Café La Trova’s signature creations, a rum and espresso-based Old Fashioned riff that is equal parts decadent and aromatic. And the best aspect? Shaker & Spoon in collaboration with rum provider Santa Teresa 1796 is donating 100% of the proceeds from sales of the kits to the USBG (United States Bartenders Guild) Bartender Emergency Assistance Program. The whole thing is even priced quite generously, as each $48 kit is tailored to make 8 cocktails, and costs the same on ReserveBar as the single bottle of rum that it contains. If you enjoy rich, rum-based drinks, Old Fashioneds or want to support bartenders who may be out of work, there’s no reason not to grab one of these.
The aforementioned rum included is Santa Teresa 1796, the product of a storied Venezuelan distillery that has been in operation for more than 200 years. Distributed by Bacardi, but independently operated by the fifth generation of the Vollmer family, their flagship product is a solera-aged Spanish-style rum, or ron, that is light in texture but rich on the palate, with flavors of brown sugar, cocoa, burnt caramel and dark fruit. It’s a rum used by bartender Julio Cabrera and La Trova in the making of his coffee-infused Old Fashioned riff, which includes an addition of chocolate bitters, essence of citrus and “cafecito syrup” meant to replicate the sweet and roasty decadence of Cubano coffee. It should likely go without saying that these all play quite well together. Each kit includes the following:
— 750 ml bottle of Santa Teresa 1796
— 1 bottle cafecito syrup
— 1 bottle chocolate bitters
— 1 bottle orange oil (potent stuff!)
— 1 pouch coffee beans
— 1 jigger
— 1 recipe card
I received a sample of the kit myself and prepared the La Trova Old Fashioned last night, finding it to be a decadent but also well-balanced dram, leaning toward richness but with just enough bitterness to rein itself in. The bright, tangy orange oil is an essential aromatic component, giving it the aromatic punch of a dark chocolate bar flecked with orange peel and coffee beans. Silky and smooth on the palate, it balances bright citrus and rich coffee, alternating between notes that remind one of a Creamsicle or chocolate-covered espresso beans. The coffee’s bitterness thankfully shows up on the back end of the palate to temper the impression of “brown butter sugar cookies,” but I suspect that I might reduce the sweetness just a hair when I make the cocktail again.
Regardless, this is a beautifully conceived cocktail concept, built around a rum that is perfect for the job. And it’s a good deal, to boot. Get your own cocktail kit while they last, and support bartenders nationwide at a time when they need it more than ever.