One of the few success stories coming out of Haiti lately is the perseverance of Barbancourt Rhum in the face of the country’s devastation. At first glance, the survival of a distillery may not be something to cheer about in contrast to the life and death struggles of millions of Haitians, but then again, Barbancourt, a pure sugar cane rum, has always been a source of pride to Haitians, and as such is a source of comfort for Haiti and those who love her.
Before the earthquake, Haitian expatriates and knowing visitors at the Toussaint Louverture Airport in Port-au-Prince would return to the U.S. loaded down with as much Barbancourt as allowable by law and bicep. Barbancourt’s survival is a symbol of survival for all Haitians.
CNN features a longer article on the distillery’s fortunes since the earthquake; Barbancourt figures it lost about a third of its yearly profit, four million dollars, in damages incurred during the 36-second earthquake. Closed for about four months for reconstruction, the distillery is back open. We salute the return of Barbancourt Rhum, one of the world’s best dark rums, with a rum punch.
I’ve had many a rum punch, some I remember, some I don’t, on the porch of the famous Oloffson Hotel in Port-au-Prince. Following the Twitter patter of proprietor, Richard Morse, I’m happy to report the beautiful old hotel survived the earthquake, its wooden structure standing strong in contrast to the poorly reinforced concrete buildings of its neighborhood.
This is a recipe for the Oloffson Punch, lifted from the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails of Boston. They claim to be dismantling the patriarchy… one drink at a time. And I for one support that.
2 oz Barbancourt dark rum
1 tsp maraschino liqueur
3 oz orange juice
1 1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
Shake in an iced cocktail shaker. Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Serve with straws and garnish with twists of orange and lime.
Maraschino liqueur should not be confused with the juice from Maraschino cherries or other cherry liqueurs. Maraschino liqueur (Stock or Luxardo are two available brands) is made from Marasca cherries, pits and all, which gives the liqueur a clear, dry taste. If you cannot find maraschino liqueur — and a warning, it is hard to find — I suggest substituting a cherry liqueur (Heering is one) and eliminating the simple syrup. Cherry liqueur is sweeter than the maraschino liqueur.
Barbancourt not only makes a quality, consistentely medal-winning rum but it also serves as a model of how a business can be possible in the impossible state of Haiti. Before the earthquake, Barbancourt provided benefits for its employees, paid more than minimum wage, and offered scholarships and soccer fields to the town around its sugar fields. Here's hoping the company can extend that kind of community once again.
Mesi, Barbancourt, it’s good to see you back.
You have a year now to plan your vacation to NYC around the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, which wrapped up last night. The multi-day event in celebration of the cocktail is ever-expanding. It's an event not to be missed in 2011!