KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — The story of New England is inextricably tied to the production and consumption of rum, for both good and ill, so when drinking by the sea, it feels natural to call for it. Here at The Tides Beach Club, cocktails might be made with Eight Bells Rum, a spirit produced nearby at Portland’s New England Distilling.
There’s also a sense of defiant triumph for historically minded tipplers when it comes to Maine-distilled products, considering that the state was the birthplace of Prohibition. As far back as the 1840s, Maine had tried to pass temperance laws, and it succeeded in 1851 with the infamous “Maine law,” which prohibited the sale of alcohol except for medicinal, mechanical, or manufacturing purposes (and led to a violent riot in 1855). Maine’s regulations were never fully successful, and rum runners probably tossed barrels into the waters near where visitors swim today. So it’s heartening to see a raft of local distilleries, including Maine Craft Distilling, bubbling up along the coast.
History doesn’t mean much if the product doesn’t taste good. In Ben Lohnes’s hands, the bar manager at The Tides, Eight Bells takes on a refreshing context in his Cooper’s Choice. The rum itself, made with Caribbean molasses and aged in a whiskey barrel for one year, is somewhat hot on its own. But incorporating it into a softening cocktail helps to highlight some of its vanilla and caramel nuance. In this case, Lohnes relies on Clement Creole Shrubb, a rum-based orange-flavored liqueur, along with pineapple juice and soda.
“The rum is great when you sip it neat or on the rocks,” Lohnes says. “But I age it in a whiskey barrel for an additional month, which adds a whole other element and brings out more of the smoke, a little more peppery.” Pineapple and a touch of lemon bring the spice and citrus of the rum and shrubb to the forefront.
Try substituting the shrubb for other orange liqueurs, such as Grand Marnier, or Cointreau, Lohnes says, because it is less sweet, and a little more complex in its spice character. It works well in a margarita or a Dark and Stormy, he says. The Cooper’s Choice is “really a well-balanced refreshing drink,” he tells me. “You said something about drinking it after coming off the beach. That’s what it’s for.”