Thursday, June 11, 2009
Lemon Hart, Ahoy!
Renowned Tiki drink master Jeff "Beachbum" Berry is a lovely fellow, but he has one annoying habit. He'll be schooling you on the make-up of some wonderful, forgotten tropical drink from Tiki's storied past, and when he gets to the rum component, he'll say, "Now, the best rum for this particular drink is Lemon Hart. If you can find it, use it. Of course, you can't find it."
After this observation, the sound of teeth grinding can distinctly be heard.
I have been searching for an opportunity to taste Lemon Hart from the first time Berry mentioned the name of the old rum. There is a Demerara version, in 80 and 151 proof, and a Jamaican version. Lemon Hart, if you can believe it, is actually a guy's name. (What mother names her son Lemon?) Way back in the late 18th century, he became the first supplier of rum to the British Royal Navy—which I'm betting was a pretty lucrative gig.
The Demerara rums can be pretty readily found in the U.S—so I'm told. But either I'm blind or they ain't on the shelves of the liquor stores I frequent (and I frequent good liquor stores). So, when I heard last week that there would be a rum tasting event at the New York Yacht Club, I asked, "Will you have Lemon Hart there?" Yes was the answer, and I signed on.
c entering the grand Model Room at the NYYC, which its Hall-of-the-Mountain-King fireplace and soaring ceilings, I, like a heat-seeking missile, whisked past the Bacardi, the 10 Cane, the Mount Gay, the Cruzan, to a table in the corner that seemed to be serving only one thing: Lemon Hart Demarara 151 proof rum, by itself or in a punch. "The bartenders stole all the 80," shrugged the man behind the table.
He offered me a glass of punch he had made from the Lemon Hart. No, no, no, I said. I want the stuff straight. OK, he replied, but be careful, it's strong. He wasn't kidding! The 151 is lethal. Hot. Very hot. But great, with flavors of burnt caramel and (am I dreaming this because of the name?) lemon. Then, I tasted the punch, which was excellent, telling me that Lemon Hart makes for a great mixing rum, as Berry had indicated.
Lemon Hart's Jamaica rums were not on hand, and remain the Holy Grail. For some reason, they can only be had in Europe. (Who makes there weird decisions?) Looks like I know what to do on my next trip at a London or Paris Duty Free shop.