Tucked away on Call Lane in Leeds with no signage, you might be forgiven for not knowing about The Maven Bar. The opening that leads you to a staircase lined with Victorian patterned tiles and upwards to the bar entrance isn’t really somewhere you’d go exploring, uninvited. I’d lived in Leeds for almost a year before someone took me there.
Darkly lit with walls covered with portraits of animals dressed in Victorian and Elizabethan garb, candles on the tables balanced on stacks of books and gramophone horns in place of lampshades on the ceiling, with dapper bartenders serving up out-of-the-ordinary cocktails, the prohibition era styled bar is exactly the kind of spot that makes you value the importance of speaking to the locals where ever you travel to unearth the best – and otherwise hidden – spots.
I headed down to The Maven Bar not so long ago to help them celebrate the launch of Mount Gay’s Black Barrel rum. As both The Maven Bar and Mount Gay (the world’s oldest rum) take the quality of their drinks very seriously, it seemed a natural fit for the two to come together.
On the night, Mount Gay Rum‘s world ambassador Miguel gave us a fascinating run through Mount Gay rum’s history and how it still produced in small batches by just ten people today – essentially an artisan rum that’s widely available. You might be as pleased to learn as I was that the colour in their golden rums only come from the way they are produced and not through any additives (it’s also vegan friendly in both its ingredients and the way it’s filtered).
In this instance, the Black Barrel’s colour comes from being finished in heavily charred bourbon barrels before being bottled. Miguel talked us through tasting the rum and being mindful as you smell the rum, sip the rum and appreciate the flavours – not just knocking it back and waiting for the burn. In fact, your tastebuds are only really able to pick up the flavours on the second sip, so it’s important you don’t knock it back in one.
Of course the real reason we were there was to drink cocktails and Nino Lopes (owner of The Maven Bar Leeds), Bruce Govia (from Oskars Bar in London) and Jason Scott (from Bramble in Scotland), each presented their signature cocktails using Mount Gay Black Barrel rum. Each cocktail was careful crafted to work with the rum’s flavours of black pepper, vanilla, banana, almond and spices.
Bajan Crusta was the first drink of the night and a favourite all round. Fruity and sweet but balanced by the spices and citrus, I could imagine drinking these all night.
Ingredients: 40ml Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, 25ml lemon juice, Cinzano 1757 Sweet Vermouth, Angostura bitters 2 dash, 4 blackberries, 25ml passion fruit syrup, cloves and a bay leaf.
Method: Serve with crushed ice and lemon peel and sugar on the glass rim.
The Long Walk was inspired by exactly that – a long (hungover) walk in Barbados searching for fresh coconuts to drink the water. That walk didn’t result in any coconut water, but this cocktail contains a specially made smoked coconut cordial. This was the winner for me.
Ingredients: 40ml Mount Gay Black Barrel, 20ml Coconut cordial, 15ml Noilly Prat, 10ml Manzanilla dry Sherry.
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain over an ice filled rocks glass. Garnish with a lime twist.
Early of Grey was a stronger character all together, warming and smoky with a liquorice undertone.
Ingredients: 35ml Mount Gay Black Barrel, 10ml Jagermeister, 10ml Amontillado sherry, 10ml strong, cold Earl Grey tea, 5ml Créme de Mure.
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled martini/small cocktail glass. Garnish with a blackberry.
Do you have any rum-based cocktail favourites?