When it comes to rum, there aren’t too many cocktails more iconic than the old Dark and Stormy recipe. Sailors and seafarers have for long been caught under its curse, taking to the high seas and high-streets for a rum-filled adventure, but the classic drink wasn’t born from the black, bleakness of Britain. In fact, the Dark and Stormy has almost nothing to do with the Gothic writers that made the cocktail iconic. Instead, the colourful concoction has a far more Caribbean history, one that deserves to celebrate.
What better time than now? This Sunday, August 16 marks national rum day, an important date on the mixologist’s calendar and for obvious reasons. For centuries, rum has served us well, keeping us warm during wartime and merry on the seas. This year, we’re delving deep into the iconic Dark and Stormy cocktail.
What is a Dark and Stormy?
Crafted in the Caribbean waters, the Dark and Stormy recipe is a cocktail born out of necessity. In the region, rum is plentiful and readily available, which historically has made the Caribbean a favourite amongst travelling sailors. The Dark and Stormy itself is an embodiment of the cruel sea, and a ravishing recipe that has more than stood the test of time. The name the Dark ‘n Stormy, it was reportedly coined by a sailor who noted that it was the colour of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under.
The legend of the Dark and Stormy drink begins way back in 1806, when James Gosling, the oldest son of wine and spirits merchant William Gosling hit the seas. Leaving from Gravesend (Kent) in England on the ship Mercury, Gosling was headed to America, but his journey was cut short just 91 days into the tour, forcing the ship to dock at the nearest port in St. George’s, Bermuda. Not much is known about James’ time in Bermuda, but one thing is for certain; he came back with a penchant for the dark, brown spirit known as rum.
By 1860, James’ rum fascination had turned professional with the release of Gosling’s Black Seal, its first branded dark rum. It wasn’t until after the First World War that Black Seal officially got its name, however. Up until that point, the rum was sold from a barrel, with fans topping their old bottles for a fill-up. Eventually, word spread and the black rum moved to champagne bottles reclaimed from the British officer’s mess, with the corks sealed with black sealing wax. Thus; the Black Seal name was born.
In terms of the Dark and Stormy, the cocktail emerged around the same time. According to legend, sailors who frequented a Ginger Beer Factory run by the Royal Naval Officer’s Club discovered that a dose of Gosling’s Black Seal could be aided by a hefty helping of ginger beer. The basic Dark and Stormy recipe had arrived, but not without contention.
In the United States, “Dark ’n’ Stormy” has been a registered trademark of Gosling Brothers Ltd of Bermuda since 1991. In fact, a true Dark ‘N Stormy cannot be called so, unless it is made with Gosling Black Seal rum. That being said, any quality dark rum will do the trick.
Dark and Stormy Ingredients
What makes the Dark and Stormy cocktail so iconic and popular, is the fact that is remarkably easy to make. What’s more, the majority of the ingredients you’ll likely have sitting in the kitchen cupboard already. The Dark and Stormy recipe calls for only three ingredients, albeit with a lot of spice. But don’t be mistaken, like any good cocktail recipe, there are dos and don’ts. No lime juice and no ginger ale, that’s the traditional method, but each to their own.
For our Dark and Stormy recipe, we’ve gone to the source, tapping the International Bartenders Association for their advice. Here is their list of Dark and Stormy ingredients;
- 60 ml Goslings Rum
- 100 ml Ginger Beer
- Lime wedge
That’s all it takes. Simple, sophisticated and the ideal cocktail for any seafarer, the Dark and Stormy is a staple of bars across the globe. It is generally presented in a highball glass.
Main alcohol: Rum
Served: On the rocks; poured over ice
Standard garnish: Lime wedge
Drinkware: Highball glass
What is the Best Rum for a Dark and Stormy?
While it would be remiss for us to not mention the importance of Gosling’s on the history of the Dark and Stormy cocktail, in modern times, there are options. Here in Australia, rum is steadily growing in stature, with new distilleries popping up regularly. We love to hit up the locals, and in the wake of a pretty tough summer for our distillers and brewers, we encourage you to do the same.
With that in mind, Gosling’s Black Seal remains the gold-standard when it comes to a Dark and Stormy cocktail. Any dark rum with a solid proof will give you a solid result, but it’s best to avoid the sweeter rum. Adding extra sugar will impede the citrus’ ability to cut through the rum, meaning you won’t get a full depth of flavour.
Here is a list of the best rums for a Dark and Stormy;
1. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
2. Captain Morgan’s Original Spiced Rum
Region: US Virgin Islands
3. The Kraken Black Spiced Rum
4. Diplomatico Rum Reserva Exclusiva
5. Plantation Stiggins Fancy Pineapple Dark Rum
6. Mount Gay Rum Black Barrel
7. Substation no.41
Best Dark and Stormy Recipe
Like we said, the Dark and Stormy recipe is one of the more simple in the bartender’s arsenal, but that doesn’t mean it is impervious to mistakes. Once you’ve collected your ingredients and got your station set up, you’re ready to rock and roll. Once again, we’ve gone with the International Bartenders Associations’ method for crafting the concoction.
Here is the best Dark and Stormy recipe;
- Fill a highball glass with ice
- Pour 100 ml of ginger beer into the glass
- Top floating with the Rum
- Garnish with a lime wedge
Common Dark and Stormy Mistakes
Like we mentioned, just because the classic three-ingredient cocktail is simple, does not mean you can’t stuff it up. In fact, the fewer the ingredients, the more important it is to get them right. Here are the common mistakes people make when preparing a Dark and Stormy cocktail.
- Using lime juice – While the traditional garnish is indeed a wedge of lime, adding lime juice to the mix is a big no-no amongst staunch advocates. Too much citrus can throw out the balance of the spices in the rum.
- Not using Gosling’s – While we personally aren’t overly fussed which rum you use in your Dark and Stormy, Gosling’s is. The brand patented the name Dark ‘N Stormy, meaning if you make one with anything other than Gosling’s dark rum, you’re breaking the law.
- Ginger ale – The key ingredient, other than rum, in a Dark and Stormy recipe is ginger beer, not ginger ale. You might think they are the same, but that’s simply not the case. While ginger beer is brewed and fermented, ginger ale is carbonated water flavoured with ginger.
What is the best rum for a dark and stormy?
To make a Dark and Stormy, you need just three ingredients but lots of spice. Anything dark will work, but the preferred brand is a high-proof, species like Gosling Black Seal.
Why is it called a dark and stormy?
Legend goes, the drink got its name from an old sailor who compared the drink's murky hue to the colour of storm clouds.
Is ginger beer the same as ginger ale?
While ginger beer is brewed and fermented, ginger ale is carbonated water flavoured with ginger.