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A conversation with mixologist Jeff Rogers (about rum)

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The Whistling Bird is committed to offering alternatives for the Iron Range that go beyond expectations. Tomorrow night we invite you to join us on a culinary adventure, island-hopping across the caribbean in five delectable courses – but that’s not all. We’ve also invited guest mixologist, Jeff Rogers, to pair each course with a handcrafted, rum-based cocktail to compliment each dish.

Yes, it’s true: We aim to spoil you.

We’ve asked Jeff to give us some background on the rum basics, the cocktail renaissance that has now entered its second decade, the craft of bar tending and more. So if you’re one of those people that likes food and drink as much as we do, we think you’ll find this little Q&A interesting. Jeff will make himself available to follow up with any other questions you might have tomorrow night.

Don’t be afraid to embrace your inner bar geek!

WB: In terms of rum, how can the outsider that doesn’t know much about rum consider the varieties? Is it similar to how whisk(e)y can vary? A lot of people think rum is Bacardi and that’s it.

JR: You were right on when it comes to the whisk(e)y comparison. Because rum can be made anywhere in the world, the varieties are abundant. Caribbean rums are going to be different than South American rums, etc. The base raw material is the place to start. Rum is a distillate made from fresh pressed sugar cane juice or molasses, which is the byproduct of refining sugar. Each of these materials as a starting point will give you completely different styles.

Fermentation is a huge difference. You cannot distill a spirit until fermentation happens. The common thought is that distillation makes alcohol and that is false. Every spirit starts as a wine or beer of sorts. Not the stuff that you have in your fridge or wine rack, but a “distiller’s wine or beer”. Distillation simply separates the alcohol and concentrates it from the wine or beer. The same is true for rum. Whether you start with fresh sugar cane juice or molasses, how long you let it ferment and the type of yeast used. Different yeast equals different fermentation. There are very deep and rich rums that were fermented slowly over a couple of weeks and there are light and crisp varieties that fermented for days.

What kind of still is used, pot or column? Light rum is made using a column still that distills multiple times in one running. You end up with a high proof (generally 190 proof plus) spirit that is cut with distilled water to bring the proof down to bottling proof. What most people are unaware of is that even light rum can be aged in oak barrels and before bottling they are filtered to strip color. Light rums are crisp and clean with very little congeners (byproducts of fermentation thought of as impurities or flavor, depending on the spirit). Dark and rich rums are generally made with a pot still that has to be 100% cleaned after each distillation. This is a long process that is well worth it. This process leaves more of the congeners which give darker rums their character. Maturation is just as important. Used bourbon and French oak barrels are used for aging. Each will impart a different flavor profile. Last, is where it is aged and for how long. Different climates will allow the rum to move in and out of the barrel wood at different rates. The more movement, the more flavor is imparted into the spirit. Also, the longer it has been barreled gives it more time to impart flavor, but it is believed that every barrel has a shelf life in which there isn’t any flavors left in the wood. That is why, older is not always better.

WB: Do you have any particular favorites when it comes to rum and what is it you favor about them?

JR: Though it is not possible to get here, Cuban rum is one of my favorites. I think it is the mystic of them being taboo along with great rum. I lived in Grand Cayman awhile back and had access to Cuban rums at all times there. Oh, I miss it! I also love Tortuga, a brand in Grand Cayman that we drank a lot of. It was the everyday rum. Rhum JM, a brand of French Caribbean whisk(e)y like rums. Cachaca, a category of Brazilian made rum that is aged in exotic wood barrels.

WB: Rum seems to be experiencing a renaissance in some ways like gin did before, and the whole tiki scene seems to be enlivened in general – perhaps as a part of the gravity of the overall popularity of better drinking these days. What would you say have been the primary drivers with regard to this resurgence with respect to American style cocktail culture?

JR: Passion, hands down! It is a gigantic circle. Passionate bartenders and mixologists seeking well made products that they want to use. They preach their passion to their guests and co-workers through their cocktails and hospitality. Their guests and co-workers go and talk to their friends and their passion develops. Those friends start going to other bars and liquor stores asking for higher quality products. The distillers and suppliers start to see that the populace wants more craft and well made products, so they do. Now the bartender or mixologist has a wider variety of quality to choose from. I love the cycle started by the fire of passionate people. It also has not hurt that people, in general, are caring more about what they put in their body. We bar folk owe a great deal to the chefs that changed the eating habits of people over the last 15 years. Without them, we could be fighting a futile battle.

WB: In tiki lore, it’s said that the old bartenders like Don the Beachcomber used to code their recipes and generally stay quite secretive about their drinks recipes which led to some awful attempts to copy his drinks. It’s somehow fun, I think, to consider intrigue as a part of bar tending, but I suppose that’s the same in any industry. Does that still go on today? Or are bartenders more blatant about their recipes, depending on their personality and technique to set them apart from other bartenders?

JR: This is a very tricky one. I would say that overall the industry is very open with recipes nowadays. Since so many people make their own ingredients now, except for the spirits themselves, people don’t care about giving you the recipe. Just like giving 3 different chefs the exact same ingredients and the same recipe, there is a good chance you end up with 3 different dishes. Same rules apply here. That is where the true art is, in my opinion. Now, there will always be some trade secrets that everyone has and they may not share, but that is free enterprise. You have to keep some competitive edge. Besides, how boring would it be, if everywhere you went out it was the exact same drinks?

WB: What trends in your industry do you think are interesting and what could you do without?

JR: The best trend that I see currently is going back to hospitality. I love well-made cocktails, but not for the sake of service. Please don’t confuse the length of time to make a cocktail with bad service. If the bartender is a jerk and takes 15 minutes to make my drink, unacceptable. But, I am okay with my cocktail taking a little bit longer, emphasis on little. I do appreciate those that are taking the time to make exactly what I want, that it is up to their standards, and treat me like a guest at their home. Also, well run places that take a “little” longer will offer a glass of punch or a little beer while they are making your cocktail. Hospitality is what this business was built on and it should go hand in hand with great cocktails and food. Everyone always asks, “How do you run a successful bar?” I wish there was a formula you could follow, but this is the real world with so many x-factors, but I will swear on my career that if you offer great, well thought out food and beverage, and treat all people they way they deserve, there is a pretty good chance you will do well.

The biggest trend that I want to go away has been going on since the 50’s and that is premade mixes and juices. Fresh juice is the way to go! But, changing the stigma that it is expensive and takes too long is the challenge we have. It will happen.

We are down to our last available seating. Don’t miss your chance for a little caribbean adventure. Call Jessica at 750-1818 to reserve!

Island-Hopping with Mixologist Jeff Rogers

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Join us at the Whistling Bird on January 16th at 6 PM as we island-hop from Jamaica to Barbados to sample a selection of cuisine influenced by ports of call throughout the Caribbean. In each port award winning Mixologist, Jeff Rogers, will pair a particular rum-based cocktail from that region to compliment the flavor profile of the dish being served. Our intent is to transport your senses to the sun-drenched West Indies and orchestrate a symphony of sublime culinary experience of the utmost luxury for your taste buds.

Seating is very limited! Call Jessica at 750-1818 to reserve today!

1st Course

BBQ conch and sweet potato wontons with a scotch bonnet mango sauce. [Anguilla]

Hemingway Daiquiri
1 ½ oz. Pyratt Rum
¼ oz. maraschino liqueur
1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
½ oz. simple syrup

Glassware: chilled cocktail (martini) glass or coupe
Garnish: none
Procedure: Shake and Strain

2nd Course

Curried lamb stew. [Jamaica]

Rum Cooler
1 ½ oz. Appleton Estate 12
½ oz. triple sec
½ oz. sweetened lime juice(Rose’s)
1 ½ oz. fresh squeezed orange juice
1 ½ oz. fresh made sweet and sour (1:1 ratio by volume of fresh squeezed lemon juice and simple syrup)

Glassware: Ice filled collins
Garnish: Orange ½ wheel and a cherry
Procedure: Shake and Strain

3rd Course

Grilled Mahi SoFrito (purée of tomato, pepper, onion, garlic, and cilantro) with avocado and fried tortilla points. [Puerto Rico]

Daiquiri
2 oz. Caliche’ white rum
1 oz. simple syrup (1:1 ratio by volume)
1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice

Glassware: chilled cocktail (martini) glass or coupe
Garnish: Thin lime wheel
Procedure: Shake and Strain

4th Course

Braised beef with roasted pepper, lime, and raisin sauce served with rice and beans. [Cuba]

Dark n’ Stormy
2 oz. Gosling’s Dark Rum
½ oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
3 oz. ginger beer

Glassware: Ice filled Collins
Garnish: Lime wedge
Procedure: Build

5th Course

Baked coconut custard with fried plantains and rum chocolate sauce. [Barbados]

Mai Tai
1 ½ oz. Mt. Gay
½ oz. orange curacao
½ oz. orgeat or almond flavored simple syrup
1 ½ oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
Optional: ½ oz. fresh squeezed orange juice
Float ½ oz. dark rum

Glassware: Ice filled Collins
Garnish: Orange ½ wheel
Procedure: Shake and Strain. Then float dark rum on top.

Interested in rum? Check out our interview with guest mixologist, Jeff Rogers

Introducing: Our Monthly Photo Contest

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Each month we will award dinner for two with a cocktail receptionfor the best photo of your visit to the Whistling Bird – or feel free to get creative and represent the Bird in other locations, like on your vacation, and take a snapshot.

Email your photo submission to photo@thewhistlingbird.com, or attach it as an inbox message at our Facebook page2 and you will automatically be entered. Alternatively, you can hashtag your photo on Instagram with #whistlingbirdmn

On the last Friday of each month, our judges will check out the photos that have been submitted and choose a winner. We will then contact the winner and post that photo on our blog here at the whistlingbird.com/news/ and share3 the link on Facebook.

Photos must be submitted before 12:00AM on the last Friday of each month to be considered for that month’s contest. So a photo submitted at 12:00AM or later on on the last Friday will be considered as submissions for the following month’s contest.

Best of luck and get snappin’!

– The Whistling Bird

[1]Total value will not exceed $60.00

[2] To enter the contest via Facebook, your photo must be messaged to us via our inbox. Otherwise we don’t have a way to contact you should you be our winner. Pages can’t directly message Facebook users unless contact is initiated by the user through a message.

[3] By submitting your photo, you grant The Whistling Bird rights to use your photo in our promotions – photo credit will be given.

Bayou at the Bird: A New Orleans/French Quarter Wine Dinner

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Join us on March 12th at The Whistling Bird with guest speaker, Chris Griese, Director of World Class Wine, as we present Bayou at the Bird: A New Orleans/French Quarter Wine Dinner. Mr. Griese will pair featured wine selections with our five course meal as we transport those lucky enough to attend down to the bayou country and the delicious decadence of the Big Easy.

We are still finalizing the course offerings, but you can expect things like oysters, frog legs, gumbo, gator, and of course snapping turtle! For good measure we might even throw in a beef dish as well.

Don’t forget to RSVP as this event is limited to 60 guests! The cost per person is $65. Wine tasting will begin at 6PM, followed by dinner at 7PM.

Emailing bayou@thewhistlingbird.com or by calling (218) 741-5030 to make your reservation today!

Fall is in the air!

Pumpkins mean fall at The Whistling BirdThe recent weather has assured us that fall is here. Although it’s sad to pack up the grill, tongs and charcoal, it’s pretty exciting to know that carving pumpkins is just around the corner. Autumn is a season of hearty stews, wild game, hot cider, slow cooked meals, apple pie, and pumpkin spice. We are defiantly exited to bring you unique specials all season!

This too means its time to start thinking of the holidays; gifts, work parties, & gatherings with family and friends. Celebrate your holiday in the warm and inviting ambience of The Whistling Bird! Private dining is available for small gatherings or book the whole restaurant for larger groups. Special custom menus as well!

We also have gift cards available that would make the perfect holiday gift. And Oct 15th through Christmas Eve buy any $100 gift card for $75 just for signing up for our online newsletter (coming soon)!

The Whistling Bird in Gilbert, Minnesota, is back!

The Whistling Bird has been re-established and is open for business. With new ownership, we are beyond excited and proud to once again offer a taste of the Caribbean on the Iron Range for all of our friends, family and fanatics alike! Lip-smacking rum cocktails, jerk chicken, delicious pork bbq, it’s all happening!

Check out a recent post in the Duluth New Tribune that tells the tale!