I’m a big fan of simple cocktails, in part because they’re easy to make with what’s on hand, but also because they prove that good drinking doesn’t require a handful of fancy syrups, liqueurs and garnishes. My appreciation for the basic combination of spirit, fortified wine and bitters—seen in classic drinks like the Martini and Manhattan—led me to the Palmetto, a cocktail combining rum and vermouth.
Most Palmetto recipes call for equal parts white rum and dry vermouth, plus a couple dashes of aromatic bitters. So I whipped one up and… didn’t like it. I crafted the drink two more times using different white rums and—having two dry vermouths on hand—switched that up as well. I still wasn’t impressed. Drinkable, but barely.
A bit of research led me to a variation that skips the white rum and dry vermouth and opts instead for aged rum and sweet vermouth. The switch made, thankfully, a huge and positive difference. This new Palmetto was complex, deep and delicious. I tried a few different aged rums before settling on Mount Gay Extra Old, and as for vermouth, Martini and Rossi worked fine but Carpano Antica Formula was spot on.
1.25 ounces aged rum
1.25 ounces sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.
Photo: Rum Dood