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Origin of the Dark N’ Stormy

By Miguel Figueredo

It is said that the name “Dark and Stormy” originated when a sailor held up a cloudy drink and said it was the “colour of a cloud that only a fool or a dead man would sail under”. Nowadays the Dark N’ Stormy is a widespread drink, extremely popular in pretty much everywhere, for instance in the US East Coast. The drink is so popular that any bartender in the US or Europe would be happy to make AND drink a (or several) Dark N’ Stormy.

As you’ll surely know by now, rum historically was something very familiar to every Spanish and British sailor who sailed the Atlantic Ocean, especially around the Caribbean. The British Royal Navy had set various daily rations of rum to be delivered to its crew members. Originally sailors drank water (which would become contaminated). This was then followed by beer (which would acidify). Finally, rum was chosen for four reasons:

1) Nourishment and more heat for the sailors

2) It would not spoil

3) Improved storage; occupied less space and was later diluted with water

4) It would not waste gunpowder (being overproof)

And also for its mineral content and nutritional value… Apparently, Admiral Penn ordered to give each member 1 pint a day back in 1655. Then Admiral Vernon modified it in 1740 to 1/2 a pint per day. Diluted with water, lime (for scurvy) and cinnamon, which eventually turned into Grog… This ration of rum (varying from time to time) was a custom until July 31, 1970 (Black Tot Day).

Bermuda was, at the time, one of the Caribbean islands bases for sailors, whether legal or not, and where rum was produced to satisfy the Navy needs. By the end of the 1860’s the Gosling Brothers Rum Distillery in Bermuda started marketing their “old rum”, which evolved to what we have today as the Gosling’s Black Seal.

Ginger was well known as a tonic for seasickness. It was brewed in England and colonists brought it to the Caribbean. English native William John Barritt arrived in Bermuda in 1839 and started working at a jail, but in 1874 quit to open a dry goods store with a mineral water bottling machine, including English ginger beer.

According to this story, “Ginger Beer originated in England from its predecessors Mead & Metheglin. Metheglin was a naturally carbonated, yeast-fermented honey beverage, which often included spices such as ginger, cloves and mace. Originally Ginger Beer also included special yeast for fermentation and was sweetened with honey, molasses or sugar cane. After brewing the Ginger Beer was poured into stone bottles then corked to maintain the natural effervescence. Up through the mid 1800’s many Ginger Beers contained a significant amount of alcohol (about 11%). Limitations in England in 1855 required that non-excisable beverages contain less than 2% alcohol, which led bottlers of Ginger Beer to dilute their brewed concentrate with carbonated water”.

By the 1920’s, the Royal Navy also was brewing ginger at their Dockyard in Bermuda, and importing rum and selling it right there. You could tell what eventually would happen; both products produced there would come together. It is most likely that Goslings, being the most popular rum there was, was the first one mixed with ginger beer. In fact, the brand has trademarked the drink!

Try starting with 50ml of their rum and add:

200 ml ginger beer

1-2 squeezed lime wedges

*Build directly in a highball or balloon glass full of cubed ice.


‘The views expressed above are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of WIRSPA Inc.’   

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