The Kingston Sour

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Created by Erik Trickett, currently a bartender at 320 Main, this drink is absolutely great.  Through and through, the flavors blend exceedingly well, and the aroma of the shaved coffee bean, with light floral notes, offsets the herbal potency of the Chartreuse.

Sours are a cocktail that generally have a sour ingredient juxtaposed against a sweetness.  This drink has a sour component, but it is at the back end of everything else that is going on.  And literally, the cocktail has a lot of stuff going on in it.  The aroma is complex, the flavors are complex, the sweetness itself is complex.   Even the texture, for lack of a better word, is complex, since it is not as simple as a normal cocktail, thanks to the inclusion of the egg white.  At the end of the day, even though it comes off as looking like something that would be borderline too sweet for my palate, this drink is extremely well balanced.  Much better than the drink that apparently someone else named a Kingston Sour.
Let us deconstruct the cocktail.  First, it involves five ingredients: Coruba dark Jamaican rum, green Chartreuse, lime juice, Depaz cane syrup, and an egg white.  The garnish on the drink is shaved coffee bean, which could be considered and ingredient, but I tend to separate the garnish from the ingredients of the drink per say, since while it is something necessary to the cocktail, a garnish still seems like something that is in addition to the cocktail.  Starting with the rum, we see that the drink earns its’ name from the origin of the rum choice Erik made.  Coruba is a Jamaican rum sold in New Zealand.  In both nation states, we see a city known as Kingston, which is the origin of the name of this drink.  As a rum, Coruba is commonly found in a dark style, similar to older planters rum styles, made using pot and column stills and aged in oak barrels for over two years.  Since Coruba is seemingly more difficult to find in Texas, where I currently am at, I spoke with Erik about substitutions, and having talked with Matt Robold about it as well, the conclusion is that to substitute for Coruba, use Goslings because of the molasses / Christmas flavors, even though it doesn’t allow the cocktail to retain a logical name.
The second ingredient, green Chartreuse, as we know, is an extremely herbal French liqueur manufactured by monks.  This is where the base of complexity comes from for this drink.  The herbal nature and large pool of flavors helps the flavors in the Jamaican rum pair nicely and come out in full force.  While Chartreuse is a liqueur, and a strong one at that, it lacks absurd levels of sweetness.  As such, the drink comes off rather balanced, thanks to the strong flavors of the Jamaican rum, with the characteristic rich molasses flavor.
The third ingredient, lime juice, turns this into a sour.  While only a scant amount of lime juice is used, it helps to pull back the sweetness of the Chartreuse and the Depaz cane syrup.  The lime juice gives it a nice twang of acidity and zest at the finish of the drink, helping to contrast nicely with the herbal notes, or the aroma of the coffee.  As with any drink, fresh limes should be used.  Using bottled juice takes away from the freshness of the drink, and diminishes the actual character of any cocktail involving juice.
Depaz cane syrup is a syrup made in Martinique from pure cane sugar and filtered water.  While it is common to use and find, if a substitution is to be made, use an equal parts Turbinado syrup.  Turbinado can help capture the same floral but yet molasses oriented aroma and flavor.  Erik’s choice of Depaz is an excellent one, in that it contains complexities that a simple syrup would not have, and likewise, the sweetener helps to bring out the full potential of both the coffee garnish, as well as the rum.  Like with other spirits, using a sweetener that matches the base spirit helps to augment the entire flavor of the cocktail: agave nectar or syrup with Tequila or Mezcal is a great example of another spirit / sweetener combination that goes hand in hand.
The last ingredient really sets off the drink.  While sours commonly have an egg white, so this is not something unexpected, the egg white really helps bring together the ingredients of the drink in this case, bridging the Depaz syrup with the Chartreuse through texture.  The softness on the tongue from the egg white emulsification helps coat the tongue and gives the drink a quality that makes it a pleasure to imbibe.  Cocktails involving egg whites flow gracefully down the back of the throat, similar to the effect that gum syrup has upon a cocktail.  When shaking any drink that involves egg white, make sure to shake the cocktail more than usual to help emulsify the drink; furthermore, as Erik and many other bartenders will tell you, dry shake some of the ingredients to help the emulsification process.  While dry shaking acidic fruit juices with egg white will break down the whites and help create more of a body, dry shaking a sweetener helps to smooth out the texture.  Erik’s choice to dry shake the syrup with the egg white and forgo dry shaking any juice with it helps keep the egg white at a minimum but gives it a thorough velvet texture.
Each of these ingredients really define the cocktail and bring about a balance when used together.  The garnish brings everything together and puts it on a new playing field: the aroma from finely shaved coffee beans, fresh on top of the drink, gives it a sort of breakfast quality, while likewise encouraging consumption from a savory component thanks to the coffee.  The bitter notes from the coffee are offset by the sweetness of the drink.  Like any other ingredient, selection of the coffee bean is important: to keep with the Jamaican theme, I used Jamaican coffee beans, which have a mild coffee aroma that is characteristic of floral notes juxtaposed by a light note of sweetness.  Since Jamaican coffee is not commonly available in the United States, a good Kona coffee would work wonderfully as a replacement.
Overall this is a great drink which serves on many levels as a good example of balance in cocktails, and seemingly can function both as a sweet drink or as a nice digestif depending on the consumer’s attitude and palate.  But despite the sweetness, balance pulls the whole thing together, with the aroma of the coffee giving it savory components that make it a joy to drink.  If in Orange County, stop by 320 Main to try this drink, their fabulous food, and the expertise of both Jason Schiffer and Erik Trickett.  I spoke about one of Jason’s excellent drinks earlier, which he called A No. 1 with a Bulleit, and serves as a great counterpoint to Erik’s own drink.

Kingston Sour:

1 ounce Coruba
1 ounce green Chartreuse
1/4 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce depaz syrup
An egg white

Dry shake the egg white with the syrup.  After which, add the liquor, the lime juice, and ice.  Shake until chilled and then some, double straining the drink into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with shaved coffee bean.

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Curtis, Wayne.  2006.  And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails.  New York: Three Rivers Press.