Many people associate the era of elaborate, fruity rum drinks with the mid-20th century, a time when innovative restaurateurs such as Donn Beach and Victor Bergeron created the rum rhapsodies and Polynesian palaces that defined the age of exotica.
But they weren't the first to venture down the rum and fruit path: behold the Knickerbocker, the ancestor of tiki.
The Knickerbocker dates to at least the 1860s, when it made its print debut in the first known bartending manual, penned by Jerry Thomas. The recipe called for "Santa Cruz rum," or rum from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, along with lime juice and sweetener in the form of raspberry syrup and curacao, and garnished with berries in season.
Many of these old recipes show their age today, but the Knickerbocker is still pretty lively. Amber rums from Cruzan, made in St. Croix, are perfectly suitable in this drink, but you can use most any amber rum to good effect. If you don't happen to have raspberry syrup on hand, you can make your own by lightly bashing a handful of berries, covering with a syrup made from equal parts sugar and water, and letting it soak overnight before straining (failing that, there's always Chambord). This being berry season, incorporating this do-it-yourself effort can be especially rewarding, or if you don't feel like that much effort, just festoon fresh berries atop the drink in a gesture of summery exuberance.
- 2 ounces amber rum
- 1 teaspoon curacao
- 2 teaspoons raspberry syrup
- Juice of 1/2 a lime
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice; shake well and pour, unstrained, into a chilled old fashioned glass. Garnish with raspberries, blackberries, or most any kind of fresh fruit you have on hand.