The dark ’n’ stormy is the most elemental of cocktails. It contains precisely two ingredients — Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and ginger beer, a lime garnish being entirely optional. The dark ’n’ stormy is a rarity in the cocktail world in that it is a trademarked drink that must contain Gosling’s. Because other rums are often substituted in its place Gosling's reportedly vigorously enforces their trademark.
Gosling’s is an unusual rum. It's made from both pot stills and continuous stills and is aged in charred American oak barrels. The result is a dark, syrupy, and smoky rum that taste like no other. The recipe dates back to 1806 and was originally called "Old Rum," but it was popularly called "black seal" because the bottles where dipped in black sealing wax. The black seal moniker and corresponding juggling seal logo where adopted in 1950 according to company a spokesman.
If you define a cocktail as a mixed drink the traditional method of dark ’n’ stormy preparation might not even qualify. The bartender pours the ginger beer (the stormy part) over ice in a highball glass and then floats the rum (the dark part) on the top. A cool effect, but it does require the drinker to mix it themselves. Doubtlessly many a dark ’n’ stormy neophyte has enthusiastically sucked down a rather stout two ounce pour of rum before hitting the ginger beer layer.
According to Gosling's the cocktails was born in Bermuda where, at a ginger beer factory run as a subsidiary of the Royal Naval Officer’s Club, someone mixed the local rum with the local brew. The name inspired by an old fisherman who when confronted with the dark, swirling tempest of a cocktail remarked that it resembled a "cloud only a fool or a deadman would sail under." Certainly a romantic tale but probably a case of good marketing. In any event the dark ’n’ stormy became the official drink of Bermuda.
The traditional ginger beer used in the cocktail is Barritt’s, also a Bermudan company, although Gosling's recently started marketing their own brand of the soft drink. The trademarked recipe does not stipulate which specific brand of ginger beer is used as long as Gosling’s is present. But the use of any other rum makes the drink in the mind of Gosling’s a "fake ’n’ phoney."
Where to Find a Good Dark 'n' Stormy in New York
There are plenty of places to find a traditional dark ’n’ stormy around NYC. It is, after all, a classic cocktail that requires little skill to make. Since the rum is a known quantity the ginger beer is largely what differentiates the cocktails, plus the amount of lime juice most bartenders add. Schiller's Liquor Bar keeps things classic by using Barritt’s ginger beer. But increasingly popular these days are premium offerings from the likes of Fever Tree (used by The Butterfly and Batard), Fentiman's (used at Smith & Wollensky) and the recently release Q (used at Experimental Cocktail Club)
Substituting the fermented ginger beer for a mix of fresh ginger juice and soda is also quite in. At Eleven Madison Park head bartender James Betz combines Gosling's with ginger syrup, a ginger lime cordial, lime juice, angostura bitters, and soda water to mimic the ginger beer. Unlike a traditional dark 'n' stormy it is shaken, something that is not advisable with ginger beer! The drink is not listed on the menu but is the bartenders choice when asked for a rum beverage. At the Experimental Cocktail Club Damien Aries also adds angostura bitters along with a dash of simple syrup to his otherwise classic dark 'n' stormy, he adds the extra sugar because because the Q ginger beer he uses has very little sweetness.
As anathema as the notion may be to the Gosling's company, there are also countless variations of the cocktail using other brands of rum across the city. Bars can't legally call the drink a dark 'n' stormy, but many still do.
At Osteria Morini head bartender Allegra Lucier uses El Dorado rum in combination with freshly juiced skin-on ginger. She leaves the skin on because it makes the juice far spicier, which also lends itself to the name she has given her homepage — the dark 'n' spicy. Down at Batard bartender Candice Valettuti uses Ron Zacapa rum and over at Root and Bone Flor de Cana is used in place of Gosling's. Perhaps the most audacious interpretation is the one made by Jane Elkins at The Gander, she uses a combination of of two different sherries to mimic the Gosling's with fresh ginger juice and serves it in an old fashion glass.