Cocktail of the Week: Dark ‘n’ Stormy

Oh, hello Fall. Is that you knocking on our door again? So sorry, nobody is home; we’re out getting cocktails. It is inevitable that the nights will draw in, and we’re firm believers of leaning into the season. With that in mind, we have the perfect sip to bid farewell to the final throws of the summer sun. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for a Dark ‘n’ Stormy (cue the lightning and thunder claps).

With a dash of delicious tiki spice, we have ourselves a classic! There really is no better place to sip such a deliciously angsty cocktail than Montreal’s small but mighty rum bar, El Pequeño, which is often cited as being one of Canada’s top 10 bars. “Canada’s smallest cocktail bar” spans just 141 square feet, but what it lacks in space it makes up for in vibes. The interior pays tribute to 1920s style Cuban hotel lobbies, evoking the spirt of rum-fueled hazy Havana nights. While the Dark n’ Stormy technically hails from Bermuda, the vibes here are spot on.

Recipe card: on the left is a Dark n stormy cocktail served on a patio. the right shows the recipe on an orange background

So who pioneered the Dark ‘n’ Stormy and how can we give them a medal? Unlike a lot of “classics”, which seem to emerge from the murky depths of folklore, this sip can be attributed to James Gosling, a sea captain who later became a key player in the rum production business. Name sound familiar? Right: Goslings Rum. Creating a delicious and simple cocktail that just so happens to use your family’s liquor? Genius. The story is, in fairness, a little bit more complicated and dramatic. As we’re already sipping a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, we’re suitably prepped for a tale with a side of theatrics, so let’s roll!

The story has it that in 1806, James Gosling, the son of an English wines and spirits merchant, set out to the bright lights of ‘Merica (okay, there were no bright lights back then but it was still notably alluring). Unfortunately, things went awry and good old James and his boys ended up “stranded” in Bermuda. The Gosling family used this story as an excellent marketing opportunity when they began producing their Black Seal rum in 1857, citing the nautical nuisance as the justification behind their bottling. Sales were especially strong in Bermuda itself, where prominent naval officers just so happened to run a ginger beer factory. One thing led to another, and the two tasty liquids collided. Honestly, historical moments like these have the power to convince us that we’re living in a simulation — it’s all just a bit too convenient, isn’t it? Sweet, sweet serendipity.

So, the name? What’s the source of this poetic labelling? The story continues that the cocktail was given its near-Shakespearian title by a sailor, who is alleged to have declared that the colour of the concoction is like that of a cloud that one should not sail under if they wished to make it out alive. Truly, seafaring in those days does sound kinda risky: we probably would have stuck to drinking in taverns. Oh, and speaking of the taverns: if I’ve learned anything from the history of alcohol, it’s that bartenders and thirsty revellers were the drink-fluencers of their day. The concoction became so popular in drink houses that it eventually spread out, aided by frequent passages across the Atlantic, throughout the States and the U.K.

Outside of El Pequeño in Montreal shows patio

While the original recipe only calls for a mix of Gosling’s rum and ginger beer, riffs have (of course)  found their way into the main stream. The addition of an Angostura bitters float, for example, is another way that bartenders have generated a storm in a teacup — er… tiki glass — while packing an extra flavour punch. Purists will also tell you that the addition of lime juice (rather than simply the traditional lime wheel garnish) isn’t proper, but we’re all for taking the adventure route in our pursuit of something delicious.

So, cheers to moody mixology! If you’re ever in Montreal, you’re seriously going to want to pull up a pew at this teeny-tiny spot.