In Search of the Dark and Stormy

The dark and stormy, a cocktail of dark rum and ginger beer, balances spice and sweetness with a touch of citrus. On a summer afternoon, a well-made dark and stormy surpasses such classics as the daiquiri and gin and tonic. But we like to drink it year-round.

In Brooklyn, the dark and stormy gold standard is the one served at the Waterfront Ale House in Brooklyn Heights. The Ale House uses Gosling's Bermuda Black Rum (as all true versions of the cocktail must; Gosling's has a trademark on the recipe) and Blenheim Ginger Ale. Blenheim is not even widely available where it is bottled in South Carolina, and so far no source has been found in New York.

How to Make Them

The dark and stormy follows the universal cocktail formula: liquor, mixer, and a little something else. We make them in water glasses, but a Collins or highball or any other straight glass is fine. Waterfront serves them in pint glasses.

Glass with ice Glass with rum Full glass with lime wedge Finished drink with shaker
Start with whole ice cubes, pour the rum (I use half a glass of ice and then pour the rum up to the halfway mark; go ahead and put as much ice in as you can spare), fill up the rest with ginger beer, and add the lime wedge (give it a squeeze first). Mix it by pouring into a cocktail shaker and then back into the glass.

Like a properly mixed gin and tonic, your final product shouldn't taste overwhelmingly of any of the constituant ingredients: if the cocktail is dominated by either the ginger beer or the rum, then adjust your proportions next time.

Where to Drink Them

Because Gosling's and ginger beer are each useful for little beyond mixing a dark and stormy, most New York bars can't justify stocking them. Living in Cobble Hill, there's no need to wander farther than the Ale House when we have a craving, but we try to keep an eye out for other bars that can meet our needs.

Botanica47 E Houston St, New York

A strange but tasty variation, Botanica's dark and stormy is Myers's Jamaican dark rum, fresh ginger, and bar lime, topped off with a spritz of soda. The ginger flavor is quite strong, but the sweetened lime juice balances it out nicely for a cocktail that's spicy and satisfying, if unorthodox.

Otto's Shrunken Head538 E 14th St, New York

Points for trying. This tiki bar has a lot to recommend it—pinball, live music, and lots of places to sit—but their dark and stormy, bizarrely mixed with bottled lime juice that overwhelms the flavor, is a disappointment, and not cheap. If you're there, ask them to hold the LJ but keep the lime wedge.

French Roast2340 Broadway, New York78 W 11th St, New York

A dark and stormy is maybe not the best pairing with a rich chocolatey dessert, but if you're just in the mood for a cocktail of a summer evening, it's a fine choice. We recall the ginger beer as being Saranac, but it could have been a taste-alike.

Sample152 Smith St, Brooklyn

This is a weird one. Light rum, ginger ale "right from the gun," and ginger syrup to spice it up. Worth a taste just to experience the outer limits of storminess.

Superfine126 Front St, Brooklyn

Superfine has a bunch of cool weird cocktails. Their D&S is mixed with Reed's.

Waterfront Ale House155 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn

As mentioned above, this is the place to go. Free popcorn, sports that don't dominate the atmosphere, award-winning brisket and ribs, and a wild game special of the day. Try the buffalo style calamari appetizer.

Ginger Beers

Though you can't get Blenheim around here, all is not lost. We're in the process of taste-testing the ginger beer available locally, in search of that perfect dark and stormy: refreshing, nice and spicy, and not too sweet. A lot of the available choices are what we consider solid contenders. Taste is subjective, and we don't want to get into star ratings or letter grades or anything, but we'll describe our reactions as best we can.

Barritt's Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer

Not quite as spicy as some other choices, but still not too sweet. Makes a great stormy nonetheless. We found it at Thrifty Beverage on Court.

Boylan Ginger Ale

Ginger ales are normally too sweet to brew up a proper storm. Blenheim is a notable exception, and happily, so is Boylan. The bottle calls it "dry," and indeed it's close to ideal, definitely a cut above the standard. We got our first bottle at Bagel World, but Cobble Heights Distributors carries all Boylan products by the case (Boylan also makes the best seltzer) and Thrifty has it too.

DG Jamaican Ginger Beer

Nice and spicy. You can see how cloudy it is in the bottle. This is another one from Thrifty. Our favorite so far, and we swear that's not entirely based on the cute kitty on the label.

Fentimans Traditional Ginger Beer

Not a bad selection. Fentimans is a bit drier than the regular gingers beer on the market, but without adding extra spice. It stands above the rank and file, but like blood diamonds and intellectual property, its price is artificially inflated by scarcity: if Tuller has it in stock, you'll pay $2.75 for 275ml (which also throws off your mixing calculations if you're used to 12oz bottles).

Ibris Fiery Ginger Beer

Not nearly as spicy as the can makes it look. We found this one at Two For the Pot, a tea shop that also carries a great selection of food products from the UK. But skip this one if you have a choice.

Ithaca Soda Co. Ginger Beer

A good regular ginger beer. We think this one came from Thrifty, though we didn't see it on the shelf last time we went.

Reed's Extra Ginger Brew

This is the gingeriest of the Reed's line, but it tastes like crystallized ginger: too sweet for a cocktail. Another Thrifty find, but various Reed's products are available in most of the bodegas around here.

Saranac Ginger Beer

A fine bottle of ginger. Tastes about like Ithaca...maybe something in that upstate water. Yet another Thrifty purchase.

Stewart's Ginger Beer

Nice and tasty, and not too sweet. Stewart's is a bit fizzier than other ginger beers we've tried, so be gentle when mixing. Otherwise, the flavor is similar to Ithaca and Saranac. This is the only ginger beer carried by Cobble Heights, and Thrifty has it too.

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