History: Two ingredients. That’s all that’s required to pull off a combo that’s rich, fizzy, sweet, spicy, and satisfying. But the go-to party starter has a deeper backstory of wayward seafarers, tropical exploits, and fortuitous happenstance that lives up to its dramatic moniker. Our tale starts in 1806 London with spirits merchants the Goslings sending scion James forth to expand their trade to the United States. But as these things seemed often to go, James’s liquor-laden ship limped ashore in Bermuda, where he took note of the sand and palm trees, and sailed no further. He opened a shop (still in existence today) and eventually the New World Goslings got into the business of refining and blending a fine dark rum that doubtless was enjoyed by members of the British Royal Navy also stationed on the island. It just so happens that around the time of World War I, a group of these naval officers produced a homemade ginger beer, the drink being good for easing seasickness. Closing the circle even tighter, the Goslings often received old bottles from the Navy mess hall in which to distribute rum. So while the exact moment of consummation is not documented, manifest fate caused the two tropical elixirs to wed in one blissful glass.
Today, the easy-imbibing Dark ’n Stormy is the national drink of Bermuda, and the unofficial quencher of many of Southern porch party. “It’s not the most sophisticated drink,” says Liz Williams, curator of the Museum of the American Cocktail, “but the dark rum and ginger do deliver a lot of flavor, with notes of vanilla and caramel. If I’m depressed, this is the kind of thing I want to drink to feel better.” Oh, and the vivid name? Now trademarked by Goslings Brothers Limited, it’s credited to a sailor who supposedly studied his glass and declared it “the color of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under.”
Mixologist Tip: Although not an official ingredient, plenty of folks squeeze in a lime.
Variations: Sub vodka for rum and you’ve created a different party pleaser, the Moscow Mule.