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The Chinese Cocktail

Chinese Labor and Jamaican Rum

At first I assumed that tonight’s Mr. Boston’s recipe was in line with The Cherry Blossom Cocktail, a result of fashion at the time. After some digging it appears that there may be more to the story.

The first Chinese citizens arrive in Jamaica in 1854. According to the Caribbean Quarterly, they were imported to work in the plantations with the promise of “$4.00 wage for a twelve hour work day (excluding Sundays), food, clothing, accommodation, medical care and a garden.” The promise was often violated and many of the Chinese workers abandoned their position.

Slavery in Jamaica
Under British rule, black Jamaicans and the Chinese were forced to work long hours in sugar plantations and distilleries.

Around the time Harry Craddock published the Chinese Cocktail in his Savoy Cocktail Book, immigration of Chinese to Jamaica spiked. From 1891 to 1943, the population of Chinese nationals rose from 481 to more than 6,000. I can only imagine the boom made the news of the time.

The Chinese history of plantation work on the island could explain the main ingredient in this evenings Mr. Boston recipe from 1935. At least it’s the strongest link I have. Two-thirds Jamaica Rum is paired with 1/3 Grenadine, a dash of bitters, and three equal dashes of Curacao and Maraschino. None of which scream Asia to me.

Appleton Estate is Jamaica’s oldest sugar plantation and distillery. Rum has been handcrafted on 11,000 acre estate since 1749 but the property dates back to 1655 when the British captured the island from Spain.

Our good friends brought us back a bottle from directly from the plantation in 2007. We’ve treasured it these last ten years and the Chinese Cocktail will officially end the bottle. I suppose this means Ryan and I need to make our way down to the island for another bottle 🙂

Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum
The last few drops of our 10 year old bottle of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum – time for a Caribbean vacation!

Thankfully, the last 2 ounces of Appleton Jamaica Rum were not wasted. The Chinese Cocktail is a damn good drink! Based on the ratio of Rum to Grenadine, I feared this may be a overtly sweet tropical drink but to my surprise and delight it wasn’t.

Unlike Bacardi, Appleton’s Rum is rich and has an aged quality. I decided to use the natural Grenadine by Small Hand Foods rather than the Roses. I think I made the right call because Ryan swooped up the cocktail after snapping it’s glamour shot and didn’t left go of it until the glass was empty.

For those of you who would like to try out the Chinese Cocktail (you really, really should), here is the mix I put together:

  • 1-1/2 ounces of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum
  • 3/4 ounces of Small Hand Foods Grenadine
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 1/3 teaspoon Drillaud Triple Sec
  • 1/3 teaspoon Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

This recipe will be added to our favorite’s list and tomorrow a new Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum bottle will be making its way home from the liquor store. Here’s hoping tomorrow’s drink is just as good, cheers!

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