2010 is all but over,

but before I say goodbye to 2010 I’d like to offer a few observations of the past year and a few predictions for 2011.

As the song said, “It was a very good year . . .” If you were a rum drinker, you saw more new spiced rums come to the market than any time since, well, suffice it to say, ever. More companies are planning to spend more money marketing their rum portfolio next year.

There will continue to be new, over the top, super duper, ultra, pinnacle-topping rums coming to a store or bar near you, along with new desriptors dreamed up by marketing people drinking rum on tropical islands at great expense. And there will be more rums that didn’t live up to their hype over the last decade in the bargain bin next to the cash register in your local liquor store. And the flood of email from laid off marketing people looking for work at the Ministry of Rum will persist.

The category of spiced sugar cane spirits that has been largely ignored by all but the largest spirit company in the world, is seeing renewed interest. In the last twenty years even Bacardi, despite their plethora of flavored rums, discontinued Bacardi Spice, but the tide is changing and even Bacardi has introduced a new spiced rum, though it doesn’t have the familiar bat on the label. Among the new spiced rums entering the market in 2010 some aren’t sweetened with artificial sweeteners and some are even quite good.

Cachaça continues to struggle in the export markets outside Brazil but the scheduled Olympics and World Cup in Brazil will certainly pay dividends to those that have put their hearts and souls into this category.

Rhum agricole has seen a couple of new exports from the French Caribbean. Demand for these rhums continues to rise and more and more bartenders outside the French Caribbean have learned to make a ‘ti punch. And, a  few of these bartenders actually know that ‘ti is Creole for petit, the French word that translates to ‘delicate, little.’

More and more rum bars are opening outside the Caribbean, and the better news is that some of the people behind these bars actually understand the spirits they are pouring. Tiki, that authentically faux culture that transports the patron to exotic places where nothing on the menu has ever been served, is also seeing renewed interest. Call it a desire to escape from the reality of the world or a desire to drink better rum drinks, either way it’s a good thing for rum.

And Lemon Hart, that elusive quintessential tiki drink ingredient is going to come back to the rum shelf. There’s just a small matter of attorneys, a lot of money, and a few other details that I’m hopeful will be worked out in the coming week. Lemon Hart does deserve a place on the bar and I’m confident it will find its way back to your glass next year.

Punch is making a comeback, but this is your grandmother’s mint sherbet and ginger ale fruit punch. Made with whisky, bourbon or rum, I’ve also seem more gin punches than I care to remember, punch can be great, or less than memorable. The good news is that most punch bowls hold more than a couple of ounces of rum and it is easier to make a punch bowl full of drink than to make individual cocktails for your next party. And you’ll friends will think you’re ahead of the cool curve. Or is that the awesome curve this year? Leftover punch is also great ‘hair of the dog’ to go with your, greasier-the-better, sausage and eggs breakfast in the morning.

The problem of finding the new sugar cane spiris that come to the market is one of the challenges I addressed when I started working on the Ministry of Rum website 15 years ago. In the coming weeks distillers, importers and distributors will be able to add their customers to the Ministry of Rum database and make the consumers task of finding new sugar cane spirits easier than ever. Will this change the way sugar cane spirits are marketed? Probably not, but it will reduce the pile of messages in my inbox asking me where someone can buy the latest rum they found mentioned in a press release that didn’t give them a clue as to where to buy, or even taste, the latest sugar cane elixir.

So here’s to a successful New Year. Please enjoy my favorite spirit responsibly and take the time to share your good fortune with friends.

All the best,

Edward Hamilton

And though my crystal ball isn’t a lot clearer than it was last year, I also see too many gin mojitos, faux-rum-tinis and a few bogus tiki drinks with plastic umbrellas in the coming year. My best advice is to simply ask yourself, “Would Hemingway drink this?”

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