Cooking Terms every Aspiring Cook needs to know

Any beginning cook looking at a cookery book might wonder whether they have suddenly forgotten how to read. Cookery, like many other things has its own terminology. Cookery books use particular terms to describe cookery methods, measurements, and other cookery concepts. This should not worry the novice cook, these terms are easy to decipher.

Cookery follows basic standard methods. These are baking, steaming, grilling (broiling) roasting, boiling stewing, steaming, and frying.

When you bake, you put pastry, bread, cakes, or biscuits or vegetables into the oven, and cook by using dry heat. Whilst you might brush a potato, for example, with a little oil, you do not usually add any cooking medium to other baked items.

When you roast food, such as meat, you also cook it in the oven using dry heat, surrounding the food with heat, but use fat to cook the food. Roasting makes good quality meat tender and succulent. Our ancestors roasted meat on a spit, basting, spooning, and the meat with fat as it cooked. You can cook meat, fish, and vegetables this way. Surround your joint of meat or poultry with potatoes or other vegetables. You can also roast fruit such as apples, pears or tomatoes.

Grilling (or broiling as Americans insist on calling it) is a cooking method using dry fast heat, applied from above or below, using the grill (or broil) on your stove, or a barbecue. Cooks use this method to cook steaks, chops, beef or other meat patties, toasted bread, Welsh rarebit, and many other items. You cook on a rack.

The word braise originates, as many cooking terms do, from a French word, “braiser”. Meat or poultry typically is seared at a high heat on top of the cooker before being placed in a covered dish with liquid covering the food, you then place the food in the oven usually on a low heat setting and cooked for a long time. Heat, time, and moisture combine in braising to cook the food until tender and means that braising helps to render cheaper, tougher, cuts of meat into delicious meals. Coq au Vin is a famous French chicken dish cooked using the braising method. Like so many peasant dishes, Coq au Vin was originally a way to make an old boiling fowl into a delicious tasty meal for peasant families.

Stewing is another ‘wet’ method of cooking. One cuts meat or into small pieces, searing them before placing in a saucepan or pot with a tight fitting lid, covering the meat completely in liquid such as gravy, and cooking over a low heat for a long time on the top of the stove.

Steaming is a method used for sweet and savoury puddings and for vegetables. In this method, the food cooks in steam without touching the water. For example, to make a steamed treacle pudding, one places the pudding in a basin, and the basin into a saucepan or pot with a tightly fitting lid, putting boiling water into the pot around the basin. You then make sure that the water is boiling before covering the pot turning down the heat and cooking for the appropriate time. The food cooks because of the transferred heat and steam from the water through the basin.

There are several ways to fry food. You shallow fry food in a shallow pan using a little fat or oil. To sauté is another French term originating from the verb “to jump”. One uses a sauté, or frying, pan to cook small pieces of meat, vegetables or other food, and keeps shaking the pan so the food jumps about. Deep-frying, for chips (or French Fries), fried chicken or fish, is done in deep very hot oil either in a pan or deep fat fryer.

Measurements are important in cookery especially when baking cakes, bread, biscuits, and pastry and when using spices. Recipes often call for level, rounded, or heaped teaspoons or tablespoons of an ingredient and this can confuse novice cooks. To measure a level teaspoon of any ingredient, take a measuring teaspoon; fill it with the ingredient, then run a flat bladed knife across the edge of the teaspoon pushing off any excess back into the container that is a level teaspoon, which you can now add to the food. A rounded teaspoon is a spoonful with the same amount above the teaspoons edge as there is in the spoon’s bowl. A heaped teaspoon is a teaspoon containing as much as you can get on the spoon without any falling off it.

There are other miscellaneous cookery terms, which you might come across in cookery books. A recipe may ask you to take flour, or corn flour (maize flour), and butter, or margarine, to make roux. A roux is the base for a sauce. You take the specified amount of butter, or margarine, and put it in a pan and melt it over a low flame. You then add the flour or corn flour, stirring all the time until you have a smooth paste, then add the liquid, a little at a time stirring constantly. This is the base for many sauces, including the basic white sauce.

Creaming is a method that cooks use when making a cake batter. You usually cream butter, take your softened butter and put it into a large mixing bowl, then beat it with a wooden spoon, when it is soft beat the sugar into the butter. For a cake batter, it is ready to add more ingredients when the mixture looks white and feels creamy.

There are several cookery dictionaries on the internet. These can be very helpful for cooks, of all abilities, when they come across an unfamiliar term. For the novice cook they are indispensible. Beginning cooks should get a good basic cookery book; those aimed at students are usually very good. There are some recommended ones for American or British novice cooks. Cookery is both an art and a science, which has its own terminology. This terminology can seem confusing at first but when you become familiar with their meaning these term will be as natural as the words you use everyday. Knowing these meanings will help you to cook wonderful food to feed and please your friends and family and give you great satisfaction.

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Chocolate Deserts Low Fat and Yummy

Chocolate Mousse  low or NO sugar and fat 

3/4 c fat free milk

1 pkg (1.4 oz) sugar free instant pudding mix CHOCOLATE (but is good with others too including lemon for something different)

1/2 c fat free sour cream

1 tsp almond extract (best buy is Safeway house brand – this could be optional but in my estimation it makes the dessert)

3 oz fat free cream cheese cubed

FOLD IN LAST 1-8 oz carton FREE (Southbeach) cool whip

1 tbsp cookie crumbs (opt)

Whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes (or forget this and put all in bowl and mix with electric beaters – I do)

Original recipe then says to mix sour cream, cream cheese and almond extract – add pudding and mix well and fold in cool whip last – put into 6 little glass bowls and enjoy….

Filling may be put into graham cracker or any pie crust if you like. It is totally yummy for “FREE”.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

1 cup bread cubes (about 5 slices cubed – may use whole wheat or other whole grained bread)

3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa

2 Tbsp melted butter

1 egg slightly beaten

1/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent, I used 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 packager of Stevia NOW

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract, best with almond and I use 1 tsp.

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 cups scalded (cook until skin on top but do not boil) milk (you can do this in the microwave)

Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, cocoa , extract, butter and egg.  Add milk slowly stirring constantly

Add bread cubes.  Pour into buttered (or Pam sprayed) baking dish (casserole size)

Set this dish in a pan of warm water in an over set at 350 F.

Bake 1 hour or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Yummy hot or cold.

Just the best! This recipe has been in our family for four generations now. I intensely dislike “bread pudding” BUT this one is wonderful!  I use a turkey baster to get some of the hot water out of the pan before removing from oven so I don’t have to try to take the inner dish out and get the pot holders wet and too hot.

1. See It, Make It: 100-Calorie Chocolate Desserts – EatingWell
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3. Low-Calorie Chocolate Desserts –

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Christmas Drinks

Don’t tell the Child Protection Agency but my earliest memories of Christmas dinner are of drinking the small glass of cider my parents poured as a treat for my siblings and me.  I remember how delicious it was with turkey, stuffing, and especially the pork, and to this day a festive lunch is not complete without a bottle of fizzy fermented apple juice. So why not try it yourself?  Cider’s sour-sweetness is perfect refreshment with the savoury smorgasbord of a traditional British Christmas dinner. Even the inexpensive supermarket brands that drunk on their own would be nothing special suddenly sparkle when matched with a roast potato.

So banish the wine and try something different this Christmas.  If that dusty bottle of sweet Sherry stuffed in the back of the cupboard only comes out once a year to spice up the trifle pour it away and add a splash of Madeira instead – full bodied, complex and very sweet.  But don’t ignore Sherry as a drink, rather than just think of it as an ingredient.  A chilled bottle of Fino may encourage you to look with a new appreciation of Jerez’s unique export.  Pale and bone-dry, this Sherry will stimulate the appetite.  Amontillado and Manzanilla are also on the dry side and are easy drinkers. What better excuse for polishing Grandma’s elegant little Sherry glasses!

Beer is also a revelation with Christmas comestibles and there is a style of beer that will match with each dish.  But this year we’re concentrating on cider for the main courses, so think of beer for the Christmas pud, mince pies and cake.  Several brewers make special ales for this time of year and some might even be described as Christmas cake in a bottle!  The choice of dark malts, hops, alcohol strength, and length of maturation imbues the beer with incredibly rich spicy fruit characters and a full body.  Try Tally Ho by Adnams; Christmas Ale by Shepherd Neame, or Owd Rodger by Marston’s – all three will go well with Stilton and mature Cheddar so that’s the cheese course sorted too.

Phew – full yet?  Surely you can fit in one more tiny glass of something.  If you would normally have a Bailey’s Irish Cream or a Scotch after lunch, remember we’re trying new things this year so for a rich smooth velvety treat sip a Merlyn Welsh Cream liqueur. And no need to go north of the border for the water of life – try Chapter 6 by the English Whisky Company.  Distilled in Norfolk and made from locally grown barley, it has a sweet oak, caramel palate to savour at 3pm during the Queen’s Christmas message.

Now if you doubt you will be able to eat or drink anything else for a week that’s OK – just make sure that on New Year’s Eve when you break your fast you have a stash of English sparkling wine from Nyetimber, Ridgeview, or Camel Valley –dry spritzy perfection that will hit the spot as 2011 dawns.

For readers not based in the UK – the brands listed in the blog below are all British – but if you like the sound of them, why not come here for Christmas!

1. The 12 cocktails of Christmas – Mix That Drink
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3. 100+ Christmas Cocktails & Holiday Drink Recipes – Marie Claire

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Caribbean Rum Chicken for a Main course Dinner

Our local newspaper recently held its annual recipe contest. I submitted several recipes, entering under four different categories. However, it was in the Main Dish category that I became a finalist, and ultimately won second place.

My nearly Caribbean Rum Chicken is a fun, mouth watering entree that will appeal to all of your senses one at a time. It takes very little time to prepare and is easily adaptable.

One thing I will do differently when I make it again, is to substitute the white chicken breasts for thighs. This is just my preference, but I prefer dark meat, and believe there is much more flavor, moistness and a better texture than the white meat, which tends to be dry and bland.

Caribbean Rum Chicken

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup chili sauce

1/2 cup Myer’s Rum*

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed

dash of red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon ground dry mustard

ground black pepper to taste

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips*

½ cup butter

¼ cup olive oil

Salt & Pepper

Brown the chicken strips in the butter and oil making sure they are cooked through, but not dried out. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.

In a saucepan over low heat, mix the brown sugar, chile sauce, rum, soy sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, red pepper, dry mustard, and black pepper. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chicken pieces, coating all sides and serve warm or at room temperature.

* If you cannot get Myer’s Rum, a good Dark Rum will do.

This recipe originally was just a sauce recipe, but I added the chicken to give it substance. However, it is fantastic on ribs, steaks, short ribs of beef over noodles, meatloaf, or even a pork shoulder.

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Butter Margarine Spreadable Melting Butter Lurpak

When it comes to butter I prefer those ones that really do taste like butter. There are two of them at the moment I usually buy: Lurpak and Sainsbury’s Buttersoft. I really like Buttersoft so most of the times I buy it from Sainsbury’s but when we do the shopping in Tesco I buy Lurpak. I don’t buy Tesco’s own branded butter as it is not spreadable at all.

Lurpak comes in a silver plastic tub with lid. Below the lid there is a paper cover which can be peeled easily. The tube can be reclosed after each use and as the lid fits well it prevents the butter from getting rancid too quickly. The butter itself has odd white colour which is more pale than other spreadable products. The reason is that Lurpak doesn’t contain any additional colouring ingredient. Lurpak is a slightly salted butter which is spreadable right after you take it out of the fridge.

Usually I buy the 500 g tub but it is available in smaller size as well (250 g). In Sainsbury’s a tub of 500 g costs 2.58 pounds. I think it is quite expensive so that is why I buy its cheaper version the Sainsbury’s Buttersoft whenever possible. Lurpak is also available in light version for those who find the 80% fat content too high.

It has very nice creamy texture and is really spreadable. I like as it melts on crumpets or on toasts. Last time we put them on fresh croissants. It was very yummy. I think its salty taste brings out the taste of the bakery products and makes them really delicious. It can be used on jacket potatoes as well. As it melts you can feel that it was made of milk. Has such a lovely taste that can never be compared to margarines.

The ingredients of Lurpak are as follows: Butter, Vegetable Oil, Lactic Culture and Salt (0.9%). It contains 80% fat so its energy content is 728 kcal / 100g. Lurpak is made by Arla Foods UK Plc (4 Savannah Way, Leeds, LS10 1AB). For more information about the manufacturer or the butter please visit

To sum up, Lurpak does what the manufacturer says on its tub it is a slightly salted butter which is spreadable right after you take it out of the fridge. It has delicious taste and very nice texture. Do we want more? It is rich in fat (80%) which is natural and this makes it so delicious. Those who worry about its high energy content should choose its light version. As we don’t use too much of it I stick to the greasy and tasty version. Highly recommended!

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Christmas 2009 Gift Ideas for Cheese Lovers

Christmas and cheese make a wonderful combination. In England it is traditional to have a whole stilton cheese at Christmas. The English call Stilton “The King of Cheeses” and so your pocket might not run to a whole stilton cheese but, happily, there are lots of gift ideas for the cheese lover in your life.

If you really want to buy your cheese lover Stilton cheese but can’t run to the cost of the traditional size many shops and cheese suppliers make a special miniature sized stilton cheese.

Any cheese lover would appreciate the gift of a cheese hamper or basket. You can buy these ready made but they are rather expensive. It is fun and cheaper to make up your own hamper or basket and you can tailor it to the recipient and your pocket. Cheese goes into your hamper or basket naturally but you could add items that match well with cheese.

If the centre piece of your basket is Stilton cheese, port is the traditional accompaniment. You can buy small or half bottles of port around Christmastime, they may look better in your basket than a large bottle. Other cheeses marry well with wine, your local wine shop should be able to advise you what wines marry well with particular cheeses. Other foods that could go in your basket or hamper are crackers, jars of pickled onions and chutneys and pickles. If you make your own chutney, a jar or two of homemade chutney would make your basket or hamper extra-special.

Interest has revived recently in small artisan and farmhouse cheeses. Artisan cheese makers now supply cheese and cheese related items online by mail order all over the World. It is great to get artisan made cheeses direct from their country of origin. You can also get cheese hampers, baskets and selections from many artisan cheese makers.

A brilliant gift for your cheese lover might be something to serve cheese or something to keep cheese in. A nice cheeseboard, a proper cheese knife or an antique or modern cheese dish or cover may add to a cheese lover’s pleasure.

Cheese is a useful ingredient in many dishes and can make a good meal by itself. A cheese cookery book can give lots of ideas for using cheese in ways that people might not readily think of. A book about the different cheeses in the World or about cheese making might also make a present that will be much appreciated.

Perhaps your cheese lover would like to make his or her own cheese? Cheese making kits are available from various on line suppliers. Several kits are available from Moorlands Cheese makers.

If your pockets are large, a trip to visit an artisan cheese maker, either in the recipient’s own country or abroad may prove a popular gift for your cheese lover.

Cheese is an integral part of Christmas. Cheese lovers would enjoy a Christmas gift embodying their love of cheese.

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Christmas Rum Balls

I like this story because it is true. I worked at Springs Industries for 25 years. It started out as Regent Mills and then changed hands. This is in Calhoun, GA. I worked in the dye house stacking rugs and then moved to dye weigher and kept it up for 17 years. I had a friend who worked on first shift named Irene Colfax. She made a lot of Christmas candy and one recipe was for was rum balls. I talked her into giving me the recipe.

Well, I had never done any cooking with rum or any other kind of alcohol so when the recipe called for rum, that is what I used. My first husband was a drinker and it just so happened that he had some 151 Rum for mixed drinks and I sneaked out 1/2 cup for the candy. I mixed everything up and put it in a tin Christmas box for the flavors to meld until the Chrismas party at work. When I opened the box to sample one, the fumes almost knocked me down. Since it was a party, we just ate them anyway. We all were a little tipsy by the time the party was over. I never made them again for a Christmas party. 

Needless to say, I  don’t use 151 rum anymore for Christmas cooking. I found a cooking rum to use and then I found rum flavoring for the kids.


5 cups of vanilla wafer crumbs or graham cracker crumbs

1 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts

1 cup confection sugar

1/2 cup of rum or brandy*

1/4 cup of Karo syrup

2 Tbs. cocoa

Combine all ingredients and mix well with your hands. Shape into  balls and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

Roll in confection sugar and store in a Christmas tin for about a week and serve. I make them the day after Thanksgiving and let them sit until Christmas.

 * mix 1 tsp. rum flavoring in 1/2 cup of warm water instead of the rum for the kids.

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Casual Dining near the Outlet Mall

 It was just one of those Saturdays at the cottage and we decided to take a ride down to the outlet malls in Tannersville. I knew that there was a brew pub somewhere in the area and I decided that this was where we were going to eat. Had I done a little research I would have realized that Barley Creek have a tour of their operation at 12:30 on Saturday and I would have made sure that I was there for the tour. As it was we arrived at 1pm.  

The interior of the building is open with exposed beams and ductwork. There is a large dining room, a smaller area near the door and a bar area with lots of TV’s. Since it is a brew pub my husband  had to try a beer. He ordered the Navigator Pale Ale. I took a sip which is all I can have and found it way to light for me. There was a taste I didn’t like and I would describe as metallic. Maybe the copper from the tanks is leaching into the beer? I don’t know but that was not a good beer in my opinion. They do however have more robust options as well as seasonal brews.

The menu is pretty good sized but strangely I had a hard time finding something to order. The cost of most of the meals was high and this was after all lunch not dinner. My husband ordered a steak and had it served with French fries. He also got a tossed salad with good balsamic vinaigrette.  I ended up getting wings and a side Caesar salad. They have a reasonable selection of appetizers, sandwiches and entrees.

The Caesar was okay but it had onion and tomato in it. I have had this happen before in Pennsylvania, it always surprises me. The lettuce was a funny texture too as if some of it had been frozen perhaps, not quite sure but most of it was fine. The wings were well cooked and when I could taste it the honey mustard was good. I would try the wings again but maybe the Buffalo style.  

Al’s steak was a little under cooked. He ordered medium rare and it was definitely rare. It was well seasoned so he preferred to eat it as is to sending it back. The fries were nothing extraordinary.

Service was okay, she certainly didn’t hover but she did check back in with us once to make sure everything was alright. 

This is a good place to eat if you are in the area, especially if you are visiting Camelback Ski Area which is right on the same road. There are not a lot of choices in the area.  The entrees here are priced from $13.95 to $23.95.

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Bubble Pizza

Menu planning in my family is fraught with picky eaters, special diets and food restrictions.  Therefore, when I finally find a recipe that works for all of us, I cling to it tightly.  It gets printed and put in my special recipe book and eventually, it usually becomes engraved on my brain.  Bubble pizza is one of those recipes for me.  It’s very easy to make, is light on the budget, makes for great leftovers and the kids love it.  I couldn’t ask for anything more in a recipe.  This is the perfect recipe for a busy weeknight filled with sports, homework and other various chores. 


2 rolls of refrigerated biscuits

1 can pizza sauce

1 8 ounce package of shredded Mozzarella cheese

Assorted Italian seasonings to taste (such as garlic powder, oregano or basil)

Optional toppings like pepperoni, ham, peppers, onions, sausage or chicken

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.

Open the biscuits and tear them into quarters, tossing in the pan to evenly cover the bottom.

Pour sauce over biscuits and season with the Italian seasonings.

Top with shredded Mozzarella cheese and any other toppings that you have chosen.

Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling.

My 10 year old son often asks to help make this meal.  It is definitely a recipe that can be done with the help of children.  They feel very useful and it cuts down on the work I have to do, a perfect arrangement if you ask me. I usually serve this dish with a tossed salad because it doesn’t need much else to accompany all of its hot, gooey, melted, cheesy goodness. Enjoy!

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Best Brands of Rum

For most North Americans, rum suffers from a conundrum of its own making. Outside of certain pockets of United States territory around the Gulf of Mexico and in the usual big-city specialty bars and upscale liquor stores, the selection of limited-edition, reserve-quality Caribbean rums dries up north of the Tropic of Cancer.

Part of the issue is logistical: north of Orlando, the climate quickly chills to prohibit the cultivation of the cane sugar necessary to the production of excellent rum. As rum production is relatively time- and labor-intensive, it makes no sense to import raw materials on a large scale to distilleries closer to big American population centers; the finished product keeps better in ships’ holds anyway. Noted rum distilleries do exist in Florida and around New Orleans (a historical hub for the spirit), but these use mostly domestic South Florida cane sugar, produce in relatively small batches, and cater either to savvy local customers or more upscale aficionados.

Part of the issue is cultural: the popular light and spiced varieties of rum offer comparatively inoffensive taste profiles, which would normally be a key selling point for the massive casual-drinker demographic. The strength and complexity of tequilas, whiskeys and even gins turns off the “crossover” drinkers, the folks who tend to prefer beer or wine but might sneak a cocktail or rocks-drink on occasions for celebration. But rum’s smoothness is a double-edged sword—most palettes fail to establish a meaningful distinction between light (un-spiced) rums and vodkas, and for those that do, it’s often the case that even the most complex rums taste sweet and unfinished next to the dry polish of quality vodkas. It may be that casual American drinkers detect something “exotic,” something a bit too sickly-sweet, in the liquor’s aftertaste; it may be that its frequently reinforced association with lecherous pirates, ethnic “others” and Johnny Depp in drag rubs the collective subconscious of the well-heeled the wrong way. Pending a definitive ethnological work, the precise causes of the temperate-belt bourgeoisie’s collective refusal to consume reserve-quality rums on a meaningful scale will remain mysterious.

Whatever the reasons for rum’s failure to penetrate the lucrative North American top-shelf market, the lack of demand for quality—and thus of upward price pressure—has reduced any incentive the Caribbean reservists might have had either to expand their distribution networks northward or to set up satellite distilleries in the U.S. And Canada. But it hasn’t reduced the profit motive for certain Caribbean producers. Rum’s aromatic simplicity and suitability for mixing seems to resonate with younger high-volume drinkers (read: college students), who tend to consume several drinks in single sittings of certain preferred brands of liquor and thus make great customers. Unlike their older counterparts, these young drinkers also tend to prefer sweet or flavored drinks. This has created a perfect fold into which a number of mostly Puerto Rican—due to the island’s status as a preferred trade partner of the United States—distilling companies have stepped. It’s no coincidence that all of the following brands top-selling products are either spiced or flavored. This is a symptom, not a cause, of the peculiar mass-market woe which afflicts the extra-tropical rum business.

Before the list, a few general notes are in order. As is the case with vodka and whiskey, the American rum market can be surprisingly localized, with many brands appearing in circumscribed geographic areas (Rondiaz in the upper Great Lakes, Ronrigo in the northeastern U.S., and so forth). Because they’re made by generic distilleries which strive to produce large batches of multiple spirits, these brands generally don’t make it on “best-of” lists. Likewise, many of the better-quality import brands featured here are large operations which release multiple varieties of rum, sometimes under different labels. This will be noted, where appropriate, and each listing will be comprehensive, but particular weight will be given to two or three superior varieties within each brand. Lastly, and in keeping with the “bigger is better” theme, it’s important to note the following. As in many other consumer products industries in which quality is key and protocols and procedures are closely guarded, even the biggest of the Caribbean distilleries operate on a “keep the best, sell the rest” basis. More than that, North American tastes differ in important ways from those of Latin America and the Caribbean. As such, some of the flavored beverages some of the bigger concerns send northward resemble rum only tenuously. Nonetheless, they are acknowledged varieties of the spirit and and deserve mention.

Admiral Nelson: One hesitates to include this bitter, forgettable spiced dark rum on any list whatsoever, but for sheer value alone it’s worthy of a mention. The name is a riff on the more popular (and pricier) “Captain Morgan” label, and rightfully so: the Admiral is basically the Captain with less artfully-blended spice that fails to fully conceal a chemical aftertaste. But it is a good value, coming in at several dollars cheaper for a comparably-sized bottle, and thus is a favorite of the college crowd. Good—some would say essential, if it’s to be tolerated at all—for mixing. Best bang for the buck: Mercifully, there’s only one variety of the Admiral so far.

Bacardi: The most popular rum brand by sales and probably the most widely-known, Bacardi makes a number of different varieties of the spirit at low-mid price points. Although at this point the concern makes most of its money from its half-dozen or more flavored rums (there are already apple, melon, coconut, raspberry, orange, peach, and lemon, with more in the pipeline), Bacardi can at least pride itself on abstaining from the spiced-rum craze. And the vestiges of what once must have been a noble mission remain in Bacardi’s Gold and 8 Year varieties, two darker, un-spiced rums that offer the intrepid novice a taste of higher quality without the sticker shock. Best bang for the buck: Bacardi 8 Year. Rich and dark, without the harshly sweet aftertaste younger drinkers have come to associate with inferior rums, it can be found on the top shelf of the rum section at larger liquor stores.

Captain Morgan: Where Bacardi targets female twentysomethings with growing disposable incomes with its sickly-sweet flavored concoction, Captain Morgan harnesses its surprisingly potent spices in its quest to open the wallets of their suitors. Its aggressive new “Calling All Captains” ad campaign strokes the egos of male under- and post-graduates, encouraging these volatile youngsters to binge on its single spiced product (one now-discontinued commercial featured a young man preparing for a night of drinking by smell-testing a shirt he’d worn on the previous three nights’ consecutive drunks). The Captain is the Budweiser of rums: palatable but not delicious, affordable but intentionally not cheap, and studiously consistent in taste and composition. To the extent that niches exist in the world of mass-market rums, Captain Morgan seems intent on grabbing a piece—the success of its recently-released “Lime Bite” will be closely watched by others in the industry. Best bang for the buck: Classic Captain Morgan, although new releases coming down the pipe might surprise to the upside.

Castillo: Another of the spiced Puerto Rican majors, Castillo finds itself perennially overshadowed by the Captain. This is too bad. By every objective measure, Castillo is superior. Its spices are more delicately balanced, less bludgeoning, than the Captain or the Admiral; its body and back-taste are richer and smoother; its aftertaste is pleasant and organic; and its burn is survivable. Indeed, it’s probably the only mass-market spiced rum that doesn’t beg a mixer or chaser. For whatever reason, Castillo seems content to fly under the radar, with almost zero advertising visibility in North America. It’s certainly not for lack of business—drinkers who appreciate the difference tend to stick with Castillo when it’s available. Best bang for the buck: Castillo Spiced. Several imitations exist, including a white and some flavored varieties, so be careful and follow the name to the second shelf from the top.

Parrot Bay: Both an “upmarket” answer to Bacardi’s flavored repertoire and a “rum drinker’s” alternative to the diluted frivolousness of the Malibu family, Parrot Bay is working on expanding its line of fruity rum derivatives. Most drinkers agree that as a rum Parrot Bay is overpriced, but enough mid-market consumers are willing to pay a premium for this drier and more delicately-mixed option. The added flavors of this particular brand of spirit—even the sickly-sweet coconut variety—don’t linger on the tongue unpleasantly as in Malibu or certain Bacardi varieties, making for a more “mature” rum drinking experience. Half-full Parrot Bay bottles thus haunt the top shelves of hotel bars, wedding parties and other establishments where timid casual drinkers either don’t care that they’re being ripped off or aren’t paying for their drinks in the first place. Best bang for the buck: Mango. Drinkable but ultimately uninspired and strangely lacking in value, Parrot Bay is best consumed as part of a fruity cocktail.

Sailor Jerry’s: The black sheep scion of the spiced rum family, this under appreciated offering surpasses the more popular spiced brands in flavor, body and drinkability. Jerry has been gaining market share for the past decade; its distinctive packaging and no-advertising cachet make it a hipster favorite. It’s also the best neat rum of the widely-available spiced varieties; most regular Jerry drinkers prefer it straight or on the rocks. A word of caution, though: this rum is a bit stronger than the others and its smoothness can be deceptive. Enjoy carefully. Best bang for the buck: Sailor Jerry’s, period. It’s a bargain compared to the Captain and it tastes better too.

1. The world's 10 best-selling rum brands – The Spirits Business
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3. Top 10 Rums | Gayot

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