It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

And so begins a sailor’s tale, torrents of rain and winds agale…

A few weeks ago we purchased ginger beer with the intention of making Dark and Stormy cocktails but after learning the importance of using Gosling’s Black Seal rum, I decided to put the idea on hold until we bought some.

In the US, the name “Dark ‘N Stormy” is a trademark of Gosling Brothers Ltd of Bermuda. Luckily, our local store carries Black Seal having read on Gosling’s website that it “has been one of the finest rums widely unavailable”. Black Seal’s unavailability led to much debate online about substituting another rum, so we’ll test a few from our liquor cabinet to see if anything we have on hand will prove to be an acceptable substitute.

I’ve assembled just about our entire rum collection, but since the Dark and Stormy recipe calls for dark rum, we’ll take the lighter rums out of the equation. We know from previous tastings, for example, that Depaz Rhum Agricole is probably too grassy and Appleton too oaky to mix with ginger beer in our Dark and Stormy cocktail.

Pouring five rum samples side by side, I’m surprised at how uniquely colored they are!


Black Seal neat is dry and smooth with notes of molasses and coffee. While Myers is similar in color, it tastes nothing like Black Seal. We’ve struggled with finding a use for Myers (other than rum cake) and found that its best purpose is to splash it on top of a Mai Tai or our rum sangria. So while Myer’s looks the part, its medicinal overtones make it a poor choice for the Dark and Stormy.

I picked two spiced rums, Kraken and Sailor Jerry, to compare with Black Seal. They both have much more spice flavor with Kraken presenting a vanilla essence and Sailor Jerry revealing caramel notes. In a recipe from Food Network called “Vanilla Dark and Stormy”, vanilla extract is added to the original recipe, and I imagine some of the vanilla spiced rums, including Captain Morgan, would work well in it. For my taste, vanilla and ginger don’t play well together.

It may be unfair to include the fourth rum candidate, Brugal Extra Viejo, because it’s also “widely unavailable” in the US. However, Brugal Anejo is well-distributed so we’ll call this one close enough. The Brugal is mellow and well-balanced and blends really well with the ginger beer. Although it would make a fine substitute for Black Seal, I hate to waste it by diluting it. Better to drink this rum neat or on a couple of rocks.

Thus far unsatisfied with the substitution aspect of our Dark and Stormy lab, I give the old standby, Bacardi Gold, a try. It’s not horrible. No major conflicts of flavor. But it’s lacking in all the subtleties that Black Seal added to the cocktail; burnt caramel, licorice, and the bitterness of coffee. The Dark and Stormy recipe seems to be one of those that brand does matter.


Dark and Stormy Recipe

  • 4 oz. Ginger Beer
  • 1.5 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
  • Lime wedge (optional, I liked it better without)

Pour the chilled ginger beer in a glass over ice. Top with rum and admire the variations in color. Stir, swill, and talk like a pirate, matey.

Published by J Reilly

Boozy Lifestyle: Elevate The Everyday With Booze As Your Muse by Julia Stacey Reilly is available on Follow J Reilly @boozy_lifestyle on Twitter and Instagram.

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