Underserved is a recurring Y&H feature highlighting the best cocktails you’re not ordering.
What: Quill’s Rum Plum Pum with Ron Zacapa Rum 23, plum vermouth, and Amaro Averna
Where: Quill at The Jefferson, 1200 16th St. NW
What You Should Be Drinking
The Rum Plum Pum, whose name is a play on “The Little Drummer Boy” lyrics, is the kind of cocktail you drink on Christmas Eve when it’s time to put the eggnog away and have a real cocktail. The boozy dark rum drink carries the warming spices commonly associated with fall and the holidays. Those spices come from bartender Sophie Szych’s housemade plum vermouth. Szych started with white wine fortified with rum before emptying a spice drawer: “There’s cinnamon, juniper berries, cloves, coriander, allspice, star anise, vanilla, citrus peel, and a good dose of plum as well,” she says. Szych used gentian root as the bittering agent, which you’ve likely had before because it’s the base of Angostura bitters. The final ingredient is Averna, an ancient Sicilian amaro dating back to 1868.
Why You Should Be Drinking It
The Rum Plum Pum is set up like a Manhattan, which Szych hopes opens imbibers’ minds to trying rum in classic cocktails instead of bourbon or rye. “A lot of people think of rum as a tiki thing, which is great, but it can also be a fantastic component in booze-forward cocktails when subbed in for other spirits,” she says. That being said, the drink is underserved because of traditionalists. “This is a riff on something—and it’s kind of out there—so people say, ‘Thanks but no thanks, I’ll stick to my sweet baby with Basil Hayden’s or Maker’s Mark or whatever.’” Trust Szych. When a woman of Scottish descent steers you away from whiskey, it’s for good reason. The Guatemalan dark rum carries a deep caramel flavor, and once the plum vermouth is stirred into the cocktail, it tastes and smells like a plum cobbler fresh out of the oven.
Photo by Laura Hayes