All About Brugal 1888, the Long-Awaited Rum Now Available in Texas
Spirits make amazing holiday gifts for those who imbibe. Late this summer, a rum arrived in Texas that merits consideration. Brugal Rum has been around for quite some time. Don Andés Brugal Montaner founded Brugal & Co. in 1888 in Cuba before sailing to the Dominican Republic. That’s where the brand has produced its rums ever since. However, it’s only been recently that you could buy Brugal 1888 Rum in Texas, even though it arrived in the United States in 2012. The company held tasting events around the state in advance of its big debut, and I was given a bottle to play with, as well as some recipes to try.
My first exposure to Brugal was its blanco (white) rum during the annual Tales of the Cocktail event in New Orleans. For a white rum, it’s interesting, as it’s aged in American oak, then filtered through charcoal to regain clarity. During that particular Tales, one of my fondest memories was riding the Brugal Rum Bus, which took us to three different bars in New Orleans. That included one of my favorites, Cure, which would go on to win a James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar in 2018 (beating out Houston’s own Anvil Bar & Refuge, which has been a semi-finalist or nominee something like nine times without winning… but I digress).
Brugal Blanco has been available in Texas for years. However, the Brugal 1888 is a completely different level of complexity and sophistication thanks to being aged in both sherry and bourbon casks. The color is a gorgeous, deep amber, and the tasting notes are true to what’s described by the company: vanilla, toffee, cocoa and a touch of red and dried fruits, such as raisins. It makes an excellent rum old-fashioned and rum espresso martini, but it’s also perfectly fine to sip fireside or on a patio, either neat or maybe with just one rock (and I mean ice).
Simplicity is ideal for this spirit. One of the provided recipes employed simple syrup infused with baking spaces and unfiltered apple juice (my local store was out, so I substituted cider), and all of Brugal 1888’s intricacies were lost. That cocktail could have contained any dark rum and it wouldn’t have mattered. So strong or spicy additions don’t honor the 1888’s balanced flavors. Conversely, the provided rum espresso martini recipe included a stroke of genius: a touch of salt that really brought out the rum’s toffee note. Here’s that recipe:
Brugal Rum Espresso Martini
Courtesy of Brugal Rum; I added some notes
- 1 1/2 ounces Brugal 1888 Rum
- 1 ounce espresso or cold brew concentrate
- 1/2 ounce Mr. Black Cold Brew Liqueur
- 1/2 ounce orgeat (I like Small Hands brand; if you don’t have it, substitute simple syrup or agave)
- A dash of saline (fancy word for “saltwater” — here’s a formula)
Fill a shaker with cubed ice. Add all the ingredients and shake for about 20 seconds. Strain and pour into a martini glass or coupe. (I’m a big advocate for pre-chilling glassware for any sort of martini or variant. I use crushed ice and cold water from my fridge’s icemaker, but if you’re better than I am at planning ahead and have the space, you can keep a few glasses in the refrigerator.)
Only espresso or cold brew concentrate works. Brewed coffee or regular cold brew isn’t strong enough. If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can easily make concentrated cold brew at home from freshly ground coffee beans. It does use a significant supply of coffee beans due to the high ratio of coffee to water needed for sufficient strength.
I noted above that strong flavors will compete with rather than complement this rum. For that reason, while Brugal 1888 makes an excellent Negroni variant, note the swap of gentle Aperol for stridently bitter Campari:
Brugal’s Negroni Sibarita
Courtesy of Brugal Rum; measurements converted to standard from metric
- 1 1/4 ounce Brugal 1888
- 1/2 ounce Aperol
- 1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
- Dash of peach bitters
Add all ingredients and simply stir over ice (ideally a big, clear cube) in an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a grapefruit peel and serve.
Brugal 1888’s production is also unique in that it’s overseen by Jassil Villanueva Quintana, a fifth-generation Brugal family member who, in 2019, was the youngest rum master in the industry — and one of the few women with a high-ranking distillery job.
“We eagerly anticipate sharing the rich heritage and culture of our ultra-premium rum with the Texas community,” said Quintana via a press release. “Known for its profound depth and complexity of flavors, Brugal strikes the perfect balance of versatility and sophistication. It delivers a smoothness that makes it the ultimate spirit for savoring neat or enhancing the full essence of spirit-forward cocktails. I personally love to enjoy our rum while spending time with family and friends or to celebrate life’s big moments – and I am confident that Brugal will be just as loved in Texas as it is in my home in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Plata.”
As of this writing, you should be able to find Brugal 1888 for $50 or less in Houston. Total Wine & More has it listed for $42 and Spec’s for $44. Considering that it’s double-aged, that price point is a sweet spot for adding to a personal liquor collection or giving it as a gift.
If you’d like to read more about Brugal 1888, visit this webpage. In the meantime, I better go get a backup bottle now that I’ve shared one of my new favorite spirits of the year.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.