A good friend brought over a bottle of Different Drum, which he'd somehow snapped up in a truly insane rush to order the first 1,500 bottles. After a first tasting, he decided that he wanted to try it in a cocktail. I was happy to oblige!
This is funky stuff - rich, smooth, slightly sweet, redolent of roasted coffee. A lot like a quality coffee liqueur but without that cloying sugar component. I dig it, although I think it really shines when paired with another base. Like so:
1 1/4 oz Different Drum rum
1 oz armagnac brandy (I used Tariquet VS Bas-Armagnac; a mild bourbon would work too)
1/2 oz red vermouth (Primitivo Quiles again)
1/4 oz Licor 43 (you could scale this back or omit entirely depending on your taste)
1 dash Fee Brothers Black Walnut bitters
1 dash orange bitters (Regan's No. 6)
Stir and strain into a cocktail glass; garnish with a strip of orange peel.
This wound up being the winner in our small tasting group; it's a Manhattan-esque sipper (or more properly a Saratoga Cocktail) that highlights the flavor of the Drum without letting it dominate everything else. But I also wanted to try something less spirit-forward, resulting in this take on a Dark & Stormy:
Drumming in the Dark:
2 oz Different Drum rum
1/2 oz Mathilde Poire liqueur
1/2 lime juice
2-3 oz ginger beer (Reed's Extra Ginger is my favorite)
Shake the first three ingredients and strain over fresh ice; top with the ginger beer, stir, and garnish with a lime wheel.
Overall, I'm sold. Different Drum seems like a solid and interesting way to bring coffee flavor into cocktails without the added sweetness of coffee liqueurs. I'm not sure about the tagline ("A rum for the bourbon drinker") as it seems more like a rum for the espresso aficionado, but I like both those things so it works out.
Be warned, this clearly isn't a simple substitution for other rums, whiskeys, or what-have-you. This occupies a place in my mind next to quality spiced rums (Sailor Jerry's all the way) and overproof dark rums (like Lemon Hart 151): too potent to use as a base in a simple cocktail, but bringing very unique flavors for which it's tough to substitute. Also, Different Drum only seems to be available direct from the La Colombe distillery, so don't go seeking it out at your local liquor store.