There’s Only One Way to Make a Dark ‘n’ Stormy Without Breaking the Law

The cocktail has a surprising, and litigious history

spilled cocktail
237/Robert Daly/Ocean/Corbis

A visit to any bar is likely to offer a chance to taste that establishment’s version of classic and trending cocktails along with some special to that location. But putting a local spin on one drink, the Dark ’n’ Stormy, is actually prohibited by law, Jared Keller reports for Maxim

He writes:

The cocktail has been under the stewardship of Bermudan rum distributor Gosling Brothers Limited since its inception at the close of World War I. According to the company, British sailors on shore leave at the island were “big fans” of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and developed the cocktail by mixing the dark liquor with homemade ginger beer. The name allegedly came after a British soldier observing that the concoction resembled “the color of a cloud that only a fool or a dead man would sail under."

Gosling hold two certificates at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that specify exactly how to make the drink: One and a half ounces of Gosling’s Black Seal, a dark rum, topped with ginger beer in a highball glass. There is the option to run a lime around the rim of the glass and drop it in. But substituting a different rum, for example, directly violates the official, certified recipe.

And the company actively defends that trademark, Keller reports. In 2009, it went after another rum distributor who tried to offer their rum as an alternative. In 2012, a mixology blog earned a cease and desist letter when the writer suggested using a cheaper rum than Gosling’s. The company's owner E. Malcolm Gosling Jr. argues that these fights are more than about just money. A 2009 article in The New York Times by Jonathan Miles explains:

Gosling’s Black Seal — as dark as motor oil and with a distinctively charred flavor — tastes like no other rum, in the way that Campari tastes like no other digestif. In a further effort to sanctify the formula, Gosling’s created its own brand of ginger beer, in May, called Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer. This came after years of an unofficial partnership with Barritt’s, a Bermudan brand of ginger beer; Mr. Gosling declined to characterize the nature of the split, but said no specific ginger beer was ever cited in the company’s trademark registrations. “We would never tie ourselves down that tightly,” he said.

Some bartenders find the practice distasteful and anathema to the creativity in mixology, but The Dark ’n’ Stormy isn’t the only trademarked drink, reports Chantal Martineau for The Atlantic. The Painkiller cocktail is trademarked by Pusser’s, a rum distiller in the British Virgin Islands, and Tropical Isle store in New Orleans has trademarked the Hand Grenade.

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