Latin Spirit

06 Oct 2017
5 min read
Ashela Richard reveals her love of rum and how this is fine spirit is perfectly paired with tonic and Thai food.

“I have worked in the restaurant industry for over a decade in every position — host, server, bartender and manager. After graduating — I gained a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from the University of St. Thomas in 2013 — I promptly moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to pursue my dreams of sharing my love of science and ecosystems with the world. Naturally, I found myself behind the bar quite soon! The spirits we love to use in the bar industry are intrinsically connected to our ecosystems, driving the unique characteristics that define them. I’m constantly learning about spirits, and sharing knowledge in the science of rum-production is a story I’m truly passionate about.

Drinking rum stirs memories. It takes me back to 2006 when I left St. Paul, Minnesota, to escape a couple weeks of our famously bitter-cold winter. I had a trip to Roatan, Honduras, coming up in the January to get SCUBA certified. My very first ocean drive instructor, Kaya, took me to an unnamed bar in the small fishing town on the east end of Roatan called Oak Ridge. When we get to the bar, I was determined to drink what the locals did and I soon found that the locals enjoyed two things: local lager and Flor de Caña rum. There they drink rum on ice, or with coke, but mostly just on ice. That was my first introduction to Flor de Caña. Now, a decade later, I live in San Francisco. As the brand ambassador for Flor de Caña I get to travel around sharing my love of rum and the beautiful memory of my first time I adventured in Central America.

A few of my favourite things to mix into Flor de Caña cocktails are honey, citrus, brandies, sherry and tea. However, my favourite drink right now is rum and tonic. There are so many specialty tonics out there and bartenders are making their own tonic syrups, too. I find that the bitter notes of the quinine in tonic pair beautifully with the floral, vegetal notes of our mineral driven rum.  Flor de Caña is a Single Estate rum — our distillery is about 30 miles off the coast of Nicaragua nestled between the Pacific Ocean and some of the youngest, most active volcanoes in the world. All of the sugarcane that our rum comes from is grown in Nicaragua. Our unique terroir produces a rum that is mineral driven and a beautiful expression of the land in Nicaragua. We also age all of our rums a minimum of four years in American oak barrels that were previously filled with bourbon. The terroir and the aging process add minerality and notes of orange peel, baking spices, coconut and tannins to our rum.

There are a lot of great varieties of rum in the Flor de Caña portfolio, a little something for everyone. I always tell people to start off with the Flor de Caña 7, which is dry, rich and round with flavours of fig, vanilla, oak and toasted coconuts — great for well-balanced premium cocktails, and is also a great rum for sipping on. I believe that with all aged spirits, it’s best to start your adventure with some of the younger marques so you can start to understand the complexities of the base ingredients, in our case: molasses. Then as you move through the marques you are able to see how the interaction with the barrel over time changes the liquid. For those who prefer the older, complex aged spirits, a great option is the indulgent Centenario 25, the older, more delicate blend in the portfolio is perfect for sipping with a twist of orange. I love the rich palate of honey, grilled pineapple and roasted banana — a sweet long finish!

One of my favourite drink formats for parties is a punch bowl. The term “punch” is kind of loaded, especially when talking about rum. When I say punch, I mean a mixture of Flor de Caña with some sort of citrus, spice, sweet component and water (usually ice). Punch to me is a sophisticated mix of flavours, not a medley of fruit juices. I love using tea in punch because it acts as both the spice and water. One of my all-time favourite tea-punch recipes is Flor de Caña 7 and hibiscus tea with lime juice, pineapple syrup, and grated clove. Punches are a little lower in ABV, so your guests can enjoy a few ladles full.

One of the fun things about being a bartender — though I’m no longer strictly behind the bar — is that you have the opportunity to play around with flavours and mixing spirits. Developing ideas for flavour profiles in cocktails is not that straightforward, the ingredients are usually in liquid form, so once they’re mixed there’s no going back. Cocktails are like science experiments, sometimes you can hypothesise exactly what the outcome will be and sometimes you’re completely wrong.

I always recommend exploring ideas, but encourage getting to know the spirits, liqueurs, vermouths and mixers you plan on using before you mix them. That way you’re making informed decisions on what you’re putting together. A great cocktail to start with is a hand-shaken daiquiri: 2 parts Flor de Caña 7, ¾ part fresh squeezed lime juice and ½ part simple syrup.

I love pairing spirits and cocktails with food. Food and beverages both influence your palate, and the beauty of pairing both goes way beyond just wine. The concept of terroir also applies to many spirits, especially those that are single estate. Being single estate means that all of the base ingredients were grown in a single geographic region. For Flor de Caña, single estate is what drives the quality of our rum because all of our molasses that we distil our rum from is grown in Nicaragua in its nutrient-rich, volcanic soil. I love making cocktails with our Flor de Caña 7 and vermouth especially for pairing with food (imagine a rum Manhattan). Our sipping rums are also great with food, when I sip our Flor de Caña 18 I specifically taste notes of green cardamom, I think it pairs especially well with Thai food.”


Scallop crudo, black olive and lemon and jalapeño ice

A fresh dish with a touch of herb that marries well with the delicate sweetness of the scallop, while not overpowering.

Dill Or No Dill

A full-bodied and smooth Flor de Caña Centenario 12 rum, fresh dill, cucumber and jalapeño.


Berkshire pork chop, piccalilli, black pudding, crackling and apple sauce

A slightly sweet fall cocktail that complements the richness of the pork and the saltiness of the pudding.

Along Came a Cider

Featuring an extra-smooth and full-bodied Flor de Caña Gran Reserva 7 rum, apple cider, lemon and sage.


Long Island duck, plum and shallot preserve and yellow chanterelles

An alcohol forward cocktail that stands up to the rich duck. Subtle notes of plum that carries over from the dish’s plum preserve. The orange bitters add a touch of brightness and is a classic pairing with duck.

Plum Bang

Flor de Caña Añejo Gran Reserva 7 rum, muddled plum, orange bitters, lime.


Banoffee crisp, milk chocolate mousse, peanut and espresso caramel

Perfect pairing of the rich rum and bourbon with the espresso caramel. Cheerios milk and banana with chocolate mousse are friends.

American Cereal Killer

Opting for the semi-sweet, Flor de Caña Centenario 12 rum, Michter’s bourbon, cheerios milk, Madagascar vanilla syrup and angostura bitters.