It was 40 years ago this week that Gosling’s rum in Bermuda took the bold step of trademarking the island’s drink, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy. To celebrate this anniversary, we delve into the cocktail’s history and show you how to make the perfect one, with Gosling’s Black Seal rum, naturally.

Cocktail history can be pretty hard to get to the bottom of. Think of all the competing stories about the origins of the Margarita. Mix tall stories with alcohol and you get a whole world of confusion. To be honest, with most cocktails, we don’t know for certain when they were invented, by whom, how and even why. The Dark ‘n’ Stormy is different as there’s actually a foundation date, 9 June 1980, that’s 40 years ago this week. This was the date that Gosling’s trademarked its signature cocktail. 

As Malcolm Gosling puts it: “While in Europe, food and drink products can be granted Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication accreditation to stop them being appropriated, abused and misused, Bermuda has no such thing. With the popularity of Bermuda and the Dark ‘n’ Stormy® growing in the late ’70s, we felt it was vital that we started the process of protecting our heritage around this special drink.”

Gets our seal of approval, arff, arff

It’s been something of a mixed blessing for the firm ever since because on the plus point, it has its very own cocktail, no other rum brand has that. But at the same time, the family has to decide whether to send in the lawyers whenever someone advertises its cocktail with a different rum or creates a ‘Dark and Stormzy’ or suchlike. What would be in a Dark and Stormzy? The mind boggles.

Anyway, I digress. According to the press bumf, the name of the drinks comes from: “when an old salt observed that the rum floating on top of the ginger beer was the ‘colour of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under’”. Mmmm, well maybe, or perhaps it came from the timeless opening line of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 novel Paul Clifford: “it was a dark and stormy night.” A line that has become the classic way to open a shaggy dog story, so apt for delving into cocktail history.

According to Gosling’s lore, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy was invented in the early 1920s by the British officer’s mess in Bermuda. They added Gosling’s Black Seal to their own homemade ginger beer and thus a classic was born. Now, rum and ginger have a rich history together, think of punches. And whisky and ginger has been drunk for years so it seems unlikely that nobody had ever mixed rum with ginger beer before those British officers. But of course,  Gosling’s is trademarking the name, not the drink. Any rum can be in a rum and ginger, but only Gosling’s Black Seal can be in a Dark ‘n’ Stormy. As Malcolm Gosling eloquently puts it: “Fair enough, mix any rum and ginger beer you want but if it doesn’t have Gosling’s, don’t call it Dark ‘n’ Stormy®!”

The Gosling’s begins in 1806 when English merchant James Gosling left for America. He stopped in Bermuda and liked it so much that he decided to stay on to sell wines and spirits. The family has been there ever since. His rum blend dates back to the 1850s when it was sold from the barrel. Around the time of the first world war, it began to be bottled for sale, in used Champagne bottles from the officer’s mess, and sealed with black wax, hence the name. The business is run by the seventh generation of the Gosling family.

A pretty two-layered effect

Luckily for cocktail lovers, Gosling’s Black Seal is an extremely nice rum. It’s a classic navy-style blend made with a mixture of pot and continuous still rums from around the Caribbean. There’s plenty of proper aged rum and the sweetness is the perfect foil to. . .  yes, you’ve guessed it. . . ginger beer. And happily, Gosling’s makes its own special version (there’s even a premixed can for when you want a Dark ‘n’ Stormy on the move.) The final ingredient is lime. In the classic recipe, below, it’s just a wedge but some versions call from lime juice as well and even Angostura bitters. Heresy! A nice upgrade, however, if you’re feeling lively, is a tablespoon full of overproof rum on the top. Gosling’s, naturally. 

Right, here’s how to make a Dark ‘n’ Stormy. Don’t forget the ®!

50ml Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
75ml Gosling’s ginger beer

Fill a Highball glass with ice and add the ginger beer. Pour the Gosling’s Black Seal over the top for a pretty two-level effect and garnish with a lime wedge.

Everything you need including the glass is in this special Dark ‘n’ Stormy bundle from Master of Malt.