Pairing different foods with drinks that complement them well is quite a skill, and it’s one that was on display at the The Kraken Rum “Step Into The Dark” tasting event last week in New Orleans. Part of the city-wide Tales of the Cocktail series, this event saw Kraken take over Napoleon House for a night, pairing a variety of cocktails with bites from chef Stephen Sandoval of Sueños X Soho Friends in Chicago. Oh, and the tasting experience was in a darkened room, and made darker still with blindfolds, emphasizing the sensations of touch and taste over sight and adding to Kraken’s ongoing “Step Into The Dark” marketing campaign.
This started with a reception area, featuring Dark Daquiris (original Kraken rum, lime juice, simple syrup) and a hibiscus-infused honeydew-avocado gazpacho with basil, heirloom tomatoes, and coconut fat. (It also featured a giant inflatable Kraken.) Then, the tasting experience proper began with an oyster with cantaloupe, morita chile, and jamon iberico fat. The chile gave the oyster a nice kick, pairing well with the Sea Mail cocktail (original Kraken rum, honey syrup, lime juice, topped with prosecco and a Luxardo cherry). After that came an anchovy tostada, with duck liver mousse, pickled Fresno chiles, and avocado; that was paired with a Honey Suckler cocktail, featuring original Kraken rum, honey syrup, lemon juice, and sage.
The final course of the tasting experience was a duck surado (a particular smooth cut) rillete (a particular kind of submerged-in-fat slow cooking), featuring esquite (street corn served as salad) puree, avocado, micro cilantro, and burnt lime powder. This was especially delicious, and came with a Down With A Sip cocktail, made with Kraken Black Roast coffee rum, Campari, sweet vermouth, and chocolate bitters, garnished with orange peels. Following that, a post-event reception included yellowfin tostada and pulpo (octopus) skewers.
A notable part of this experience was how well the cocktails were coordinated with each food offering. The first three cocktails were variations on the theme of original Kraken rum with citrus juice, but with enough differences to accentuate the foods they were pairing with. The Dark Daquiris were strongly citrus, which worked well against the creamy gazpacho, while the Sea Mail and Honey Suckler were sweeter thanks to the honey syrup, and they offset the savory oyster and duck liver flavors well.
The most outstanding pairing was the Down With A Sip with the duck surado rillete. Rum isn’t necessarily the first spirit that comes to mind for a cocktail with vermouth and Campari, but this particular coffee rum worked very well there (and is also featured in Kraken’s espresso martini, which has some similarities), and the cocktail as a whole paired very well with the dish, which had its own great combination of duck, corn, avocado and cilantro flavors.
Overall, this was an impressive event, and one that showed off the variety of Kraken’s offerings and how they can pair with different foods. This fits into the wider cocktail emphasis they’re developing, including a long list of cocktail recipes on their site and their new canned cocktail products (Kraken and Cola, Kraken and Ginger Beer, and Kraken Rum Punch). And the blindfolded aspect and “Step Into The Dark” messaging fits with the branding they’ve used, which they’re further showing off with special Kraken Attacks bottles (including one in partnership with the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, which is a perfect fit). We’ll see where they go from here with the cocktail focus in particular, but for those who enjoy good cocktails with food, there might be some options to consider on their list.