The Dark ‘N’ Stormy, that mix of rum, lime juice and ginger beer, is on the short list of rum drinks that everyone at least knows about—even if they can’t recite the recipe from memory. But there is a facet of the Dark ‘N’ Stormy that makes it rather unique in the cocktail world: It can only be legally made with one rum.
Goslings, Bermuda’s best known distillery and makers of Black Seal rum, trademarked the Dark ‘N’ Stormy almost three decades ago.
If anyone can lay claim to the Dark ‘N’ Stormy, it’s probably Goslings. As Malcolm Gosling Jr. recounts, the Dark ‘N’ Stormy supposedly got its name when a Bermuda fisherman, with the concoction in front of him, compared it to “the color of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under.” But even if that story can’t be entirely proven, the drink was created in Bermuda and it was created with Goslings Black Seal rum. The British navy was stationed on the island following World War I and had its own ginger beer bottling plant. At some point in the early period between the wars, sailors began mixing the navy’s product with Gosling’s Black Seal, which was the most plentiful on the island. “[The trademark] is to protect the integrity of the cocktail that has such deep roots to Bermuda going back to the 1920s,” says Gosling. “It isn’t to say other rums can’t be mixed with ginger beer, it’s that It will taste different than the authentic Dark ‘N’ Stormy.”
Let’s be clear: Goslings is not going all undercover shopper in your neighborhood dive bar or tiki haunt to see if its rum is pulled off the shelf every time someone orders a Dark ‘N’ Stormy. But they do keep an eye out for anyone who advertises it on their menu or anywhere else flying a different rum’s flag. In the past they have brought suits against giants like Pernod Ricard, which advertised using Malibu Spiced Rum in a Dark N’ Stormy (notice the tricky use of one apostrophe instead of two in the name of the drink) and sent cease and desist letters to outlets like the cocktail blog Inu Ā Kena for putting together a list of several rums that could be used to make a Dark ‘N’ Stormy.
The other place the trademark comes into play is with canned cocktails. While canned cocktails are now a full-on trend and it seems like everyone who can get their hands on enough aluminum is making them, Goslings was ahead of the curve. They began selling Dark ‘N’ Stormy cans, which taste impressively like what you’d get if you ordered the drink in a bar, in the United States in 2012. At the time, there wasn’t much in the way of competition. But today, if it weren’t for the trademark, liquor store shelves would be brimming with four and six-packs all under the same name. There aren’t, though, and as long as there is a bottle of Goslings rum somewhere in this world, there never will be.
So the next time you’re enjoying a refreshing, spicy mix of rum, ginger beer and lime juice, know that you aren’t just drinking a piece of cocktail history, but a piece of legal history as well.