It was a dark 'n’ stormy night, probably because we had too many of these potent cocktails. But why is it named after the opening of a scary story? Turns out, there’s a long, twisty history to this drink involving the Bermuda triangle and several lawsuits. This is the kind of stuff they should write sea shanties about (and probably have).
There’s only one way to make a Dark ‘n’ Stormy cocktail, according to the law -- four to five ounces of ginger beer (a spicier, less fizzy cousin of ginger ale) and one and a half ounces of Gosling’s Black Seal rum are layered in a highball glass with a wedge of lime on the side (that part is optional). They go down easier than a sinking ship.
About those sinking ships -- Bermuda is well known for it’s sailors’ no-man’s-land, the Bermuda Triangle, where ships disappear off the map. That’s where this story begins.
One ship that did make it through was the Mercury, helmed by Captain James Gosling. In 1806, Gosling left England on the Mercury, America-bound. The Mercury was becalmed off the coast of Bermuda, though, and its charter expired after three months at sea. Gosling settled in Bermuda instead of finishing the trip to America.
Gosling, who was from a family of liquor sellers (and whose ship was carrying a ship full of wine and spirits) eventually started a family liquor business in Bermuda. In 1860, they began importing rum.
Back then, liquor was BYOB -- literally bring your own bottle. During World War I, empty champagne bottles from Royal Navy Officers’ mess halls were filled, corked and sealed with black wax. People would then request “Black Seal” rum, the brand the Goslings company is known for.
As for the cocktail, that came about when, legend has it, a British officer mixed ginger beer -- a popular drink amongst British sailors for its seasickness-curing powers -- with rum, around World War I.
The name comes from another sailor, who said, “It’s the color of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under.” A drink was born.
The Gosling family has been quite protective of this signature cocktail mix, trademarking the name and even getting litigious with mixologists who dare to sub in a different liquor but call it a Dark ‘n’ Stormy. In 2012, a blog was ordered a cease and desist for doing just that.
If you ever see a Safe Harbor on the menu, it’s probably the same drink, but just Gosling's-free. That way, no one gets sued. *wink wink*
A staple of fetes surrounding the America’s Cup yacht race, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy is also the unofficial drink of Bermuda. The Gosling family still owns a store on Front Street in Hamilton, Bermuda. They have several other types of rum, too, as well as their own blend of ginger beer, but legally, you can use whichever brand you like.
Next time you imbibe this drink, raise a glass to Capn’ Gosling for his delicious rum, and those boozy Brits who just threw what they had around in a glass and it will be smooth sailing from here on out.
TL; DR: Gosling's Dark Rum, a Bermuda specialty, is the only way to make a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, according to their lawyers.