Long Cool Woman in a Red Dress

Yeah, it’s true: Gin is my longtime BFF. But lately… well, there’s a certain lady in red who’s gotten under my skin.Her name is Hum. She’s like no dame I ever met before. She’s the Jessica Rabbit of liqueurs.

Some say she’s hard to get along with. I gotta say: She does dominate a room. One-on-one, though — oh yeah, she’s something special. I’ll never forget the first time I met her….

It was Rocco who turned my world upside down. Rocco Milano, the head barman at Private/Social. Rocco knows a lot of characters. Rocco gets around. And he ain’t shy about introducing them to his friends.

In January, Rocco was working his usual artistry behind the bar when he saw me grab a stool with a look that said I needed some excitement in my life. That’s what I’m guessing, anyway, because the first thing he did was grab a shot glass and pull a tap and slide the first step toward madness under my nose.

“Try this,” he said. “It is amazing.”

I should have noticed then that Rocco had slipped off the rails himself. He and Hum first got acquainted at Victory in New Orleans, and then he realized he couldn’t get her out of his mind.

I should have noticed it, but I didn’t. I was too mesmerized by the foxy gal in front of me — a lush burst of magenta with a body that spoke volumes.

I picked her up and right away I knew I was in over my head. The pungency of ginger swaddled in fruity spice and the red blaze of hibiscus. I raised her to my lips and felt her syrupy hello. And then, the bite — tangy, stinging the tongue, then settling into a floral embrace. This Hum wasn’t gonna be no pushover.

Hum’s creators, Chicago’s Adam Seger and London’s Joe McCanta, in the spirit of Italian Amaros, infuse pot still rhum with hibiscus, ginger root, green cardamom and kaffir lime — a blend inspired by the French Caribbean.

* * *

You heard right. Rocco had her on tap. He had captured the red queen — a savvy play made when Hum Spirits contacted him after they heard he’d been looking for her. His Fernet — also on tap — had just run out, and he saw an opportunity.

But he’d also found a way to get Hum to play well with others. Things That Make You Go Hum, he called it — a sublime, frothy mix of Hum, Strega, lemon, simple and egg white, with a touch of absinthe.

Hum has made a huge push here in Dallas in the last few months, and she’s starting to appear in the mix at headier cocktail spots, even if some bartenders aren’t quite sure what to do with her. People’s Last Stand uses it in the vodka-based Lying Beauty, but the first version — later corrected, at my behest — barely let the genie out of the bottle.

At The Cedars Social, Mike Steele craftily partnered her with Buffalo Trace bourbon, grapefruit, honey and Strega. The bourbon proved a worthy partner, letting Hum shine without coming on too strong.

And last month, at The Usual in Fort Worth — I’m obsessed, I tell you — resident genius Juan Solis pulled Hum off the back shelf when I picked her out of the crowd.

He gave the hummingbird-logo’d bottle a good look-over. I was supposed to try this a week ago, he said.

He poured a shot and sipped, then grimaced. What’s in that? he asked.

Juan eyed the ingredients, then tasted it again. I have some ideas, he said. He poured a little of this and that and poked around a smattering of tiny bottles on the counter.

His solution doted on on Hum’s Caribbean flavor: Hum, light rum, lime and simple syrup, with coconut extract and a sprig of mint. It was damn good.

Now, just suppose you’re at my place and you meet a lovely stranger in red. Actually, supposin’s as far as you get: Go buy your own bottle.

— Marc Ramirez

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