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Rum with a Pinoy-Polish connection

By CHERYL TIU, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 20, 2021 4:00 pm

Alexandra Dorda launched Kasama Rum in the middle of a global pandemic. The 29-year-old Filipino-Polish-American entrepreneur had been working on launching the small-batch “sunshine spirit” for over two years.

“We thought long and hard about if this was the right decision,” she discloses. “Ultimately, we want to be able to bring a taste of sunshine and a reminder for brighter days. It’s a small gesture in these very difficult times, but we’re hoping to be a drink people can look forward to at the end of a long day.”

It may seem as though Alexandra is a new entrant to the beverage industry. On the contrary, it’s in her DNA. Her father, Tad Dorda, founded both Belvedere Vodka and Chopin Vodka in the early ’90s. “My father is truly a pioneer in the vodka category and has spent years trying to change the general perception of vodka and highlight Polish vodka in particular,” Alexandra shares.

While Belvedere is now part of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton portfolio, the Dorda family maintains ownership of Chopin Vodka, which is celebrated as one of the world’s most luxurious vodkas.

Filipino/Polish/American entrepreneur Alexandra Dorda, founder of Kasama Rum

Growing up between Poland and California, with frequent holidays to the Philippines (her mother hails from Quezon City), Alexandra was involved in the family business from a young age. “My parents took me everywhere with them, including work,” she remembers. “Every time we went to a restaurant, my dad would take me to the bar to meet the bartender, see if our products were stocked, and check out the cocktail menu. As the years progressed, I began helping at food festivals and did tastings in liquor stores after work.”

She pursued an international relations degree at Stanford University, and after graduating in 2013, took on a marketing position at Chobani Yogurt in New York City. She moved back to Poland in 2015 and worked full-time at Chopin, focusing on marketing and new product development.

Wanting to gain more experience outside of the spirits industry, she joined a private equity firm's investment team a year later. “But I found myself drawn back to my roots,” she muses. “I couldn’t stop dreaming up new brands, and I actually developed Kasama on the side while working there. I left my job late last year to pursue it full-time.”

The only Filipino rum bottled in Poland

A lightbulb went off when she first learned about the rich history of rum production in the Philippines. “I realized that I could create the kind of rum that I wanted while also celebrating the Filipino heritage that I am so proud of.”

Kasama is produced from noble sugarcane, distilled by column stills, and aged for seven years in ex-bourbon American oak barrels in Luzon. The rum is then transported to the Dorda family’s distillery in Poland for bottling. “It is safe to say that Kasama is the only Filipino rum that is bottled in Poland, and I love that I get to connect my two cultures in this unique way.”

The attitude of optimism

Butterscotch, vanilla, sweet pineapple, and a pinch of sea salt make up Kasama’s light and approachable flavor profile. This is in sync with its vibrant packaging: tropical plants, a modern interpretation of the ancient Tagalog script, Baybayin, a winking sun inspired by the Philippine flag — basically, a love letter from the Philippines — which was designed in partnership with Manila-based branding agency Serious Studio.

 Kasama Rum is the newest Philippine-made rum, bottled in Poland and currently available in the United States. Alexandra is currently working on making Kasama Rum available in the Philippines.

“Kasama is meant to celebrate the heart and soul of the Philippines,” Alexandra explains. “It is rooted in the celebration of good times with equally good company, and the name fit that ethos perfectly. Even though gatherings don’t look like what they used to right now, Kasama aims to bring the attitude of optimism associated with island life straight to your glass.”

Currently, Kasama is available in the United States (Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, and Missouri, Nevada, New York, Texas, and Washington, DC). Alexandra, who splits her time between Warsaw and the US, is working on making Kasama Rum available in the Philippines soon.

“My goal with Kasama is to bring a breath of fresh air, both in branding and palate, to the rum market, while showing a global audience everything that our islands have to offer.”

Rum cocktails that pair well with Pinoy food

One of my favorite recipes to make is actually a twist on a daiquiri with calamansi juice instead of lime juice,” says Alexandra. “I’m also a big fan of quick, two-ingredient cocktails, and like to mix Kasama with coconut water, pineapple juice, watermelon juice, or lemonade — those have been my quarantine tonics.”

 While Kasama Rum is easily enjoyed as sipping rum, its notes of butterscotch, vanilla, and sweet pineapple make it great for cocktails as well.

Alexandra's easy Filipino daiquiri recipe consists of 40 ml Kasama Rum, 20 ml fresh calamansi juice and 15 ml simple syrup garnished with half a calamansi.

Meanwhile, her two-ingredient Island Fresca combines 1 part Kasama Run and 2 parts coconut water with ice.

She adds that these pair very well with Filipino food. “Some of my favorite dishes are lechon kawali, any kind of inihaw, and sizzling sisig. The salty/sweet/sour flavor profiles of all these dishes pair perfectly with sweet and sour Kasama cocktails.”