Rum - Diving Into The Popular Caribbean Treat
Pirates had the right idea. Sorta. Sipping rum makes one want to hang near a tropical body of water. But all that robbing and pillaging would really kill the buzz. Before the pirates got their hands on it, rum was an accidental byproduct of the sugar craze during colonial times. Sugar production created huge amounts of molasses. Soon it was discovered the sticky, sweet substance could be fermented and distilled. Then rum took off. It's long been a traditional drink in the Caribbean, but thanks to its popularity amongst sailors, navy men and pirates, it quickly spread across the world.
The first distillation of rum took place on the sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean in the 17th century. Plantation slaves first discovered that molasses, a byproduct of the sugar refining process, could be fermented into alcohol. Later, distillation of these alcoholic byproducts concentrated the alcohol and removed impurities, producing the first true rums. Tradition suggests rum first originated on the island of Barbados.
To support this demand for the molasses to produce rum, along with the increasing demand for sugar in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, a labor source to work the sugar plantations in the Caribbean was needed. A triangular trade was established between Africa, the Caribbean, and the colonies to help support this need. The exchange of slaves, molasses, and rum was quite profitable. But, enough history, let’s get to the rum!
Types of Rum
There are three main types of rum: white, dark, and spiced. Depending on the style, the alcohol content of rum can range from 20 percent alcohol by volume like in coconut rum, to 75.5 percent alcohol by volume like in Bacardi 151. Most of the well known rum brands like Captain Morgan and Bacardi make their own versions of each type of rum, but I’m going to focus my recommendations on better rums by lesser known distilleries.
- Per the name, this rum is clear, light bodied, though often aged very briefly and filtered. It’s best use is for cocktails. Ones to try—Diplomatico Planas, Plantation 3 Stars, El Dorado 3 Year, Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum, Neisson Rhum Blanc, Flor De Cana Extra Dry.
- Aged for longer periods of time, with darker, fuller flavor profiles—best for sipping.
- Ones to try—Zacapa 23, Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Gosling’s Black Seal, Papa’s Pilar Dark 24 Rum, Myer’s Original Dark Rum, Plantation Original Dark Rum, Mount Gay Extra Old, Cruzan Single Barrel.
- A distilled rum that’s been flavored with spices, usually upping the impression of flavors often gotten from barrel-aging.
- Ones to try—Chairman’s Reserve, Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced, Sugar Island Spiced Rum, Sailor Jerry, Bayou Spiced Rum.
Classic Rum Cocktails
Most people associate rum with mixed drinks and cocktails, and while I discussed the beauty and value of aged sipping rums above, no guide on rum would be complete without a few recipes. Rum is used in a number of disgusting concoctions, that is why, I have chosen to forgo mixed drink recipes and focus primarily on a few of the more traditional cocktails that are enjoyed globally.
- No blenders! When it comes to the Daiquiri, you need to set aside your preconceptions about sickly-sweet slushy concoctions.
- Ingredients—2 oz white rum, ¾ oz lime juice, ¾ oz simple syrup. Shake over ice, then strain into a chilled glass.
- The Cuban-born Mojito, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. When prepared well, it's delicious and refreshing.
- Ingredients—2 oz white rum, 1 oz lime juice, 1 oz simple syrup, fresh mint leaves. Muddle the mint leaves in the bottom of the glass for a full minute to release their essence, stir in the other ingredients, and top with crushed ice.
- Piña Colada
- Literally translated as “strained pineapple,” the name of this cocktail already tells you a bit about the Piña Colada’s primary ingredients.
- Ingredients—2 oz white rum, 2 oz coconut cream, 2 oz pineapple juice. Shake over ice, then strain into a glass filled with crushed ice.
- El Floridita
- This variation of the Daiquiri is named after the way that Ernest Hemingway liked his mixed at the Floridita bar in Havana, Cuba.
- Ingredients—2 oz white rum, 1 oz lime juice, ¾ oz Maraschino liqueur. Shake over ice, then strain into a chilled glass.
- Dark ‘n’ Stormy
- A personal favorite of mine. This cocktail is the quintessential refreshing summer trip sipper. It’s actually trademarked by Gosling Brothers—makers of the easily recognizable Black Seal Rum.
- Ingredients—2 oz dark rum, ginger beer (not ginger ale) to taste. Pour the desired amount of ginger beer into a glass filled with ice, then slowly add the rum.
- Cuba Libre (rum ‘n’ coke to unworthy persons)
- A byproduct of the Spanish-American war. The drink was born when the owner of Bacardi ordered a rum mixed with Coca-Cola and lime; a group of American soldiers sitting nearby, overheard and ordered a round for themselves. Recently, in a flagrant attempt to gilt rum, Coca-Cola is introducing their own line of premade alcoholic cola drinks.
- Ingredients—1 2/3 oz white rum, 4 oz Coca-Cola, 1/3 oz lime juice. Gently mix the ingredients in a glass filled with ice.
SUMMING THINGS UP
So stop by one of our locations and one of our highly trained staff members will help you find the perfect rum for you. Interested in other liquors? Check our or in-depth posts about whisk(e)y and tequila. And to end on a cheerful note, here’s a charming poem called “Longevity”:
The horse and mule live thirty years
And nothing know of wines and beers;
The goat and sheep at twenty die
And never taste of Scotch or Rye;
The cow drinks water by the ton
And at eighteen is mostly done;
The dog at fifteen cashes in
And without the aid of rum or gin;
The cat in milk and water soaks
And then in twelve short years it croaks;
The modest, sober, bone-dry hen
Lays eggs for nogs, then dies at ten.
All animals are strictly dry,
They sinless live and early die.
But sinful, ginful, rum-soaked men–
Survive for three-score years and ten!M