Rum is the spirit of the Caribbean. It is generally made from fermented molasses left over from sugar production, or from sugarcane juice.
National Rum Day
National Rum Day is August 16.
The next one is Wednesday, August 16, 2023.
Rum is liquor distilled from sugarcane molasses. Molasses are a concentrated syrup byproduct of the sugar-making process.
After sugarcane juice is boiled down, sugar crystals are added. This crystalizes sugar out of the juice and leaves molasses.
Brazilian cachaça is also made from sugarcane, but it is made from the juice, not the molasses. Even though both rum and cachaça come from sugarcane, the flavor and the effect on your head are very different.
Colombian aguardiente (firewater) is also distilled from molasses. It is infused with anise and some sugarcane juice is added after distillation.
A Dark History
People have made alcoholic drinks since the beginning of humankind. Sugarcane has long been grown in South Asia and Southeast Asia as a sweetener. Chewing on a sugar cane is one of the joys of childhood. There are ancient references to sugar spirits in what are now Cyprus, Malaysia and Iran.
But rum is mostly associated with the Caribbean. According to tradition, the first distilled modern rum came from Barbados. It quickly gained popularity in Colonial North America. The first rum distillery in what is now the U.S. was set up in Staten Island in 1664.
The need for wooden barrels and a workforce for the sugarcane plantations led to the development of a triangle of trade in molasses, rum and African slaves.
In the U.S., rum is associated with Cuba because of its sugar-based economy, and then Puerto Rico where former Cuban rum makers moved production after the Cuban Revolution. Bacardí is one example.
Today rum is produced through various processes in Jamaica, Haiti, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
Dominican Mamajuana is a delicious artisanal rum infused with tree bark and herbs. This often homebrewed drink is considered an aphrodisiac. It was probably the first European liquor in the Americas.
Rums from former British colonies tend to be darker with more flavor from the molasses. There are very good rums from Barbados, Bermuda and Jamaica.
Silver and Gold
Silver or white rums mostly come from Puerto Rico. They have less flavor.
Gold rums get their color from aging in wooden barrels.
Dark rums have the richest flavor. They come mostly from Jamaica, Haiti and Martinique. Myer’s and Appleton make good dark rums.
There are many flavored rums today. Malibu Rum is coconut-infused. Malibu and soda makes a nice light summer drink because at 42 proof (21%), it has less alcohol than most rums.
Dark rums are usually drunk neat (poured in a glass) or on the rocks. Light rums are usually mixed.
The Mojito is essential Cuban drink. It’s rum with lime juice, mint and sugar.
Cuba Libre (Rum & Coke)
Rum and coke with a lime on ice is pretty simple.
However, the name is a bit ironic. It means “Free Cuba.” Drinking rum with expensive American sugar water is never going to free Cuba.
However you drink, please drink responsibly.