Rum is the lubricant of social interaction in the Caribbean; not much goes on that doesn’t involve this popular drink. And for centuries it’s been the same; from marauding pirates threatening unsuspecting shores to African slaves in need of relaxation to the patrons of hole-in-the-wall rum shops nowadays.
Rum first surfaced outside the Caribbean in the 1600s as its colonists bought up and distilled molasses to trade for slaves in Africa – from here it was sent north to European markets. At this point it was still a strong, foul-tasting liquor nicknamed ‘kill devil’ (its present moniker is an abbreviation of ‘rumbullion’, used to describe the outrageous behaviour of drunken drinkers of the stuff).
It wasn’t until the 1860s that a Catalonian wine merchant named Facundo Bacardí developed a method for making cheap rum taste better through a process of charcoal filtering. The Bacardí dynasty took root and spread across the Caribbean and the rest of the world. Soon other estates followed suit as the drink really took off.
US troops invented the Cuba Libre during the 1898 Spanish-American war by mixing white rum with Coca Cola and a dash of lime. The daiquiri appeared soon after, from a bar in Havana, Cuba.
Bacardí is the superstar of alcoholic drinks these days; its white label rum is the world’s biggest selling spirit. The Bacardí Building in Havana has become a tourist attraction in its own right, decades after the family left Cuba in 1961 when Castro seized power and confiscated their property.
The scars run deep however and the company is an active member of the Miami anti-Castro lobby, to the extent that the blockade law has been nicknamed the Bacardí Bill.
Just because the brand dominates doesn’t mean that it’s the best however – or that white is your only option. Rum is something of an art form in the Caribbean, much akin to wine making in France. Aged rum is darker, taking on the colour of the barrel in which it ages for between three to 21 years and has a mellower taste that makes it perfect for sipping. Not all the darker hues are aged though – some just have colour and flavour additives.
There are literally dozens of rum cocktails. Three favourites are the daiquiri, the mojito and the pina colada.
2 oz Light Rum
5 oz Pineapple Juice
2 oz Coconut Cream
1 cup Crushed Ice
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed. Pour into a collins glass and garnish with cherry or pineapple.
2 oz Light Rum
1 oz Lime Juice
1 tsp Superfine Sugar
Give all the ingredients a shake in a shaker with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Add lemon twist as a garnish.
¼ oz lime juice
1 ¼ oz Light rum
½ oz lime juice
5 oz of Club Soda
To create the base of the cocktail mix up fresh mint leaves and lime, cover with sugar and top it off with ice. Add light rum and a dash of club soda. Stir well and garnish with a wheel of lime and mint spring. Mojitos come in a variety of forms, including frozen and apple.