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Rum: From Pirate Ship to Poolside

Anthony Dias Blue

Ernest Hemingway, who seems to be immortalized everywhere he set foot, was well-acquainted with rum during his years in Cuba from 1940 to 1960. His favorite drink, Papa’s Special, was an unsweetened version of the blended daiquiri that was perfected in 1950s Havana by El Floridita barman Constantino Ribalaigua Vert. He simply added crushed ice and Maraschino cherry liqueur to rum and lime juice.

Coincidentally or consequently, after Christopher Columbus swiped sugarcane from the Canary Islands for replanting in the West Indies, debauchery ensued: imperialism and slavery, piracy and smuggling, revolution and resistance. Rum, which comes from sugarcane, played a noteworthy role in American politics in 1758, when George Washington distributed hundreds of gallons of the swashbuckling spirit to voters while running for Virginia’s House of Burgesses. Needless to say, he was elected.

Today, rum is produced from Barbados to Venezuela to Australia. Typically distilled from molasses, a by-product of refined sugarcane, rum ranges from white varieties, which are aged for a relatively short time, to darker versions aged in barrels previously containing scotch, bourbon, or cognac. The sheer variety of rums and the spirit’s ability to blend with fruit flavors have inspired a spectrum of colorful mixed drinks. Even the most adventuresome mixologist can hardly go wrong with this spirit, which loves to tango with brandy and liqueur.

It has been said that the British Royal Navy inadvertently created the world’s first rum cocktail in 1784 when it decreed that sailors’ rum rations be diluted with water, sugar, and lime. The recipes have become more elaborate since then. The Cuba Libre—rum, cola, and lime—was created as a toast to the island’s liberation after the Spanish-American War. Years later, in 1944, the exotic mai tai—rum, fresh lime, curaçao, rock candy, and orgeat syrups—was concocted by Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron.

The piña colada—a blend of rum, coconut, and pineapple—is a Caribbean poolside must. And the open-ended recipe for planter’s punch gives mixologists a lot of latitude: The only constants are rum and fruit juice. For those who like their rum savory, the barman at San Francisco’s Balboa Café will make a Prairie Fire by adding three dashes of Tabasco to a shot of 151-proof rum and then setting it ablaze.



Any rum enthusiast’s lineup should include the classic Angostura 1824 Limited Reserve, a 12-year-old dark rum with toasty wood tones. Collectors should scramble to get their hands on British Royal Navy Imperial Rum, which is sourced from rare British Navy reserves. Touted as the world’s most expensive rum ($4,000), British Royal delivers gorgeous dusky flavors with delicious notes of Rancio, a Spanish wine with a taste similar to Madeira, Marsala, or tawny port.

Latin from Manhattan
{Havana by way of Park Avenue}
11¼2 oz. Matusalem Gran Reserva dark rum
3¼4 oz. dry vermouth  |  Splash of orange bitters
2 oz. ice cubes  |  Lemon twist for garnish
Blend first four ingredients in a mixing glass.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
and garnish with a lemon twist.

Bermuda Triangle
{Completely off the radar}
11¼2 oz. Cruzan rum  |  3¼4 oz. pineapple juice
1¼2 oz. lime juice  |  1¼2 oz. orgeat syrup  |  2 oz. ice cubes
Pineapple wedge and drizzle of grenadine for garnish
Combine first five ingredients in a cocktail shaker and
mix well. Strain into a chilled collins glass and
garnish with pineapple and grenadine.

Daiquiri
{The Cuban original}
2 oz. Bacardi Superior white rum
1 oz. lime juice  |  Dash of Maraschino liqueur
1 tsp. superfine sugar  |  2 oz. crushed ice
Maraschino cherry for garnish
Place first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker
with ice. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish
with a Maraschino cherry.

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