Yo ho ho!
You can’t discuss the history and origins of rum with talking about sugar, notably the sugar cane from the Caribbean. While modern-day imbibers may think of cane as being a New World source of rum, the truth is its roots are in the East Indies.
Tradesmen from China to Arabia helped spread sugar cane through the Middle East and North Africa to Europe. As Spanish and Portuguese explorers sailed into the Atlantic, they took sugar cane with them to plant along the way.
The Caribbean Islands provided an ideal place for sugar cane to grow, and slave labor helped to cultivate it. That’s how rum ended up in your fruity punch and connected to a pirate’s life.
Caribbean countries that produce rum are Barbados, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil and Venezuela, among others.
Of late rum has starred in such blockbuster films as the Pirates of the Caribbean series starring actor Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, who seems to be perpetually pickled in his favorite liquor. It also provides the economic foundation for the new CBS series Cane, starring Jimmy Smits and Hector Elizondo.
Rum is made by crushing the cane and harvesting the juice. The liquid is then boiled, which creates chunks of crystallized sugar to form. The remaining unsolidified juice (melazas in Spanish) becomes molasses, which retains a high amount of sugar. It is this dark, sticky liquid – a former waste product – that in the 1650s was distilled into a spirit when mixed with water and fermented.
Today rum enjoys big popularity, and local bartenders have learned to mix classic mojitos, a drink invented in a Cuban restaurant long ago. Mojitos are made with a muddling stick, which is used to release the juices of fresh limes and the flavor of mint sprigs. You can purchase a muddler for a few dollars at a well-stocked liquor store.
We advise ordering a well-made mojito when you’re out on the town, to get an idea of what the flavors are like before trying to make them at home.
At Fuego Bistro in north Phoenix, bartenders mix hundreds of mojitos, plus a rum drink called Dark and Stormy that is mixed with ginger beer and Gosling Black Seal Rum (it’s fizzy and refreshing).
Owner Jeff Ward shares his recipe for a mojito made with a pomegranate juice spin, the most popular mojito ordered at Fuego Bistro.
Rundown on Rums
Añejo and age-dated rums: Aged rums are from different vintages that are blended together to ensure a consistency of flavor in brands from year to year. Check the bottle label for a listing of the youngest rum used in the brand; some French Island rums are dated by vintage.
Dark rums: These are caramelly, rich-tasting rums made in the traditional way, with the finest produced from pot stills and aged in aok caskets for long periods. The best of this tier can be consumed by the straight shot.
Golden rums (amber rums): These are medium-bodied rums that have spent several years in oak casks, resulting in smooth, mellow palates.
Spiced rums: Infused with the flavor of spices or fruit, these rums can be white, golden or dark. Traditional drinks such as planter’s punch use blends of spiced rum and Caribbean fruit juices.
White rums: Light in appearance, body and flavor, white rums are often filtered to remove any color attained from oak-cask aging. White rums are principally used as mixers in fruity drinks.
Source: The Complete Guide to Rum, By Ed Hamilton, $11.96 (Complete Pocket Guides).
4 fresh mint sprigs
½ ounce cane syrup
½ ounce lime grenadine syrup
1 small lime, cut into quarters
1 ounce Monin pomegranate syrup
2½ ounces Whaler’s coconut pineapple-flavored rum
4 ounces soda water
Prepare tumbler by wetting rim and dipping edge in sugar to coat.
In a mixing glass, place a few ice cubes, mint sprigs and lime segments; use muddleR to smash together in bottom of glass. Remove muddler to add more ice. Pour in rum, soda, lime grenadine and pomegranate syrups. Place a cover over the mixing glass and shake to mix well. Pour into tumbler and serve.
Dark and Stormy
8 ounces ginger beer
2 ounces Gosling
Black Seal Rum
Fill tumbler with ice. Pour in rum, then ginger beer to fill. Mix gently and serve.