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A Brief History of Rum

“But why’s the rum gone?”

– Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Carribean

Pirate references aside, rum is awesome. Here’s why.

Rum was a favourite tipple of reknowned imbiber Ernest Hemingway, who enjoyed many a Mojito and Daiquiri. He even lent his name to the Hemingway Daiquiri, and once quipped, “My Mojito in La Bodeguita, My Daiquiri in El Floridita.”  The Hemingway Daiquiri was originally known as a El Papa Doble – ‘doble’ being parlance for a large one – and is unusual as it contains no added sugar.  Hemingway preferred his blended, and described that they “…had no taste of alcohol and felt, as you drank them, the way downhill glacier skiing feels running through powder snow.”

There are two main types of Rum – Molasses rum and Rhum Agricole. Molasses rums are made from the leftovers of sugar cane production, Agricole rums are made from sugar cane juice. Rhum Agricoles are usually from former French colonies, and bear some similarity in flavour to Cachaca with its pungent vegetal aromas.

You can find White, Gold and Dark rums. White rums are usually unaged, either fresh from the still or filtered through charcoal to remove any colour. Most quality Gold rums are aged in wood to obtain their flavour and colour. Dark rums are generally sweetened and coloured with caramel to reach their rich flavour.

The famous Mojito cocktail (little magic drink) has its origins in a drink called El Draque, said to have been devised by Sir Francis Drake in 1586. A tonic to cure his sick crew, it was made of water for hydration, ‘aguardiente’ rum for spirit, mint for digestion, chuchuhuasi bark to fight dysentry and lime to prevent scurvy.

Rum became associated with the British Navy after a rum ration was introduced in 1731 – it kept better than beer or water on long sea journeys. By 1740, Admiral Edward “Old Grog” Vernon ordered that it be mixed with lime and water to dilute it and help stave off scurvy, which led to the British sailors being called ‘Limeys’.

The term ‘proof’ also dates from this time. The proof of a spirit’s strength (and quality) was judged if gunpowder would ignite when soaked with rum.

Another famous rum drink is the Daiquiri, invented in Cuba by American mining engineer Jennings Stockton Cox around 1906. The original recipe calls for lemon juice and was more of a punch than the single-serve sour we know today.  Legend has it he ran out of Gin one day and ran to a nearby store to pick up a bottle of the local rum, which happened to be Bacardi. He named it for a beach near the mines in Santiago, and used to serve it in the mornings as a ‘Gloom Chaser’.

A ‘classic’ Daiquiri is made with white rum, but many bartenders enjoy a richer style of drink and sometimes make it using gold rum. Here’s how, and in the spirit of classic Cuban recipes, we suggest using these authentic Cuban rums:

Classic Daiquiri
50ml Ron Mulata 3 year-old White Rum
25ml Lime Juice
2 Barspoons sugar
Method: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, stir, then shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass.

Hemingway Daiquiri (aka El Papa Doble)
100ml Ron Mulata 3 year-old White Rum
25ml Lime Juice
15ml Grapefruit Juice
15ml Maraschino liqueur
Method: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake with ice, strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry. Or if you’re old school, add all ingredients in a blender with ice.

Ron Mulata is one of the latest additions to our line-up of craft and boutique spirits.  It’s one of the most popular rums in its home country of Cuba – and it’s pretty safe to say the Cubans know a thing or two about good rum.  The rum is first distilled to make a raw aguardiente, then aged in American Oak, so they’re smooth but packed with Cuban character.

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Made from sugar cane, the 3 year old has a faint straw hue from 3 years in American Oak barrels.  This mellows the rum and gives it a distinctive note of caramel and vanilla alongside a really refreshing tropical and citrus bite.  It’s a brilliant rum for a Cuba Libre – Rum & Cola to you and I – and makes a cracking Daiquiri as mentioned above.

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The 7 year old has taken on a great deal more colour, and is a proper golden rum.  Laden with vanilla, I love the ripe tropical fruits and caramel-soaked spice that emerges in your mouth.  I like this in a Treacle.

Treacle
50ml Ron Mulata 7 year-old Rum
1 Barspoon Sugar
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
15ml Fresh Apple Juice
Method: Add sugar and bitters to an Old Fashioned glass or Tumbler along with 10ml Rum. Stir until dissolved then slowly add the rest of the rum along with ice cubes, bit by bit, stirring constantly. Finish with a dash of apple juice and an orange peel garnish.

However you take your rum, you can stock up online here.