When we think of pirates, we think of rum. In truth, there is more to rum than being a pirate’s choice of spirit.
What is rum? Rum is what you get when you ferment and distill sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice and then age the liquid in oak barrels. Sugar-producing regions like the Caribbean, Latin American countries, and other countries with a major sugar industry like India and the Philippines in Asia, produce rum.
Rum was so popular, so well-loved that when Governor William Bligh attempted to regulate the use of rum in 1808, the New South Wales Corps staged a mutiny and placed Governor Bligh under arrest for two years. Today, this episode in Australia’s history is known as The Rum Rebellion, the only military takeover of an Australian government.
Unlike other spirits like Mexico’s tequila that are made following rigid rules and procedures, the making of rum (and identifying what classifies as rum) is not really cast in stone and is subject to the rules and procedures in a specific country where it is being produced. As long as the spirit adheres to the basic qualities attributed to making rum, they call it rum or whatever the local counterpart of the name is.
For example, Brazil’s cachaça is similar to rum which is why some would consider it as a type of rum. The Panamanian drink known locally as seco can also be considered as a rum although some consider it as vodka on the account of it being triply distilled. Aguardiente can also be confused and classified as rum because it is distilled from molasses, produced in Central America and north of South America. In Liberia, rum is called cane juice or CJ. In South Africa, a local drink similar or equivalent to rum is called spook. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, locals make a drink similar to rum which they call tuzemak. Austrians have rum and they call it Inländerrum, which qualifies as a spiced rum.
- If rum is too boring a word to use, you can call this spirit using other known and controversial-sounding aliases, like kill-devil or demon water.
- Drinks resembling rum that could have been the origin of the modern-day rum has been produced as far back as the 7th century AD.
- Rum was considered, in select places throughout its history, a form of currency used to pay for goods or services or trade. In colonial Australia, for example, rum was used for trade or purchase since not many people have actual money they can use.
- One of the things George Washington wanted to have during his 1789 inauguration is a barrel of Barbados rum.
- Rum was part of the daily ration given to sailors of the Royal Navy until the practice was abolished on 31 July 1970.
Rum Buying Guide
When buying rum, the first thing you will notice is that there is colorless, clear rum and there are rum products brownish or golden in color. You buy the colorless, clear rum to make cocktails. Brownish or golden rum is usually taken neat, on ice, or mixed with cola, tonic, fruit liqueur, or other liquids. This is also the kind of rum you need to buy if you are using it for cooking. The label, and most importantly, the price tag, will give you an idea if what you are buying is cheap rum or premium rum or something in between.
Generally, there are different kinds of rums sold in the market. There is dark rum, flavored rum, spiced rum, light rum, gold rum, premium rum, and overproof rum.
- Dark rums are darker in color compared to gold rums and it comes in various colors – brown, black, or red. Dark rums are made from caramelized sugar or molasses. These undergo a longer aging period inside charred barrels that provide rums the strong flavor you don’t usually find in light rum or gold rum. The countries of Jamaica, Bahamas, Haiti, and Martinique are known for producing dark rum.
- Flavored rums rely on chemical additives so that the finished product has a hint of a particular fruit, like banana, mango, orange, pineapple, or coconut. It is not unusual for flavored rums to be taken neat, although these are commonly used for making cocktails or for mixing with fruit juice.
- Spiced rum can be considered as an example of flavored rum, or it can also be considered as a different category altogether. Unlike flavored rums that use fruit flavors, spiced rum is usually infused with the flavors of specific spices like cinnamon, rosemary, and pepper.
- Light rum is also known by other names such as silver rum or white rum. As the name suggests, the flavor of this kind of rum is light, unlike the robust flavor of dark rum and gold rum. The upside of having this quality is that light rum is excellent for mixing or cocktails like Mojito or Daiquiri because the taste of rum is enough and does not overpower the other elements of the drink. Puerto Rico is known for producing light rums.
- Gold rums are also called amber rums because of their color. Gold rums get their golden color from the charred, wooden white oak barrels that hold them while they are being aged. Gold rums have a stronger taste and flavor profile compared to light rums, but not as strong as dark rums.
- Premium rums are produced by boutique brands that target a specific market and are often expensive. Because of the attention to taste and flavor put in the production of premium rums, it is best that this is consumed neat for the best drinking experience.
- Overproof rums’ basic characteristic is having higher than the standard 40% ABV or 80 proof. Some overproof rums go as high as 150 proof or 160 proof. It is not ideal that you drink overproof rum neat especially if you are not a formidable drinker. Overproof rum is best used mixed with low alcohol drinks.
Rum Production & Farming in Texas
Currently, there are several rum distilleries in Texas, particularly in Wimberley, San Leon, Hye, Pflugerville, and Kingsville, among others. This is a testament to the preference of Texans when it comes to drinking, particularly about drinking rum. The presence of numerous rum distilleries in Texas also indicates that there is a high demand for rum for cocktails and alcoholic mixes in bars and restaurants where they serve alcohol. This is not surprising since making rum is a viable enterprise in Texas considering the sugar industry in the state.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Many rum manufacturers put additives to rum. Sugar and caramel coloring are two common additives found in rum. Glycerol and artificial vanillin are also used by some companies as rum additives. Sugar is used to influence the sweetness profile of rum, while the caramel coloring is responsible for turning the color of rum to the desired shade of brown or gold. Glycerol is a food additive that is colorless, odorless, and viscous. Glycerol is sweet-tasting, adding sweetness to rum when added to the spirit during manufacturing. Glycerol is a non-toxic food additive labeled as E number E422. In rum, glycerol helps with the thickness and mouthfeel. Artificial vanillin is an additive used to design the flavor profile of rum to the desired taste.
Rum is sold in a glass bottle sometimes placed inside a box or metal tin can. Rum products vary in bottle shape, label design, and box design. When companies release special edition items, the design of the packaging is different from the design of the packaging of regular products. Companies spend money producing intricately-designed collectible rum packaging for special occasions.
There are a lot of ways to drink rum. Have it neat served on a shot glass. You can also drink rum very casually and pour it in a regular glass and drink neat, on ice, or mixed with other liquids to make a cocktail. Rum has been used for making different cocktails, including daiquiri, mojito, piña colada, eggnog, Rum and Coke, and mai tai.
The ideal storage for rum is a cool, dry place at room temperature. An important consideration when it comes to the storage of rum is making sure it is not accessible or within reach of children and minors. It is not necessary to refrigerate rum. However, you can refrigerate or freeze it if you want to drink it cold but without the ice. It is ok to store a bottle of rum that has been opened, so long as it is sealed with a cap to keep it free from impurities. Do not store it somewhere it is exposed to direct sunlight over a long time because this could affect the quality of the rum.
Make your own Mojito
Mojito is one of the classic cocktails enjoyed by many. It traces its history to 16th-century Cuba. Mojito’s first-ever appearance on a menu as a cocktail recipe was in 1932. It has an enjoyable citrusy flavor that is easy to get hooked in. It pays to know how to make a decent mojito when you have family, friends, or colleagues visiting.
This recipe yields one glass of mojito
- White rum, 2 ounces
- Lime juice, 3/4 ounce
- Simple syrup, 1/2 ounce
- Club soda
- Mint sprig
- Lime wheel
- Mint leaves
Step 1. Put mint and simple syrup in a shaker and lightly muddle the mint.
Step 2. Add rum, lime juice, ice, and shake.
Step 3. Strain into a glass over fresh ice.
Step 4. Add club soda.
Step 5. Add mint sprig and lime wheel to garnish.