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Exotism, Flavour and Freedom

Rum. Certainly the most exotic of spirit drinks rum is tightly associated to the Caribbean pirates and others swashbucklers roaming the Spanish Main, but also to mysterious Voodoo priestesses, the glamorous life of pre-Castro Cuba or the nowadays trendiest Manhattan lounges.

The spirit of modernism

Symbol of the New World rum is a strong spirit drink bottled in over 40 countries under more than 1500 labels. The story of rum starts with Americas discovery, as prior to Columbus Europeans were mainly limited to wine, ale and a few archaic spirit drinks. Initially driven by gold the conquerors of the New World found there another treasure to bring back to Europe: sugar. If sugar extraction from sugarcane was already known from Europeans, the Caribbean area was offering the perfect climate for an intensive production. And when this mass production met distillation techniques a new spirit drink appeared: rum. The technique was simple: molasses was heated until the alcohol began to evaporate; this vapour was piped to a container where it was condensed, the distillate being rum. Soon everywhere sugarcane was planted rum was appearing shortly after. Alcohol made from sugarcane appeared in the Caribbean during the first half of 17th century and the word rum is reported for the first time in Barbados around 1650. It was then called kill-devil or rumbustion (meaning great tumult). Rum immediately became a popular drink as it was intimately linked to the first world trades, wherever the Europeans went, rum went with them. Rum was used everywhere, first aboard ships as its palatability remained longer than wine or beer but also as money in slave trade and naturally as a popular drink from the not yet independent British colonies to the first Indians settlements. Few know that rum was so dominant in the United States that the first Independence Day was celebrated with an extra ration of rum and only the increase of taxes on molasses in 19th century initiate the domination of gin and whiskey. The 20th century marked the domination of others spirits until the mid 1990s, then rum popularity increased again to now becoming the trendiest spirit.
Rum and piracy Not only honest seamen were using rum, as pirates were famous for their drunkenness and alcohol excess. For pirates the lack of restriction (in opposition to the royal navy rules) was a symbol of freedom in a time where birthright conditioned everything. Nonetheless their lack of discipline doomed a lot of them to be captured easily. The fate of many of them remains intimately linked to rum, like the cruel Blackbeard or the opportunist Sir Henry Morgan (a former pirate who turned against his former fellows), better known as Captain Morgan. Spiritual spirit Both transported with African slaves and used to purchase them, rum was quickly part of Afro-American religions. Where wine is associated to Christian ceremonies, rum became the symbolic drink of Voodoo rituals and it is still in use as a holy drink in the Caribbean or some western Africa countries. Rum is used to communicate with spiritual divinities called loas or orishas.

Rum, rhum, rums

Rum is a strong spirit drink mainly between 40 and 60 vol. Basic rum is generally white (translucent) or dark brown (almost black) while quality and premium rums range from pale yellow to gold colour. Strongly influenced by European imperialist struggles four categories of rum can be distinguished.

The first is a very dry, light bodied rum often referred as Puerto Rican (or Cuban) rum. It is the legacy of the Spanish colonial empire and it is therefore produced in Spanish speaking countries. The second is a rich pungent rum, medium bodied, referred as Jamaican rum. Produced in the former British Caribbean islands, it is a tribute to their former empire. The third category regroups a highly flavoured rum directly made from the sugarcane juice and not the molasses, it is the rhum agricole. This rum is dominant in the French Caribbean islands and backs the French colonial empire settlements. The last category regroups others worldly produced spirit made of sugarcane or using rum in their composition like the aromatic Indonesian Arrak, the Aguardiente from Central and South America or even the Czech Tuzemach made from sugar beet. Rums colour is another categorisation that is complementary to its origin. Light, white (or silver) rums have very little flavour and are better used as cocktails base. Dark (or black) rums have a stronger flavour (with caramel or molasses overtone) and are sometime a bit sweeter; they are mainly used for cooking. Spiced rums are most of the time cheap dark rums modified with a selected assortment of spices. Gold (or amber) rums are aged drinks that range from superior to premium quality. They can easily be compared to brandy or cognac (while more virile in taste). They are spirits both delicate and of unique un-beholden character.

Rum is one of the first alcohol used to designed cocktails, it provides an immediate flavour of exotism to preparations and blends very well with fruits juice. Cuba Libre 4cl of white rum 1 quarter of lime 13cl of cola 4 ice cubes Take a quarter of lime, cut it in two and press it inside the glass. Add ice cubes and others ingredients, stir it with a spoon 10 seconds and serve immediately. This cocktail appeared in Cuba during the Prohibition. If you add 3 or 4 drops of Angostura you obtain a Trinidad, a slightly bitter long drink.

Daiquiri 4cl of white rum 2cl of lime 1cl of cane syrup 5 ice cubes Put ice cubes in a shaker, add all ingredients, and shake it 10 seconds then serve without the ice cubes.

Invented in Cuba in 1898 by American engineers who gave it the name of the village where they were working: Daiquiri (close to Santiago). Mojito 4cl of white rum 9 fresh mint leaves 2cl of cane syrup 2cl of lime 6cl of sparkling water 5 ice cubes Press mint leaves inside the glass, add the ingredients then crush ice cubes and put them inside the glass. Stir it 10 seconds then serve. Inspired by the Mint Julep which was one of the favourite cocktails of the American coming to Mojito island (Cuba). Pina Colada 4cl of white rum 12cl of pineapple juice 8 coffee spoon of coco cream 5 ice cubes Put the ingredients inside the shaker, shake it during 10 seconds then serve without the ice cubes. Invented by a Puerto Rican barman from the Caribe Hilton hotel in 1954 the name pina colada was initially used for a fresh filtered pineapple juice. Cubanita or Mary Rose 5cl of white rum 12cl of tomato juice 0,5 cl of lime 0,5cl of Tabasco 2cl of cane syrup 1 pinch of salt 1 pinch of pepper 5 ice cubes Put the ingredients in a glass, stir with a spoon during 10 seconds and then serve without the ice cubes. The Cubanita is the Cuban version of the Bloody Mary (previously named Mary Rose during the 1930s). Ti Punch 2cl of cane syrup 5cl of white rum 1/8 of lime Put the cane syrup in a glass, add the rum. Press the lime with your fingers over the glass then stir it with a spoon during 6 seconds and serve. The Ti Punch (little punch in Creole) is the traditional and usual way to drink rum in the Caribbean. Sweet and extremely flavoured its the best introduction to the world of rum, more than a classic it is a basic where to start from.