A Short History of Rum

By Solisa

A Short History of Rum

Made from sugar cane, the history of rum is inextricably linked to this one plant. It would seem, according to history books, that sugar cane originated in possibly Indochina or New Guinea and has been around since the prehistoric era. It was only when it reached China and India that its potential began to be realised, and, amazingly, there are writings which describe the extraction of the sugar from the cane six centuries before Christ. Later, Alexander the Great poetically described it as, “a wild reed of India that makes honey without bees”. During the 15th century, thanks to East to West conquests by Muslim countries, the sugar cane trade began to flourish.


But What About The Rum?


For this, we can thank Christopher Columbus, who, in 1493, introduced sugar cane to Hispaniola, known today as the island of Haiti and Santo Domingo, from where, slowly, it became the main crop of the Caribbean. In 1625, Brazil became a major exporter to Europe, but still nobody had discovered that it could be turned into a beverage, such as rum. Finally, in the 17th century, the island of Barbados produced records mentioning the distillation of sugar cane. These records showed that it was considered to be a poor man’s drink, and, indeed, many of the black slaves were ‘paid’ in rum. Europeans who visited or settled on the island hated the drink, not least because of its bad reputation for driving people crazy!


How Slave Ships and Pirates Recruited Their Crews


Around this time, the slave trade was booming and rum was being used as a bargaining tool. It was used, not just to entice slave traders, but also to recruit crew who would otherwise be unwilling to involve themselves in such a distasteful trade. Slave traders and pirates alike would stroll around the ports, amongst legitimate sailors, getting them to drink way too much of this tempting, sweet spirit. They would wait until the sailors were so drunk that they missed the departure of their ships and were stranded in port. The only solution remaining to them was to join a slave ship or become a pirate, with rum aplenty on board. It didn’t take long for most of the West Indies to acknowledge the benefits of rum and soon they were distilling it to great advantage.


Rum – The Medication of Choice for Sailors


Myth or truth, who knows, but what a good excuse to partake of a swig of rum! Its purported medicinal value ensured its place on board every ship at one time, professing it to be the cure for everything from scurvy to diarrhoea. A grog was made up from two parts water to one part rum and sometimes, depending on the ailment, a dash of lemon juice. It also killed any germs that inhabited the stagnated water which the sailors had to drink. Fortunately, we no longer suffer from most of these unpleasant shipboard diseases and rum is now just a delicious drink. It is popular with young and old alike, as well as connoisseurs who enjoy the more complex varieties.


Those Cocktails Just Wouldn’t Be the Same!


The wonderful refined rum that we drink today is indeed a Caribbean gem, which has expanded its popularity worldwide. Sitting under a palm tree sipping a Piña Colada or a Daiquiri is what paradise is all about. However, such is the drinks versatility, there is nothing better on a cold, wintry night than a cup of Hot Buttered Rum in front of a cosy open fire. On average, around the world, 20 litres of rum per second are drunk and its popularity continues to increase as specialities, such as spiced rum, get added to the already vast choice. Places as diverse as Barbados, Jamaica and Grenada through to Berlin and Rome, all hold rum festivals to celebrate the drink and foods that go with it. There is even an online community on Facebook called the International Rum Council, where it’s possible to keep up-to-date with news from rum lovers around the world.


categoriaUncategorized commentoComments Off on A Short History of Rum dataJuly 26th, 2018


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