Think of rum and you can’t help but think of pirates causing chaos on the high seas. But the liquor is more popular than ever and there are even dedicated rum bars to indulge a love of the liquor…
Rum is made from sugar cane juice or molasses. Sugar cane was originally from Papua New Guinea and was taken to Asia where it was grown and then exported to Africa, India and Spain.
Christopher Columbus took the plant to the Caribbean in 1493 and the first recorded distillation of rum in the Caribbean was in the 1600s. Eventually, thousands of sugar works were spread across the islands and most plantations boasted a copper pot still to make the alcoholic drink.
It soon made its way to the British Navy, where it became part of the essential ship’s stores. Sailors on long voyages would first drink the water, but that went rancid quickly, so they would move on to beer. When that was all gone, they would turn to rum, which remained sweet in the cask for much longer.
A sailor’s daily ration of rum was known as a ‘tot’ – and in fact, the last tots issued were as recent at 31 July 1970. It became known as Black Tot Day and some sailors wore black armbands to mourn the tradition’s passing.
In 1731, the official daily ration for sailors was one pint of wine or half a pint of neat rum in two equal amounts daily plus a gallon of beer. But in 1740, Admiral Edward Vernon reduced the ration to a quart of water for every half pint of rum.
The rise of the rum cocktail was also down to sailors, who mixed the potent drink with water to make grog. Nowadays, people often choose light white rums to mix with fruit juices to make cocktails while dark rum is mixed with cola or similar. But the best rums can now be compared with Cognac and should be treated as ‘sipping drinks’.
Here are some of our favourite rum cocktail recipes
Put 1½ lime wedges,
20 fresh mint
leaves and 2½ tsp of granulated sugar
into a highball glass and mash with the end of a clean rolling pin to bruise the mint and release the lime juice. Add a handful of ice and then pour over 65ml white rum
. Add soda water to taste and stir. Garnish with sprig of mint and server.
Add 50ml dark rum, 14ml dry vermouth, 7ml fresh orange juice and ¼ tsp of sugar to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
For this Christmassy drink, combine 1L of coconut milk with 6 tbsp of caster sugar and scald over a medium heat. Beat 8 egg yolks with 2 tsp of vanilla essence and then beat in 125ml of the coconut milk mixture. Now whisk this egg yolk mixture into the remaining coconut milk mixture, stirring constantly. Cook over a low heat until it reaches 70C and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but do not boil. Sieve the mixture into a bowl, stir in 125ml of dark rum, cool and then put it in the fridge. Once chilled, serve with freshly grated nutmeg sprinkled on top.