|Dark'n'Stormy, made with ginger beer and fresh lime|
I've found it extremely difficult to get started on this post. The history of rum is inextricably tied up with the history of slavery and the UK's part in it. I was educated in one of the cities most involved in that trade and witnessed some of its continuing legacy of poverty, discrimination and oppression. Learning at a university that had been endowed by merchants who had owned slave ships means that I am also a beneficiary of slavery, too. Recent events have made me acutely aware of the risk of causing hurt by what I write, and I hope you will be gentle in correcting me where I have been insensitive.
Portuguese colonists brought sugar cane to Brazil from Madeira. The soil and climate suited sugar well. However, sugar cultivation is labour-intensive and enslaved people were brought to the colony as cheap labour. The Portuguese also brought copper pot-stills, which they used to distill the fermented cane juice. Although sometimes referred to as "Brazilian rum," it is more properly called cachaça. It is regarded as a separate category from rum and appreciated on its own terms. Modern cachaça is usually bottled at source, but is sometimes aged in wooden barrels, for a smoother finish and distinctive flavour from the different woods used.
|A modern blend of rums|
from Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana
For over 200 years, rum played a key role in sustaining the slave trade in the Americas. It was even used as payment to slavers. It became the favoured tipple of the Royal Navy because it travelled well and could be stored at high strength, so it wouldn't prevent gunpowder lighting if spilt. Imported through ports such as Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow and London and blended in huge warehouses on the quaysides, it was traded throughout the British Empire and beyond.
Head Mixologist at John Watling's
(Image courtesy of the Distillery)
made with Martinique rhum agricole
This rhum agricole, as it is called, is the basis of one of the simplest rum drinks, the Ti' Punch:
Take a lump of fresh lime. Give it a squeeze over a glass of ice and drop it into the glass. Add a teaspoon or so of sugar syrup or Gomme. Stir in a shot of rhum agricole and enjoy. It's easy to see the similarity between ti' punch and caipirinha, made with cachaça, or the daiquiri, made with light Cuban rum.
1 measure of lime or lemon juice
2 measures of sugar syrup
3 measures of dark rum
4 measures of iced water.
Serve with plenty of ice, a splash of Angostura bitters and a sprinkling of nutmeg.
As a guide to which rum to use for a particular cocktail, it's worth paying attention to the geographical origin of the cocktail. The Dark'n'Stormy comes from Bermuda, where the rum is rich and strong. A light rum or a rhum agricole will get lost in the hot ginger and spice flavours. On the other hand, Mojito comes from Cuba. It benefits from being made with a lighter rum that will sit gently alongside the mint. Many bars use white rum for a mojito, which is fresh-tasting but I find it lacks a bit of depth. A light, gently spiced rum (such Liverpool Lost Dock Rum) is a better bet. If you want a cocktail for fresh, white rum, try a Mary Pickford, which you can find in my entry on Hollywood cocktails (http://blog.theaperitifguy.co.uk/2020/02/a-night-at-movies.html)
Next time: cooking with rum