The Joys of Rum, Part 2
Our previous column, The Joys of Rum, Part 1, seems to have hit a responsive chord among readers and so we are pleased to continue the thread. Besides, rum is such a broad topic and close to our lives in South Louisiana, this is a pleasure.
Around here, rum is made from molasses harvested from sugar cane. Like fine wine, rum made from different strains of cane grown in various locales will be different. Sometimes the rum we are purchasing from a New Orleans distillery is made from cane not grown near here. Distillers determine their best course of action with the products that are available at the time of distillation. This might explain why a rum you enjoy from, say, Jamaica is different in color, taste and aroma from a rum you enjoy from Louisiana.
For you wine lovers, this piece of news is likely familiar but maybe you never attached the significance of terroir to rum. There is also always the chance that rum noted with a place of origin regarding distillation is using molasses as its base ingredient from another spot. While it makes sense for rums to have a consistent “house style,” there can be slight variations due to lack of raw materials, temperatures during fermentation, and even time spent on retail shelves.
While rum production can be traced back to Biblical areas, rum really came into its own when the Middle Ages’ ruler of the world, Great Britain, took a great liking to it. And the Brits knew that the best rums were done in the Caribbean. America’s first rum distillery was on Staten Island and that one was followed by a distillery in Boston. Rum was a great joy of conquering countries because it traveled well on ships. Sailors were rewarded for a hard day’s work at sea with a ration of rum. The incentive system was alive and well onboard.
Unlike many spirits and wines, rum did not break down under harsh temperature conditions or long periods of time. The constant motion of the ship on the seas seemed to assist the rum in aging and mellowing. More than could be said for the crew in many cases.
Notoriously, pirates did not home-port frequently so rum became their beverage of choice. And after France outlawed rum production to protect the brandy industry, England became both the great consumer and the largest manufacturer of rum in the western world.
Today, we encounter several styles of rum:
Dark Rums – usually aged in heavily charred barrels.
Flavored Rums – usually infused with bananas, mango, cocoanut, lime, pineapple and normally just a step below the alcohol levels of the Dark Rums.
Gold Rum – lighter than the Dark Rums, achieving color from the slightly charred aging barrels which are usually first used for aging Bourbon.
Light Rums – also known as White Rums and possessing little flavor but used to add alcohol to cocktails.
Overproof Rums – measured usually at 150 – 160 proof, way over the usual 80 proof of most rums. This style is used almost exclusively in cocktails.
Premium Rums – produced for sipping like a fine Scotch or Cognac.
Spiced Rums – usually made with Gold Rum with the addition of spices as determined by the Distiller and ingredients or quantities are kept secret. But caramel almost always comes into play with possible other added ingredients as cinnamon, cardamom, rosemary and cloves.
It should be noted here that a particular style of rum, Rhum Agricole, has become quite popular. In this method of fermentation, the fresh pressed sweet liquid from the cane, not molasses, is used to make rum which seems fresher and brighter than rums which use molasses as the base ingredient.
Several recipes were provided in Part 1. I am a big fan of simple, low ingredient, quick to the drinking part of the program cocktails. Most of the earlier recipes are of that ilk. Here is another great summertime refresher:
Rum and Tonic
Cocktails do not come any easier or more refreshing
Fill cocktail or rocks glass with:
- Clear, clean ice
- 2-3 oz Myers Dark Rum
- Top with Tonic Water
- Plenty of fresh-squeezed lime juice (to your taste but go overboard)
- Lime wedge
Thanks to goop.com.
To finish the rum discussion, one of the classics:
Maybe created in the late 19th century by Roberto Cofresi, a pirate, to reward his crew. He died in 1825 and the recipe was lost. That is the romantic legend.
The other story occurs in 1954 at the Caribe Hilton Hotel, Puerto Rico, when bartender Ramon Marrero created a drink that he felt captured the feel and tone of his island. His Pina Colada became infamous. July 10 is National Pina Colada Day, a chance to drink one of the favorite cocktails in the world, and enjoy “The Pina Colada Song” (Escape), 1979 by Rupert Holmes, and Chuck Mangione’s flugelhorn version of the same tune, released the same year.
Mix with crushed ice in blender until smooth and creamy, then pour into a chilled glass. Garnish with citrus and fresh pineapple and serve.
There are many alternative preparations and many additional ingredients. This recipe is from the International Bartenders Association. It gets my vote for simplicity and authenticity.
Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com on Thursdays, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature about cocktails every month in New Orleans Magazine.