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Rum On The Rise Rum Capital of the World, Puerto Rico, Shares Secrets to Rum's Sweet Success
June 30, 2003
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The world's oldest distilled spirit has been experiencing a resurgence the past few years thanks to two fast-growing rum trends, according to the authority on quality rum, Rums of Puerto Rico. The cool, minty rum cocktail known as the mojito is popping up at Latin and mainstream restaurants, bars and clubs nationwide. In addition, sipping and learning about premium rums is swiftly becoming a new alternative to scotch, tequila and wine tastings.
"People are starting to recognize that rum is a unique spirit, whether sipped neat (alone) or mixed into your favorite classic or new cocktail," says Emilio Figueroa, owner of San Juan restaurants Parrot Club, Aguaviva and Dragonfly. "In Puerto Rico, we've known that rum is a connoisseur's drink for years because it's in our heritage, but the rest of America is only just starting to realize that it does matter what type of rum you drink and where it's made."
Rum is the fastest growing spirit, according to 2001 Adams statistics; even growing at a healthier rate than the distilled spirits category overall. In the past two years rum has become the second biggest spirit category - its share of the distilled spirits' market pie is up three percent in just five years. As the top two rum brands in the United States, Puerto Rican rums Bacardi(R) and Captain Morgan are driving forces, with Bacardi the leading distilled spirit overall. Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum has been growing steadily, almost doubling its case sales over the past four years. It is also now the fourth best-selling spirit brand overall, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. With rum demand up, this spring Bacardi launched new flavors including Bacardi Vanila, Bacardi Coco and Bacardi Razz, in response to increased sales of flavored spirits in the last five years. The experts don't seem surprised that rum's popularity is revving up.
"There is a lot of buzz in the industry about the rum category growing stronger," says Tony Abou-Ganim, beverage specialist at the Bellagio Resort & Casino. "I think what's driving the category is the popularity of flavored rums, as well as people rediscovering unique classics like the mojito and traditional daiquiri. Rum has always been very popular in cocktail preparation, but now with the wide range of flavor profiles available to the creative mixologist the possibilities for developing new libations are endless."
Mojito Madness Infiltrates Pop Culture
Part of rum's increased popularity is clearly driven by the buzz surrounding the mojito cocktail. During the past few years mojitos have been prevalent at higher-end Latin restaurants, following their surge in popularity in Miami in the '90s. Today, more and more patrons of mainstream venues find themselves with tell-tale bits of green mint stuck to their teeth. Non-Latin venues like New York's Sushi Samba, and the Bellagio in Las Vegas, are now serving up the classic mojito and unique variations. In April the Los Angeles Times called the mojito the "cosmo for the more adventurous" - not surprising that it's already been featured on HBO's "Sex in the City," the show that made the cosmopolitan famous. James Bond even added this cool cocktail to his list of favorite libations in the most recent Bond flick "Die Another Day," and the popular TV show "CSI: Miami" featured mojitos in a recent episode.
Mojitos are a thriving part of the hot and trendy L.A. scene, as restaurants like Conga Room owned by Jimmy Smits and Jennifer Lopez (among other celebrities) mix up hundreds of the minty libations each night. In a recent Opinion Research Corporation phone survey commissioned by Rums of Puerto Rico, 54 percent of men say they would prefer to share a mojito with Jennifer Lopez, while women surveyed were torn between front-runners Ricky Martin (23 percent) and J-Lo (22percent).
"My Puerto Rican heritage exposed me to mojitos early on," says Freddy Rodriguez, star of the hit HBO drama 'Six Feet Under.' "Now mojitos are everywhere in L.A. and I'm excited to see them become such a popular drink. In fact, I know people who go out at night seeking the best mojitos."
The mojito (pronounced moe-hee-toe) was born in the Caribbean in the early 1900s, and popularized by Havana's movers and shakers including Ernest Hemmingway. A close relative to the rum Collins, the nature of how the drink is made (muddle fresh mint leaves or stalks with a wooden pestle to release the oils) and its simple blend of sugarcane juice/syrup, mint leaves, lime juice, light rum, ice, and soda water (in that order), make it a crisp and unique cocktail perfect for any time of year, but particularly refreshing in warm weather.
"It's the fresh mint (that makes mojitos popular)," says Hal Russek, owner of Enrico's in San Francisco, which is credited with sparking the mojito trend in the Bay City. "People are beginning to look for fresh ingredients in cocktails the same way they are in food. And that's a good thing. People should be as discriminating about cocktails as they are food."
Forget Wine Tastings, it's Time to Sip Rum "Neat"
A burgeoning interest in premium rums is also a reason for rum's rising popularity. Premium rum is finally coming into its own as a spirit that foodies, spirits enthusiasts and even wine lovers are interested in sipping and learning about. Students of rum come to learn that pairing premium Puerto Rican rum like Don Q Gran Anejo, Bacardi Select, Barrilito Three Star or Captain Morgan Private Stock with Coke, is nothing short of a sin in the rum capital of the world. Rums of PuertoRico plans to tour a tasting session complete with a rum expert in the United States next year, as well as offer tastings to tourists and media while they are visiting Puerto Rico. Currently, tourists who fly into San Juan can experience a rum tasting at the tourism office at the airport. More than half of drinking Americans 21 and older say they are interested in attending a tasting of premium rums in Puerto Rico, the world's rum capital, according to a recent Opinion Research Corporation phone survey of almost 1,900 Americans. Those who visit the rum capital of the world have many options, such as visiting Bacardi's new state-of-the-art visitors' center, Don Q's museum and bar near the cruise port, or the historic family castle belonging to the Serralles rum distillery. The family-run Ron del Barrilito rum facility also sits on the outskirts of San Juan, offering a step back into time for those who decide to drive by for an unofficial peek at the grounds. Operating commercially since the 1880s, if you're lucky you might get a taste of the family rum aged since 1942 in a 100-year-old barrel.
RUM CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
Puerto Rico has been producing superior rums for more than 450 years, and today is responsible for 75 percent of all rums sold in the United States. A wide variety of rum brands bear the label "Puerto Rican Rum," ensuring versatile taste and superior quality, including: Bacardi, Captain Morgan, Barrilito, Don Q, Castillo, Palo Viejo, Ron Llave and Ron Bocoy. Recognizing that quality is the key to producing the world's finest rums, Puerto Rico established a law in 1948 making it the only rum producer to require all rums be aged for at least one year. Rums of Puerto Rico, a government agency created in 1948, is responsible for promoting the sale of all rum shipped from Puerto Rico to the United States.
For More Information on Rums of Puerto Rico, visit www.puertoricorums.com or contact Rums of Puerto Rico public relations at 1-888-NUM1RUM (888/686-1786) or firstname.lastname@example.org.