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Lyrical on Rum
January 22, 2004
Fifteen men on the dead man's chest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! The "dead man's chest" of the pirate's song in RL Stevenson's Treasure Island is one of the tiniest of the Virgin Islands (shaped like a coffin), in the Caribbean. And it is in the islands and on the mainland shores of the Caribbean Sea that most of the world's rum is distilled. Rum is the most traditional of all West Indian drinks and traces its beginnings to the island of Barbados, around 1651. The origin of the name rum is a shade obscure. Some call it a manifestation of the American fancy for abbreviation - from Rumbullion. The more literary minded prefer to think it comes from the Latin saccharum, meaning sugar.
An early periodical describing Barbados states, "The chief fuddling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill Devil, and this is made of sugar canes distilled, a hot, hellish and terrible liquor." This much maligned brew went on to become the mainstay of armed forces the world over, its heart-warming quality making it indispensable to sailors and soldiers alike. It also established itself as a front-runner in the world of mixed drinks.
Basic styles:Cuba & Puerto Rico - Light & Dry white,gold, dark) Barbados - Very fine brandy like rums Virgin Islands - Medium rums (not too heavy, not too light) Jamaica - Heavy bodied & sweet flavoured Other unique flavours:Martinique - A French colony - Rums from here are shipped to France and are sold as French rums and are as powerful as Jamaican rums. Guyana - Demerara rums are the specialty. These are dark, pungent, and aromatic rums with burnt flavour. Mexican Rums - Referred to as Habanero rums, these are aged in sherry casks. Navy rums - Blended rums (key sourced from the Caribbean) to which molasses are often added to give a dark colour, depth and intensity. These are a British specialty with all the big brands like Lamb's Navy rum, Captain Morgan, Black Heart... That was dark rum. Then came white rum, light-bodied and dry; its mild flavour lending itself perfectly to a wide array of cocktails. It was a mixer's delight. From the island of Cuba, where it first made an appearance, white rum manufacture spread quickly to the other Caribbean islands. Today, Puerto Rico is probably the world's largest producer of white rum.
The one brand that comes to mind instantly when one thinks white rum is Bacardi. They were the guys who made this new white spirit fashionable. And how. Bacardi is the world's number one brand for more than two decades now. Royal Treasure is the only Indian white rum worth talking about. Old Monk, Celebration and Hercules are the three big Indian dark rums though there's a host of small and medium brands. Christian Brothers, Old Smuggler, Amigoz are some multinational owned brands. Lemon Hart, Havana Club, Cockspur, Myer's, Pusser's, Siegert's Bouquet, Appleton's Special, Rhum Saint James are some worthy names. Drinking the Stuff:Most of us grew up on rum & Coke - my generation on Hercules then graduating to Old Monk. It used to be the popular medium of initiation into hard alcohol.
A lot of people tend to think of it as a winter drink and tend to switch to other stuff come summer. Actually, it is an all weather drink. C'mon guys - it's from the Caribbean where they have summers just like ours and they still drink rum! It is this versatility that allows you to drink it happily, hot or cold. Rum with all kinds of fruit juice over ice is great. Try it with orange, litchi, mango, pineapple, mixed fruit, guava, sugarcane, coconut water. Make a clear or gold Mojito by mixing white or dark rum over crushed ice with lots of muddled lime (squeezed with the peel in), torn fresh mint, sugar and soda. Frozen and flavoured daiquiris are made by blending white rum with any fruit flavoured crush, lime juice and crushed ice or with fresh fruit, sugar, lime and ice. Blend with ice, cream, and chocolate/ coffee/ butterscotch ice cream drizzled with liqueurs like Kahlua, Bailey's Irish Cream, Amaretto, Southern Comfort, Malibu. And if you are cold, drink it "Utterly Simple" with steaming hot apple juice and cinnamon, or try a "Hot Brown Cow" - hot coffee doused with thick cream and sprinkled with chocolate flakes. Cheers!