The golden liquid
When one thinks of rum, images of pristine tropical beaches, drunken pirates and tall drinks in kitschy ceramic mugs often come to mind. None of these images are necessarily wrong, but there is much more to rum than meets the eye.
For a drink as storied as rum, a dark and stormy history is only appropriate. And such a story it does deliver. The slave trade was, unfortunately, the engine behind much of sugar cane production. Slave traders were often happy to accept payment in the form of alcohol, but as beer and wine did not mature well on ships, a new spirit was needed. And that's where Barbados came in, a small Caribbean island that gave the world rum in the 1600s. The sugar cane barons of Barbados were among the richest in the world, and rum soon became a thriving export industry. The drink was originally called "Kill Devil" because of its strong taste and effect.
While undoubtedly delicious, rum can be one of the most confusing spirits in the world, if only because it is made in so many different places and in so many different ways. There is an insane variety of different rums, from white rum to dark rum and everything in between.
Did you know?
If you think you had a lot of nicknames growing up, take a look at this impressive list of nicknames rum has received over the years. Just a few of them are: Kill-Devil, Demon Water, Navy Neaters, Nelson's Blood, Barbados Water, Grog, Pirates Drink and Rumbullion.
"Of all the spirits in your house, rum is the most romantic" wrote bon vivant James Beard in 1956. He was right, of course. A single sip can bring to mind tall palm trees and tiny umbrellas, tropical holidays and a colourful, complicated history. But romance is the opposite of facts, and so rum has proved a fertile breeding ground for myths that have taken root and spread like bougainvillaea. Have a glass of rum and see what you become.