Sugarcane has the highest sugar content of any plant and is cultivated primarily for making sugar. But once it is cut it begins to ferment, producing a mildly alcoholic beverage well known to people who live near and work in cane fields.

First distilled on sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean in the 17th century, rum has had a long history in popular culture as the preferred drink of pirates, sailors and daiquiri-swilling tourists on tropical vacations.

While early descriptions of the molasses-based spirit refer to it as a "hot, hellish, and terrible liquor," today rum is best known as the base alcohol in tiki bar staples such as the mai tai, blue Hawaii, and piña colada.

"European colonies in the New World produced different types of alcoholic beverages from sugar and its byproducts," notes Andrew F. Smith in Drinking History. "In Portugese Brazil, the beverage was cachaça. In the French West Indies, it was rhum - a word most likely originating from Barbados, where the beverage was variously called kill-devil, rumme, and rumbullion.

"Most colonial rum stayed in North America; some was exported to England, but the English preferred rum made in Barbados, which was stronger and better tasting. Some rum was sold, given, traded, or exchanged with American Indians, who had had no previous exposure to distilled alcohol. One result was that drunkenness contributed to the social and economic collapse of many Indian tribes from the Appalachians to the Mississippi.

"Rum enabled the colonists to destroy many American Indian societies, permitting a rapid expansion westward beyond the Appalchian Mountains. The British tax on molasses contributed to the American Revolution. Rum was a key element in the slave trade, which enslaved millions of men, women, and children; slavery, in turn, was a major cause of the Civil War, in which hundreds of thousands of Americans died. Finally, drunkenness associated with rum was a precipitating factor in the rise of the temperance movement, which led to Prohibition in the twentieth century."

Grades of Rum

Light rums, or silver and white rums, have little flavor and are mostly used for mixed drinks; some are filtered after aging to remove color. Most
light rums are made in Puerto Rico, but cachaça comes from Brazil.

Gold or amber rums are medium-bodied and usually aged, getting their color from wooden barrels (often the leftover charred white oak barrels used in making Bourbon). They are stronger-tasting than light rum, a  between light rum and the darker varieties.

Dark rums - including brown, black, or red rums - are a grade darker than gold rums,  aged longer in heavily charred barrels. They have stronger flavors than either light or gold rums, often with a hint of spices and a strong molasses or caramel overtone. Dark rum is the type most commonly used in cooking. Most dark rums come from Jamaica, Haiti, and Martinique.

Spiced rums obtain their flavors from added spices like
cinnamon bark, bay leaves, allspice, cloves, mace, rosemary, absinthe/aniseed, pepper, and caramel. Most are darker in color, and based on gold rums. Some are significantly darker, while many cheaper brands are made from inexpensive white rums and darkened with caramel color.

Flavored rums are infused with flavors of fruits, such as banana, mango, orange, citrus, coconut, starfruit or lime. They are mostly used to flavor tropical drinks, but can also be consumed straight or on ice.

Overproof rums are much higher than the standard 40% ABV, with many as high as 75% to 80% available. One example is Bacardi 151.

Premium rums are made from high-quality sugarcane crops and patiently distilled and aged in oak barrels, creating bold, complex libations best experienced straight or on the rocks.


Captain Morgan Bar Mirror
Captain Morgan Bar Mirror

Rum: A Global History

A Global History
by Richard Foss

Drinking History
Drinking History

Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages by Andrew F. Smith

In Good Spirits
Rum goes in, truth comes out...

Visit the Booths
Market Entrance
Sign Our Guestbook
Search the Market
Lease a Booth
Book Search
Buy Direct Directory

Farmer's Market Online
Copyright © 2011 Outrider News Service. All rights reserved.