May 21, 2015

Yo, Ho, Ho... The Swashbuckling History of Rum...

No matter in what form you have enjoyed it, no tropical vacation of Caribbean destination is quite complete with out some form of exotic rum concoction. Pina Coladas, Rum and Coke, Bahama Mamas, Daiquiris, Mojitos, or any other variation of the beverage, it is truly the 'Nectar of the Islands. So let us begin our journey to discover the true essence of rum, from its humble beginnings to the present day, when it is now being offered by a variety of companies in all forms and flavors, including the high end versions now available to be sipped like a cognac.

Rum is produced in a variety of styles. Light rums are commonly used in cocktails, while golden and dark rums are appropriate for drinking straight, as a brandy, or for use in cooking as well as cocktails. Premium brands of rum are also available that are made to be consumed neat or on the rocks.

What is Rum?
First and foremost, let's define what rum is and what distinguishes it from other alcohols.Rum is a distilled beverage made from sugarcane by-products such as molasses and sugarcane juice by a process of fermentation and distillation. The distillate, a clear liquid, is then usually aged in oak and other barrels.

The origin of the word rum is unclear. Some believe the name was derived from rumbullion meaning "a great tumult or uproar". Dutch seaman used large drinking glasses known as rummers or from the Dutch word roemer, a drinking glass. Saccharum, which is the Latin word for sugar, or arôme, French for aroma, are also different possible origins of the name. Regardless of the original source, the name was already in common use by May 1657 when the General Court of Massachusetts made illegal the sale of strong liquor "whether known by the name of rumme, strong water, wine, brandy, etc., etc."

Currently, the name used for a rum is often based on the rum's place of origin. For rums from Spanish-speaking locales the word ron is used. A ron añejo indicates a rum that has been significantly aged and is often used for premium products. Rhum is the term used for rums from French-speaking locales, while rhum vieux is an aged French rum that meets several other requirements. Some of the many other names for rum are Nelson's Blood, Kill-Devil, Demon Water, Pirate's Drink, Navy Neaters, and Barbados water.

The History of Rum

Dating back to ancient China and India, a drink of fermented liquids produced from sugarcane juice is believed to have first occurred and spread, from there. An example of such an early drink is brum. Produced by the Malay people, brum dates back thousands of years. While in what is now modern-day Iran, Marco Polo records that he was offered a "very good wine of sugar."

The first distillation of rum took place on the sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean in the 17th century. Plantation slaves first discovered that molasses, a by-product of the sugar refining process, can be fermented into alcohol. Later, distillation of these alcoholic by-products concentrated the alcohol and removed impurities, producing the first true rums. Tradition suggests that rum first originated on the island of Barbados. Regardless of its initial source, early Caribbean rums were not known for high quality. A 1651 document from Barbados stated, "The chief fuddling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Divil, and this is made of sugar canes distilled, a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor".

Rum's association with piracy began with English privateers trading on the valuable commodity. As some of the privateers became pirates and buccaneers, their fondness for rum remained, the association between the two only being strengthened by literary works such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.

The association of rum with the Royal Navy began in 1655 when the British fleet captured the island of Jamaica. With the availability of domestically produced rum, the British changed the daily ration of liquor given to seamen from French brandy to rum. While the ration was originally given neat, or mixed with lime juice, the practice of watering down the rum began around 1740. To help minimize the effect of the alcohol on his sailors, Admiral Edward Vernon directed that the rum ration be watered down before being issued, a mixture which became known as grog. The Royal Navy continued to give its sailors a daily rum ration, known as a "tot," until the practice was abolished after July 31, 1970.

A story involving naval rum is that following his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, Horatio Nelson's body was preserved in a cask of rum to allow transport back to England. Upon arrival, however, the cask was opened and found to be empty of rum. The pickled body was removed and, upon inspection, it was discovered that the sailors had drilled a hole in the bottom of the cask and drunk all the rum, in the process drinking Nelson's blood. Thus, this tale serves as a basis for the term Nelson's Blood being used to describe rum. It also serves as the basis for the term "Tapping the Admiral" being used to describe drinking the daily rum ration. The details of the story are disputed, as many historians claim the cask contained French Brandy and other claim the term originated from a toast to Admiral Nelson.

Rum became an important trade good in the early period of the colony of New South Wales. The value of rum was based upon the lack of coinage among the population of the colony, and due to the drink's ability to allow its consumer to temporarily forget about the lack of creature comforts available in the new colony. The value of rum was such that convict settlers could be induced to work the lands owned by officers of the New South Wales Corps. Due to rum's popularity among the settlers, the colony gained a reputation for drunkenness even though their alcohol consumption was less than levels commonly consumed in England at the time.

When William Bligh, became governor of the colony in 1806, he attempted to remedy the perceived problem with drunkenness by outlawing the use of rum as a medium of exchange. In response to this action, and several others, the New South Wales Corps marched, with fixed bayonets, to Government House and placed Bligh under arrest. The mutineers continued to control the colony until the arrival of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1810.

Until the second half of the 19th century all rums were heavy or dark rums that were considered appropriate for the working poor, unlike the refined double-distilled spirits of Europe. In order to expand the market for rum, the Spanish Royal Development Board offered a prize to anyone who could improve the rum making process. This resulted in many refinements in the process which greatly improved the quality of rum. One of the most important figures in this development process was Don Facundo Bacardí Massó, who moved from Spain to Santiago de Cuba in 1843. Don Facundo's experiments with distillation techniques, charcoal filtering, cultivating of specialized yeast strains, and aging with American oak casks helped to produce a smoother and mellower drink typical of modern light rums. It was with this new rum that Don Facundo founded Bacardí y Compañía in 1862.

Types of Rum
The grades and variations used to describe rum depend on the location that a rum was produced. Despite these variations the following terms are frequently used to describe various types of rum:

  • Light Rums: also referred to as light, silver, and white rums. In general, light rum has very little flavor aside from a general sweetness, and serves accordingly as a base for cocktails. Light rums are sometimes filtered after aging to remove any color. The Brazilian immensely popular Cachaça belongs to this type.
  • Gold Rums: also called amber rums, are medium-bodied rums which are generally aged. These gain their dark color from aging in wooden barrels (usually the charred white oak barrels that are the byproduct of Bourbon Whiskey).
  • Spiced Rum: These rums obtain their flavor through addition of spices and, sometimes, 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 artificial caramel color.
  • Dark Rum: also known as black rum, classes as a grade darker than gold rum. It is generally aged longer, in heavily charred barrels. Dark rum has a much stronger flavor than either light or gold rum, and hints of spices can be detected, along with a strong molasses or caramel overtone. It is used to provide substance in rum drinks, as well as color. In addition to uses in mixed drinks, dark rum is the type of rum most commonly used in cooking.
  • Flavored Rum: Some manufacturers have begun to sell rums which they have infused with flavors of fruits such as mango, orange, citrus, coconut or lime. These serve to flavor similarly themed tropical drinks which generally comprise less than 40% alcohol, and are also often drunk neat or on the rocks.
  • Over-proof Rum: is rum which is much higher than the standard 40% alcohol. Most of these rums bear greater than 75%, in fact, and preparations of 151 to 160 proof occur commonly.
  • Premium Rum: As with other sipping spirits, such as Cognac and Scotch, a market exists for premium and super-premium rums. These are generally boutique brands which sell very aged and carefully produced rums. They have more character and flavor than their "mixing" counterparts, and are generally consumed without the addition of other ingredients.
The Making of Rum
Unlike some other spirits, such as Cognac and Scotch, rum has no defined production methods. Instead, rum production is based on traditional styles that vary between locations and distillers.

Fermentation
Most rum produced is made from molasses. Within the Caribbean, much of this molasses is from Brazil. A notable exception is the French-speaking islands where sugarcane juice is the preferred base ingredient.
Yeast and water are added to the base ingredient to start the fermentation process. While some rum producers allow wild yeast to perform the fermentation, most use specific strains of yeast to help provide a consistent taste and predictable fermentation time. Dunder, the yeast-rich foam from previous fermentations, is the traditional yeast source in Jamaica. "The yeast employed will determine the final taste and aroma profile," says Jamaican master blender Joy Spence. Distillers that make lighter rums, such as Bacardi, prefer to use faster-working yeasts. Use of slower-working yeasts causes more esters to accumulate during fermentation, allowing for a fuller-tasting rum.

Distillation
As with all other aspects of rum production, there is no standard method used for distillation. While some producers work in batches using pot stills, most rum production is done using column still distillation. Pot still output contains more congeners than the output from column stills and thus produces a fuller-tasting rum.

Aging and blending
Many countries require that rum be aged for at least one year. This aging is commonly performed in used bourbon casks, but may also be performed in stainless steel tanks or other types of wooden casks. Due to the tropical climate common to most rum-producing areas, rum matures at a much faster rate than is typical for Scotch or Cognac. An indication of this faster rate is the angel's share, or amount of product lost to evaporation. While products aged in France or Scotland see about 2% loss each year, rum producers may see as much as 10%. After aging, rum is normally blended to ensure a consistent flavor. As part of this blending process, light rums may be filtered to remove any color gained during aging. For darker rums, caramel may be added to the rum to adjust the color of the final product.

Classic Rum Drink Recipes

Daiquiri
Originally the drink was served in a tall glass packed with cracked ice. A teaspoon of sugar was poured over the ice and the juice of one or two limes was squeezed over the sugar. Two or three ounces of rum completed the mixture. The glass was then frosted by stirring with a long-handled spoon.
 
Mai Tai (the original Trader Vics recipe)
2 oz of rum over shaved ice. Add juice from one fresh lime, 1/2 oz Orange Curacao, 1/4 oz Trader Vic's Rock Candy Syrup, 1/2 oz French Garnier Orgeat Syrup. Shake vigorously. Add a sprig of fresh mint.

Piña Colada
The Caribe Hilton Hotel in Puerto Rico claims that their bartender, Ramon "Monchito" Marrero created the Piña Colada on August 15, 1954 after spending 3 months perfecting the recipe. Another version of its origin is that in 1963, on a trip to South America , Mr Barrachina met another popular Spaniard and bartender Mr. Ramon Portas Mingot. Don Ramon has worked with the best places in Buenos Aires and associated with 'Papillon', the most luxurious bar in Carcao, and was also recognized for his cocktail recipe books. Pepe Barrachina and Don Ramon developed a great relationship. While working as the main bartender at Barrachina (a restaurant in Puerto Rico), Ramon mixed pineapple juice, coconut cream, condensed milk and ice in a blender, creating a delicious and refreshing drink, known today as the Piña Colada.

The Mojito
Cuba is the birthplace of the mojito, although the exact origin of this classic cocktail is the subject of debate. One story traces the mojito to the 16th century when the cocktail was known as “El Draque,” in honor of Sir Francis Drake. If this is indeed true, the mojito could be considered as the world's first cocktail. The mojito was made with “tafia,” a primitive predecessor of rum, with the other ingredients used to hide the harsh taste. The drink improved substantially in the 19th century, with the introduction of copper stills and the aging process that led to the modern form of rum.

When preparing a mojito, lime juice is added to sugar (or syrup) and mint leaves. The mixture is then gently mashed with a muddler. The mint leaves should only be bruised to release the essential oils and must not be shredded. Then rum is added and the mixture is briefly stirred to dissolve the sugar and to lift the mint sprigs up from the bottom for better presentation. Finally, the drink is topped with ice cubes and sparkling water, and mint leaves and lime wedges are used to garnish the glass.

"So, now ah'm goin ta put on me Tommy Bahama shirt, sunblock an' Maui Jim's then go relax wit' a cold cooool Caribbean libation. Ahh, when me got a cold rum drink in me hons...it's olways da same 'ting...nooo problem mon!"

Bon Appetit!

Lou
Sources daiquiri.se bartending-school.comv en.wikipedia.org