All You Need to Know About Rum
What’s better than a great Piña Colada, sipped on a warm beach in some lovely tropical area? If your answer is two great Piña Coladas, then this article is definitely one you want to read. The main type of alcohol used for this cocktail is the world-famous rum, a distilled liquor that’s produced mainly in the Caribbean made from sugarcane by-products such as molasses or sugarcane juice. Known as one of the world’s best mixers, rum can be added to hot and cold cocktails and is also delightful on its own, either taken neat or served over ice cubes. Every good bar in the world, whether a commercial bar or home bar, will have at least two varieties of rum to make a wide range of drinks. Here is all you need to know about rum.
Rum is basically distilled fermented sugar cane juice or molasses which has been aged in oak barrels. Spanish terminology is usually used: ron viejo is “old rum” and ron añejo is “aged rum. Most of the world’s rum-producing nations are found in Latin America and the Caribbean, and include the Dominican Republic, Belize, Nicaragua, Martinique, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Grenada, St. Vincent, Barbados, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Puerto Rico, Guyana, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Other countries that produce rum on a lesser scale include Spain, Canada, Australia, and Mexico.
Light rums, which are clear in color, are usually used for mixed drinks, while darker and golden rums are taken neat or iced; however, in recent years this has been changing as more bartenders are finding good mixer combinations.
Rum features heavily as a cultural element in the Caribbean as well as in Canada’s Maritimes and Newfoundland. Rum is also associated with the Royal Navy were it was mixed with beer or water and called “grog”, and is also forever associated with piracy that occurred over the centuries in the Caribbean Sea. The name for rum depends on the country of its origin: for example, in Spanish-speaking areas of production, the label will say ron; in French speaking countries the label will say rhum. Nick-names for rum include “Nelson’s blood”, “kill-devil”, “demon water”, and “Barbados Water.”
Rum has been around in some form or another for thousands of years, with evidence of distilling being found in ancient Indian and Chinese archaeological sites. Marco Polo described something similar to a rum which was given to him while he was travelling in what is now known as Iran. However, modern rum and rum producing techniques were discovered in the New World in the 17th century; slaves on plantations discovered that molasses could be distilled. The popularity of the drink expanded to so an extent that in the United States before the Revolutionary War, every person in the colonies was drinking about 14 liters of the beverage per year.
Rum is a little bit difficult to classify as each rum-producing country has its own rules and regulations. However, rums can be classified according to the language spoken in the country where it is produced. However, due to the popularity of Puerto Rican rum in the United States, most of the rums produced in the U.S. will be done in the “Spanish-speaking” style rather than the “English-speaking” style.
Spanish-speaking regions and islands will make añejo rums that are smooth. Cuba, Guatemala, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic make this type of rum; the U.S. Virgin Islands also make “Spanish-speaking” rum. The Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa, make a rum from honey; it carries a geographical designation.
English-speaking regions make darker rums with a fuller, more pronounced taste. The rums keep their underlying molasses taste. Grenada, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Guyana, St. Kitts, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica all make these darker, richer rums.
French-speaking regions of the Caribbean produce rums that are “agricultural” and are made from sugar cane juice only and have a pronounced sugarcane flavor. Rhum is generally more expensive than molasses-based rum. Martinique, Haiti, and Guadeloupe produce this style of rum.
Cachaça is a Brazilian spirit which is similar to rum and is in fact classified as a rum in the United States. Panama produces a beverage called seco, which is triple-distilled rum that is more like vodka in character.
Light rums are usually clear in color and are not aged for long in order to keep them light, slightly sweet and somewhat neutral in flavor.
Gold rums are aged for varying amounts of time in charred oak barrels in order to give them a medium body, a darker, amber color, and a stronger “caramel” type of flavor.
Dark rums are aged longer in deeply charred barrels and can be brown, red, or black. They taste strongly of molasses or caramel and have a fuller body. Spice tones can also be detected in dark rum.
Spiced rums are usually dark rums that have been infused with spices. Cheaper varieties are usually light rum that has been spice infused and artificially colored.
So, the next time you feel like experiencing rum, try something a little different rather than the usual rum and coke or Piña Colada. Try a rhum on the rocks, a neat gold rum, or even try spiced dark rum in this beautiful, age-old drink for cold winter days: Hot Buttered Rum.
Hot Buttered Rum
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 oz spiced rum
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 inch piece of lemon rind
1 squeeze of lemon
In a pan, boil water and spices along with the lemon rind for two or three minutes. In a mug, mash the brown sugar into the butter until it forms a paste. Pour the hot spiced water into the mug, and add the rum. Give everything a stir, and add a small squeeze of lemon. Heaven in a mug, and the best way to add a bit of brightness on days that are bitterly cold.
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