In the early 1970s, the food writer Jessica Harris first tasted rum. She was in Haiti and that initial sip was the island’s Rhum Barbancourt. From that moment on, she gave up her Jack Daniels and ginger ales and devoted herself to the sugarcane spirit. “I love the taste, that molasses and caney thing,” said Harris, who currently directs the Ray Charles program for culinary studies at Dillard University. “I love its versatility. But I suspect that most of all I love its history.”
Her colorful new book, “Rum Drinks: 50 Caribbean Cocktails, from Cuba Libre to Rum Daisy” (Chronicle), collects the recipes and rum memorabilia Harris picked up over numerous trips through the Caribbean. “The people for whom the Caribbean is home,” she said, “are fiercely loyal to their own rums. You rarely find a Jamaican drinking Barbancourt or a Haitian drinking Mount Gay.” Her favorite drinks from the book include a bell pepper infused rum, a variation on the Dark and Stormy called the Tchoupitoulas Street Guzzle and her own take on the mojito made with homemade ginger syrup.
If you are anywhere near New Orleans, on Thursday, June 10, at 6 p.m., Harris sings “Rum Drinks” during the University of New Orleans’ Ogden Museum’s weekly concert. Jimmy “Duck” Holmes is the featured musician. The show is $10. Museum members get in free. For more information, visit www.ogdenmuseum.org.