Rum cocktails that celebrate the diversity of drinks from the Caribbean and beyond

Kristin Braswell (VinePair) explores the diversity of rums and rum cocktails. [Visit VinePair for full article, including recipes for a variety of exciting options to explore.]

If the first image that springs to mind when you hear “rum cocktail” is a frozen drink punctured with a colorful parasol, here’s your chance to reimagine the scene — a global one, where rum stars in recipes that don’t require a blender, brain freeze, or idyllic beach. Rum is an international spirit, and a cultural fixture in areas of the world where it is produced. Originally called “Kill Devil” or “rumbullion,” rum’s first recorded history dates to 1650 in Barbados. It became profitable in many Caribbean islands as a result of Europeans who forced Africans to work as slaves. However, the spirit continues to thrive with local pride, and brands around the world are excited to shift the narrative of rum as a spirit made solely for tropical drinks.

“Rum is the most versatile spirit category in the world, with an array of flavors, body, aromas and presentations,” says Ian A.V. Burrell, global rum ambassador to the rum category, and founder of Equiano rum. Although the distilled spirit is made from sugarcane, a common misconception is that rum is always sweet. But while some rums are allowed to add sugar or sweet wines to their blends, many are as pure as bourbonTennessee whiskey, or single-malt Scotch. (“Pure” as in unadulterated, meaning no sugar, sweeteners, or additives are used to enhance the flavor.)

In this way, Burrell compares rum to whiskey: Both follow regional “rules” or laws, but have no global definition. “It is produced in many countries, most having their own definition of the sugarcane spirit, similar to whiskey from ScotlandIrelandCanada, or America,” Burrell says, “and like whiskey, it all depends on where the rum is made. For example, all rums from Puerto Rico must be aged for a minimum of one year before they can be called rum, and in Venezuela, two years. Rums from Jamaica must be made on the island and cannot contain additives such as sugar or spices. And Rhums from Martinique, using their controlled designation of origin (appellation d’origine contrôlée AOC), have many rules, including that they must be made from fresh sugarcane juice from local sugarcane and distilled in creole column stills.”

Likewise, Peter Ruppert, beverage director of Short Stories in the East Village of New York and brand ambassador for Don Papa Rum, compares rum to wine: “Much in the way that the same grape grown in Burgundy can be raised in California, yet produce two very different flavors, the same concept exists for sugar,” he says. “It’s such a delicate balance with many factors, from climate, to the proximity to a large body of water, and even altitude.” [. . .]

[Illustration above by Gerry Selian.]

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