Today, August 16th, marks a very special day in the beverage calendar. It’s a day that aims to see a mass exodus from the wine bars and beer tents in favour of a far more exotic tipple that is having a sudden renaissance in bars and clubs across the world. Today is the day that we say cheers with a celebration of National Rum Day.
Produced primarily in the Caribbean and Latin America, rum has precursors dating back to antiquity. The first example of such a drink is likely to have been brum, a thousand year old drink produced by the Malay people from the Malay peninsula. In the 14th century, Marco Polo also made an account of a very good wine of sugar, which could have been a rum predecessor, offered to him in modern-day Iran.
History-wise, rum also played a pivotal part in the slavery plantations in the Caribbean, its very first production the result of hard slave labour on the sugarcane plantations in the 17th century. Indeed, it was these poor workers who are to credit for the rum we know today as they discovered and carried out the first distillation of rum from the molasses, a by-product of the sugar refining process, that they farmed.
After this development in the Carribean, the popularity of rum then spread to Colonial North America where the manufacture of rum very quickly became early Colonial New England’s largest and most prosperous industry. After the American Revolution, rum even began to take on a political role with candidates for state elections attempting to influence their popularity with a gentle bit of rum bribery. Rum then stepped up its level of near global dominance too when the Australians began to use the tipple as a popular medium of economic exchange, swapping casks of rum for pennies and pounds.
The meaning of the word “rum” is still very much a mystery and has incited numerous suggestions for its definition over the years including “strong” or “potent”, “again” or “a second time”, “aroma” or “the best” in terms of “having a rum time”. Whatever its original meaning, the drink has now also acquired a number of nicknames such as Nelson’s blood, kill-devil, demon water, pirate’s drink, navy neaters and Barbados water.
In celebration of this happy holiday for the popular beverage, York’s biggest rum fans and newbies alike should head to Sotano in York where the cocktail bar will be stirring up their hottest rum cocktails.