Rum!

Why is the rum ALWAYS gone? – Jack Sparrow

Where would we be without rum?  Rum has been part of not only naval history but through that, part of history in general for most of the world.  Being a cheaply and quickly made alcoholic beverage, rum was an economic boon for the the West Indies in the Age of Exploration and for Rennies everywhere, the pirate drink of choice.

Rum is an alcoholic beverage made from by products of sugarcane like molasses or directly from the sugarcane juice itself.  The sugary form of the sugarcane is distilled and then aged in oak barrels.  Rum comes in many varieties – light, dark, golden and even premium rums.  Light rum traditionally has been an addition to mixed drinks while the darker and premium varieties were taken straigh tor neat.  Now, even those darker types are being used in mixers.

The first rum may have been made in India or China as a fermented drink from the sugarcane plant.    In fact, Marco Polo mentions “wine of sugar in his memoirs when he was traveling through what is modern day Iran.  True distillation was first recorded in the sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean. And though this is the first recorded production of rum, their was rum being made on plantations and sugar cane farms in the 1600s in Latin America and Brazil.  The explorers that came to that area increased the production of rum and took over those plantations.  Rum was spread all over the known world though through its connection tot he British Navy and piracy.

The British Navy adopted rum in 1655 as the drink of choice on-board ship.  Before this point, the daily rationed alcoholic drink was brandy.  Now that there was a ready supply of rum, the rum ration was started and continued as part of British naval tradition until 1970 when the ‘tot’ (daily rum ration) was abolished.

With pirate crews being made of former British Navy men (some by their own choice, some being forced into the trade), it is no wonder that pirates carried rum on their ships.  Pirates of course would take the rum ration from British ships and other Europeans ships that had brought rum with them or from merchant vessels that had been carrying them to trade.  Pirates saw the value int he rum but they also developed a taste for it.  It is hard to keep good potable drinking water on a long sea-going vessel, so having rum on had could help you out in a pinch when you ran out of water.  Also, when you went ashore, you had to have something for the pirates to drink while they made camp on the beach.

One of the biggest pirate parties on record was held by Blackbeard on the island of Ocracoke off the coast of North Carolina.  Rum flowed like water and they went through casks after cask of rum during this week long celebration as other pirates joined the party with Blackbeard’s men.  It is also during the Golden Age of Piracy that the drink bumboo was made popular with the pirate crews in the caribbean.  This drink made with other spices was the fore-runner to a famous spiced rum named for a certain pirate captain (spiced rum that I can drink straight out of the bottle).

Hope this gives you some insight on rum and how it figures into the history fo the world and history of pirates in particular.  This article was suggested by The Pirate Museum in St Augustine Florida – go check out their website and learn more about pirates, or better yet, go visit the museum.