It has been said that rum is the drink of revolution. It’s a spirit made from molasses (a by product of making sugar from sugar cane). Molasses, at the time of the invention of rum, was essentially industrial waste. Its chief selling points were that it was both very strong and very cheap. Prior to the American Revolution, it was estimated that every man, woman and child in America drank an average of 13.5 liters of rum a year. It was the preferred drink of the American masses. It kept the colonists feeling good about living in, what was at that time considered, the frontier of civilization.
Adding a tax to molasses would make rum more expensive. When Great Britain imposed the Molasses tax, it started the revolutionary fires burning and colonists thinking about, “No taxation without representation.” The tax on tea was the last straw that culminated in the American Declaration of Independence on July 4th 1776. I guess Americans have always been willing to fight and die for their beverage of choice.
It’s almost beyond comprehension that a beverage that was described in 1651 as, “Hot, hellish, and terrible.” Could have helped ferment revolution. (double entender intended) As a matter of fact, the rum that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams would have tasted was cloying, greasy, and nasty smelling stuff. But most importantly, it was cheap.
So what do you do with cheap rough alcohol to make it more palatable? You mix it. A cocktail is defined as an alcoholic mixed drink with at least two ingredients. One of those ingredients should be a spirit. Though today the definition has become a little more flexible. Popular cocktails in days of old were the Mimbo, Calibogus, Toddy, Sling, Grog and the most popular Flip. Mimbo was a drink made from rum, sugar loaf and water. Calibogus was rum and beer. Toddy, sling and grog are still imbibed today.
Flip was an interesting hot cocktail. Each portion was huge, made in giant (by our standards anyway) pewter mugs or ceramic pitchers. A recipe for Flip is as follows: mix together a pint of cream, four eggs, and four pounds of sugar, and keep this on the side. Fill a quart mug two-thirds full of bitter beer, add four great spoonfuls of the creamy compound, a gill of rum (just over half a cup) and stick a red hot poker in it. At this point if you beat a fresh egg into the mixture, the froth poured over the top of the mug, and the drink was called “bellows-top”. Then this steaming concoction was poured into a Flip serving vessel of either glass or ceramic, sometimes holding three or four quarts. The taste was not that of a modern cocktail, to say the least. Eventually, for American farmers whisky became cheaper to make than rum, so rum diminished in popularity. Ironically, it was the repeal of prohibition which resurrected the popularity of rum in the cool and refreshing daiquiri. It was a perfect blend of rum, lime, sugar, and ice. The blending of rum and lime had its roots in the British Navy’s addition of citrus juice to the grog ration of its sailors to ward off scurvy.
During his times in Cuba, Earnest Hemingway loved the daiquiri from the bar El Floridita and loved the Mojito from La Bodeguita.
These bars still exist today.The Mojito is a lovely cocktail infused with fresh muddled mint, sugar syrup, a large shot of rum, soda water and ice. Nothing better on a hot summer day.
To cool us off in preparation for the fall, we will be hosting a Martini Fest for our Saturday tasting on the 18th of this month. Join us, to your health! And Cheers!
Certified Sommelier, General Manager, President Liane was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. She graduated from the Kamehameha Schools in 1977, and worked in the bookkeeping department of Villa Roma, a women’s retail clothing store owned by her mother Audrey Fu, before flying off to college in New York City. She was a physics major at New York University (NYU). In her first semester, she attended a concert that was interpreted for the deaf. She became fascinated by the idea of communication through movement which for her was kind of like hula on steroids.