If you don’t know that the sweet(er) taste of rum is derived from sugar cane and it’s by products, now you do! Most other spirits begin with corn, wheat, grains, ect and are distilled into their various forms. Rum is sugar based! Here’s a rundown of how sugar cane spread across the world, and subsequently rum too.
Rum (or its earliest counterpart) was discovered as an early fermented sugar drink found in China and India. Even Marco Polo mentions a “very good wine made from sugar” during his travels in Iran. Yes, Iran. The rum we know today was distilled from sugarcane byproducts in the Caribbean in the 1600’s. And so the history of rum is also the history of sugar.
Sugar cane is a tall, thick grass that has its origins in the islands of present-day Indonesia in the East Indies. Chinese traders spread its cultivation to Asia and on to India. Arabs in turn brought it to the Middle East and North Africa where it came to the attention of Europeans during the Crusades in the 11th century.
As the Spanish and Portuguese began to venture out into the Atlantic Ocean, they planted sugar cane in the Canary and Azore Islands. In 1493 Christopher Columbus picked up cane cuttings from the Canaries while on his second voyage to the Americas and transplanted them on the island that is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
The Caribbean has an ideal climate for sugar cane and production quickly spread throughout the islands. Demand for sugar in Europe led to colonization of the areas including plantations and mills. They crushed the harvest and extracted the juice. Boiling the juice caused it to crystalize into what we know as sugar. The remaining product is known as molasses – the super sticky syrup that still contains quite a bit of sugar substance. They soon found that when mixed with water it quickly fermented in the sun. By the 1650’s the former waste product was now distilled into a spirit –Rum.
Now that we know a little of the history of Rum and how it spread we’ll delve further into the fun stuff along with the dark past of the sugar trade and the best drinks to be had while relaxing on the beach! Stay tuned for the next installment of RUM!