Putting the Cock Back in Cocktail: Mojitos, Daiquiris, Rum Sours, and More!

This video was made for a recent article, which was rather deplorably edited, and which I therefore reprint below as it was originally written.



Getting Numb With Rum


Rum, like the hangovers it can create, is a side-effect, a by-product: a by-product of the juice that comes from sugarcane. And that, really, is one of the few definitive things you can say about the origins of rum.

For instance: rum may or may not have been invented in the early seventeenth century, on the pear-shaped island of Barbados, or Rum may or may not have been invented by Portuguese colonists operating along the coast of Brazil, when they created a harsh sugarcane concoction later called cachaça, or, after all, rum may or may not have been invented by the early Spanish colonists who populated the islands of Hispaniola and Cuba.

The word “rum,” likewise, may or may not come from the Latin saccharum, which is the Latin word for sugar, or, alternatively, the word “rum” may or may not have come from the British term for “the greatest” (“We had a rum of a time at Ace Gillett’s!”), or, finally, the word rum may or may not have come from the Gypsy word rum, which means “potent and strong.”

We do know that by 1654 both the name and the product were in common usage — the General Court of Connecticut having officially ordered “confiscations of whatsoever Barbados liquors, commonly called rum, kill devil and the like.”

It was in the early 1600’s that sugar-planters crushed up sugarcane and boiled the juice that was then cured in clay pots from which oozed a black and viscous liquid we now call molasses. This was in the 17th Century, mind you, and at that time molasses was actually regarded as what we now call “industrial waste.” But because the ingenuity of the human mind is limitless, an admixture was soon created whereby the liquid skimmed off the boiled cane juice was fermented and then added to this molasses by-product.

This process is the provenance of rum.

I’m not saying I’m going to, but I could persuasively argue that rum is the most quintessentially American spirit there is.

Look at America through the lens of rum and what do you see?

This:

A great gurgling vat of sugar-cane liquor — a melting pot, the only spirit you can get in white, brown, or black.

You see a four-century survivor, who rose up through the classes, who belongs to them all, who went from the streets to the state-room, from sweaty to sophisticated, from poverty and prison to preeminence and patrician, self-made, not rare but beautiful — street-handsome — swashbuckling, never (unlike bourbon) over-regulated, or snooty, like gin.

“Of all the spirits in your home,” wrote James Beard, in 1956, “rum is the most romantic.”

9 Comments

  • Dave

    April 20, 2016

    Even I have to admit that this writing is tight. I like the way the piece builds to the last few stanzas. The descriptions are so well written that the piece seems very unlike things you encounter in the commercial press. The part after “the lens of rum” is fantastic. Seeing rum as a result of generations is awfully clever and powerful. The final quote is great, though I feel you invented it and passed it off as authentic.

    I tried to click on the other article to compare this one to the edited piece, but was immediately and crudely assaulted by pop-ups trying to get me to buy a time-share in bloody Durango.

    And also, Dog, that photo of yours looks like it was taken back in your Laramie days, back when you paid taxes and watched David Lynch movies on your ragged-out VCR. Get e new one (photo not VCR).

    Dave Zoby

  • Ray

    April 20, 2016

    Thank you! That’s got to be the sweetest backhanded compliment I’ve ever received.

    And I agree with you about the assaulting pop-ups. I apologize.

    Thank you for dropping by.

  • Ray

    April 20, 2016

    P.S. My brandy piece is much less contrived.

  • Trevin Wecks

    April 21, 2016

    Ray –

    Your videos are epic! Thanks for showing the art of exquisite cocktails. Yours are the best!!

    Trevin

  • Ray

    April 22, 2016

    Trevin, my friend, you just bought yourself a drink.

    Thank you for watching, and thank you for dropping by.

  • Dave

    May 13, 2016

    I don’t get how Trevin’s weak and rather innocuous comment earns him a fucking drink. Please explain. Does a guy have to agree with all of your half-cocked drivel to get a spot at your bar? Is this what it’s all about? Do I have to eschew Earth Day and say global warming was invented by the Chinese just to get a plate of flaccid calamari? TREVIN’S is a lazy comment with no substance whatso ever. Lazy. Make him work for it.

  • Ray

    May 14, 2016

    The reason is that he’s not a cunt, like you.

  • Dave

    May 17, 2016

    Are you sure?

  • Ray

    May 19, 2016

    To be honest, I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life.

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