Editor’s Note: This is a column by Michael Zinser (“Z”) about wine (“The Grape”). The Zinser family owns and operates The Copper Still Wine & Spirits in Gallatin, Tennessee. If you are new to the world of wine and spirits, roaming the aisles in search of the perfect bottle can be daunting. With this column, Michael will help inform your decision by sharing valuable information about the best-known grape types and more.
It is Summer---the time to enjoy a Daiquiri, PiñaColada, Mai Tai, or Mojito on the beach. Rum – the common ingredient in these popular cocktails – has been one of America’s favorite spirits since the Colonial days.
What many people do not know is that rum is produced from a sugarcane by-product once thought of as garbage. Rum’s origins began when Christopher Columbus – whose father grew sugarcane on the island of Madeira – brought the crop to the Caribbean. Sugarcane flourished in the warm climate, and by the 1600s, there were hundreds of sugar refineries in the Caribbean.
Molasses is a sticky byproduct of the sugarcane industry. Approximately one pound of molasses is made for every pound of sugar, and before the creation of rum, it was mostly tossed into the sea as garbage. However, historians believe that, in the 17th century, a clever soul in Barbados figured out that Molasses could be fermented – and thus, rum was born.
Rum’s popularity quickly spread to Colonial North America. In 1664, the first rum distillery was built on present-day Staten Island. Another distillery in Boston was built shortly thereafter, and rum eventually became Colonial New England’s biggest and most profitable industry.
According to historian Wayne Curtis, as of 1770, there were over 150 rum distilleries in New England. Colonists imported 6.5 million gallons of West Indian Molasses, turning it into 5 million gallons of rum. Curtis writes that, at the time of the Revolutionary War, American rum consumption was nearly four gallons per person, per year!
Due to its early popularity, rum played a prominent part in our country’s history. Legend has it that Paul Revere fortified himself with rum in Medford, Massachusetts before galloping off on his famous ride to Lexington. George Washington served Rum Punch at his inauguration and provided rum to soldiers to increase morale. After the signing of The Constitution in 1787, our Founding Fathers also celebrated with many bowls of Rum Punch.
Today, many varieties of rum are available – including light, gold, dark, flavored, spiced, and premium – and its popularity has endured. Food & Wine magazine named rum the “Spirit of the Year” for 2017.
Light rum, which has a shorter distillation period, is often used with mixers. Bacardi is a popular seller at our store; we carry both the White and Gold versions. Many customers also enjoy flavored Malibu Rum and country music star Kenny Chesney’s Blue Chair Bay Rum Creams. If you like spiced rum, Captain Morgan’s is a good bet.
Not all rum is for mixing. A premium, aged rum is to be enjoyed by itself, just like a fine cognac. Kirk & Sweeney 23-Year-Old, named Wine Enthusiast’s “Top Rum of 2017,” is one of our favorites. We also carry premium rums from Ron Zacapa, El Dorado, Angostura, Plantation Barbados Rum, Papa’s Pilar, and Bumbu XO (a great recommendation from Mayor Paige Brown).
While you may not be able to make it to the Caribbean any time soon, if you stop by the Copper Still Wine & Spirits, we can help find a great bottle of rum for you!