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And a Bottle of Rum: 07/31/11
And a Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis draws its title from the pirate song penned by Robert Louis Stevenson for Treasure Island. In fact, Curtis's opening chapter includes an explanation of why he chose the title and how the phrase came about.
From there he explores two parallel histories: the creation of rum and its uses over the years. Along with his discussion of how rum has been used, he has some cocktail recipes and their histories.
My favorite pieces of the book were the history of grog (along with its recipe), the history of the mojito (a drink I've never had but was curious about) and the differences between the real Captain Morgan and the brand name.
Rum I remember from history class and the discussion of the sugar trade. Curtis has some thoughts about the triangle and makes some compelling arguments against the simplistic description of the relationships between slavery, sugar and rum. He's not saying there wasn't any correlation, just that it's not as straightforward as a triangle.
Another fascinating piece of rum's history, is its similarities with gasoline (petrol). I remember from my days of listening to my dad and his antique car buddies talk shop is that cars run on gasoline because in the early days of car tinkering (when they were primarily self built or engines but onto carriages), gasoline was cheap (if not free) because it was the waste product from making kerosene.
Rum came about under similar circumstances. The sugar refining process left tons of this black gooey mess that was a pain to dispose of, until some enterprising hooch makers found a way to distill it into a cheap (if not free) alcohol. The only problem, lead in the pipes often lead to poisonous liquor. But carting it around in barrels (yo ho ho!) leeched out those impurities. So in a strange turn of fate, rum shipped overseas (or kept on a ship and mixed with water and lime juice) was a much nice spirit than what was drunk locally on the islands.