Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa

As I sit here staring at my thermometer hovering around negative numbers, I can’t help but close my eyes and wish I was somewhere that snow, wind chills, and ice were only a myth, and this time of year, I’m sure I’m not alone. So– seeing as how all I can think about is tropical weather and how it just happens to be citrus season, I think it’s the perfect time to talk about… rum.

Rum is a liquor that fermented and distilled from sugar cane byproducts such as molasses. Its roots can be traced back for hundreds, if not thousands of years. There is some speculation that rum was first discovered in either ancient China or India, and there is significant evidence that Marco Polo (in the late 14th century) found a “very good wine of sugar” in what is now Iran.

Barbados was granted the official first true distillation of the spirit, and the Caribbean islands themselves still serve some of the best rum found in the world, though it is produced in the U.S., Australia, Canada, and Germany, among others.

Rum has strong ties with Britain’s Royal Navy (who gave sailors a daily ration until the practice’s abolishment in 1970) as well as piracy (due in part to Treasure Island but also because the English Privateers who traded heavily in rum became pirates and took their love of rum with them).

Today, there are many different classes of rum. Most rum is aged in oak, which imparts its flavors of vanilla and spice, but some are left clear; these are better for mixing.

• Light Rum: Known also as silver or white, this rums tends to be your best for mixing with juices and mix bases. Besides sweetness, the flavors is not very pronounced.

• Gold Rum: A medium-bodied rum, it spends time in white oak casks that have been charred slightly on the inside. Typically having more spice components as well as hints of vanilla and nutmeg, gold rum is the in-between choice for those who are looking for more flavor than a light rum without the heaviness of a dark rum.

• Spiced Rum: This baby’s been “seasoned”, if you will, with natural and artificial spices, such as nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, and clove, to create a more complex and distinct flavor. Captain Morgan’s is a good example.

• Over-proof Rum: Created simply for the joy of getting completely hammered — and to help pyromaniacs set drinks on fire — it typically has a proof of 150 or higher.

• Dark Rum: The darkest of rums (also known as black rum), it spends time aging in highly charred oak casks for several months and has strong flavors of caramel, spices, and molasses. Dark rum tends to be higher in alcohol, and it adds a little get-up-and-go to rum drinks. It also the most popular rum used in cooking.

• Flavored Rum: Generally using a light rum as a base, flavored rum is artificially flavored to make it easier for you to use in mixed drinks. Malibu, a coconut-flavored rum, is a popular variety that you can find in almost any liquor store. You can certainly drink flavored rum on the rocks or neat, but I recommend that you use them as a mixer.

• Premium Rum: Similar to high-end cognac or whiskey, premium is generally aged for many years and carefully crafted. It’s created by boutique crafters and has many complex flavor and aroma components. Premium rum is generally sipped neat or on the rocks and almost has a whiskey-like nature.

Now that you have a little knowledge of rum, I’d like to share a recipe my bar manager Mark Elwell gave me. Not only does the finished product look nice, but it tastes good, too. So sit back, close your eyes, and pretend you’re on a tropical island time taking in the sunshine.

Enjoy!

Tavern Rum Special
1 ¼ oz. Bacardi (light rum)
¾ oz. Malibu (flavored rum)
4 oz. orange juice
4 oz. pineapple juice
¾ oz. Grenadine
½ oz. Myers (dark rum)

In a pint glass, combine Bacardi, Malibu, and orange and pineapple juices. Shake vigorously with ice. Fill a chilled Collins glass with ice and add grenadine. Top grenadine with drink in a shaker. Add a floater of Myers on top. Garnish with a lime, and “splice the main beam”, mateys! (That’s pirate for “double the ration of rum”).

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