Taking a break from the doom and gloom to cheer everyone up with a delightful Cuba Libre. “and a Bottle of Rum” by Wayne Curtis is a well narrated history of rum and the New World which it helped found. Looking at history through the context of the first truly American spirit gives new context to many well known historical events. One example…General George Patton made many remarks about the importance of Coca Cola’s influence on troop morale in World War 2…unmentioned was the fact that Patton always carried multiple bottles of rum with him and needed the Coca Cola for a mixer. I’ve watched plenty of documentaries about World War 2 and read my fair share of books about it, but I have never before heard that Coca Cola had their own “front line” consultants who would immediately follow troops into new regions to set up distribution lines for their product.
Lacking any distinct regulations (like bourbon, scotch, tequila, or champagne) makes rum a hard to understand spirit. Throughout history the changes in the public’s taste have brought rum in and out of fashion and caused it to take on many different forms. In the earliest days, rum was most likely a near putrid highly unrefined product that needed a lot of flavors added to mask the taste. When New England started producing their own rums it took a more refined, almost medicinal refined taste. In the 1920s Bacardi changed the game with their “light rum” made in Havana. Don’t get that confused with the shit Bacardi puts on the shelves today, because they could not be more different. Did you know that Baradi is the largest family owned alcohol producer in the world?
Back when I was in high school we drank a lot of rum because it was cheap. Since then…unless I’m on vacation in Mexico, I don’t often think about having a rum drink. Making a cuba libre still brings back memories of the stupid shit we did back when we were younger. This summer it’s been a nice change of flavors from my usual bourbon or tequila drinks…or the martinis I so adore. Not being much of a rum drinker didn’t dampen any of the enjoyment I got out of reading this finely constructed account. If you’re interested in booze and history, this one is definitely worth your time.