It’s time for another #WhatTheHeckWithHenry - where our incredibly handsome and photogenic cat explains what the heck this ingredient is.
This time, we are talking rum! Rum is an amazingly complex spirit category that often times does not get the recognition it deserves.
Rum is a spirit that is made from sugar cane juice, cane syrup, or other sugar byproducts (molasses) that is fermented and then distilled. There are no designated geographic regions in which it must be produced, but the Caribbean, Central and South America are best known for their production of the world’s rums. Rum’s history is inextricably tied to the slave trade and colonialism. Historically, rum styles have been referred to by their colonizer’s names (e.g., French, Spanish, British), but, fortunately, we are now moving away from those labels and instead focusing on the unique attributes of the rum itself and its country of origin.
There are many styles of rum, and it can get a bit overwhelming to sort through them all when standing in front of the rum shelf at the store! This is another “save it” post to take on your shopping trips!
Let’s break it down:
White / Blanco / Silver rum - Rums that are lighter-bodied and clear. It’s likely that they have not been aged, but it is possible that they spent a brief time in a barrel and had the color filtered out.
Cocktail examples: Daiquiri, Mojito, Piña Colada
Gold rum - A somewhat vague term that can refer to a lightly aged rum, or a white rum with some caramel coloring added.
Cocktail examples: Barracuda, Cuba Libre, Rum & Coke
Aged rum - Fairly self-explanatory, this style refers to rums that have been aged in wooden casks. Sometimes also known as dark rum (although some dark rums get their hue from caramel, burnt sugar or molasses additives).
Cocktail examples: Hurricane, Jungle Bird, Mai Tai
Flavored / Spiced rum - Additional flavorings and/or spices have been added, such as vanilla, coconut, and other fruits or blends of spices.
Cocktail examples: Cable Car, Coconut & Pineapple, Lime & Soda
Demerara rum - From the nation of Guyana, this style is dark and rich, with some smokiness. The sugar cane that it’s distilled from grows next to the Demerara River, which flows through the country.
Cocktail examples: Demerara Cocktail, Georgetown Cocktail, Three Dots and a Dash
Rhum Agricole - This style is mostly associated with the island of Martinique, and it is made from fresh sugar cane juice (instead of molasses, which dominates the basis of most other rum styles). The term “terroir” (the land, climate, soil, etc. that affects the flavors of the vegetation) is applicable here because so much more flavor comes through the sugar cane juice. It’s more vegetal and earthy in taste.
Cocktail examples: Isle of Golden Dreams, Ti’ Punch, Three Dots and a Dash
Navy / Naval / Navy Strength rum - Another fairly nebulous term, mostly meaning that they are dark, heavy, and strong, and could be a blend of rums. The term comes from the British navy, who issued a daily ration of rum to its sailors for over 300 years - only ceasing the practice in 1970!
Cocktail examples: Grog, Navy Strength Old Fashioned, Rum & Coffee
Overproof rum - Any rum that has an alcohol content of over 50%. This is the strong stuff!
Cocktail examples: Coconut Rum Punch, Rum & Ting, Rumpari
As you can see, the rum world is vast! There are even more sub-categories of rum that we just don’t have the space to get into here. It’s a funky, fun, seemingly endless category of spirits that is a joy to explore. Tell us - which styles have you tried and which are your favorites?