For most of its roughly 500-year history, rum was the “spirit” of practicality. Despite its popular associations with swashbuckling and loud tropical shirts, the otherwise mercurial spirit was a staunch friend to sailors. The signature “navy strength” of the drink simply meant that it would store longer on long voyages, and its sweetness made it a perfect vehicle for the seaman’s daily ration of lime juice to prevent or treat scurvy.
But like the pirates who once consumed it, rum is riding the steady current of a craft cocktail renaissance to claim its cool. Discerning barflies are having better drinks, which start with quality spirits. The rise of new distilleries in the United States shows that drinkers have already started discovering the source of those new whiskeys, and rum appears poised to reap those same rewards.
Just ask Andrew Asher, co-founder of Winter Park Distilling. Along with whiskey and vodka, Asher’s distillery is one of a growing number of U.S. distilleries that produces rum. Made with molasses from the Florida Everglades, both the silver and beer-barrel aged varieties of their Dog Island Rum have fans at the package store. Asher says versatility is one of the spirit’s key strengths.
“You distill rum to a fairly high proof, so it almost has a neutral tendency to it in a cocktail environment, but it’s easily distinguishable from vodka,” says Asher. “Whereas our aged rum is something you can sip, put into a glass with no ice and enjoy a cigar with.”
The proof is easily visible at most any liquor store, where shelf space for rum has expanded. You can find upstart brands such as Kraken Black Spiced Rum from Trinidad and Seven Fathoms Cayman Islands Rum competing with the usual battery of Bacardi flavors. You’ll also find high-end creations such as Grander Panama Rum, which is produced in the Central American country and aged for eight years in former bourbon barrels from Kentucky to give it a richer aroma, flavor, color and texture.
Drink up me hearties, yo ho! Read more about the rum trend at the Orlando Sentinel here.