Let’s Celebrate National Rum Day! August 16th marks Nation Rum Day. Let’s celebrate it with Van Brunt Stillhouse – a rum made in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood. National Rum Day, you say? Perhaps you’d be surprised to know that rum was the first spirit distilled in the America’s, even before whiskey.
Rum has a history almost as interesting as its distinctive flavor and aroma. In the New World its origins trace to the Caribbean, ultimately a result of some 1,500 sugar cane shoots that Columbus carried from the Canary Islands to the region on his second voyage in 1493. Obtained from the fermentation and distillation of molasses or other syrups from sugarcane, the drink initially became popular in Barbados in the 1650s. Referred to as rumbullion and ‘kill devil,’ rum quickly became a major commodity in the infamous ‘triangular trade’ between Europe, Africa and the American colonies and was entwined with the nautical lore of pirates across the region.
Rum’s history is almost as long in the United States, particularly in the British colonies of the northeast. The first rum distillery in colonial America was set up in 1664 on Staten Island, in relative terms not far from where Van Brunt Stillhouse is produced today. Rum quickly became part of colonial New England’s largest and most prosperous industry. So valuable was it as a commodity, Rhode Island rum even joined gold as an accepted currency in Europe for a short period of time. In 1764 the British imposition of the Sugar Act cut into the profitability of the drink, causing protests among the American colonists and contributing to the onset of the American Revolution. For this reason more than one historian has referred to rum as “The Spirit of ’76.”
Today Van Brunt Stillhouse is bringing this spirit back to its place of origin in America with Brooklyn’s own distinctive product, Due North Rum. Due North is carefully created with organic, unprocessed sugar. While most sugar cane is grown on plantations and milled on an industrial scale, Van Brunt Stillhouse procures its sugar cane from small family farmers who carefully dry their cane in the sun and process it by hand.
Many are the names that have been given to rum, and many—like ‘[Admiral] Nelson’s blood,’ grog, pirate drink, navy neaters, and Barbados waters—reflect its nautical associations. With their insistence on the highest quality, Van Brunt Stillhouse carries on part of this tradition with Due North. Sailors were once afforded a daily ration of rum as part of their pay. Usually this grog was more water than rum; but when they had performed valiantly in a bruising battle or had prevailed in heavy weather, a captain would dole out a little more ‘fortitude’ in the ration. When the ration was pure rum, sailors would happily declare that it was “Due North!”
It’s true: Due North’s complex and delicate profile will give this rum an appeal to whiskey drinkers and rum drinkers alike. I’m not normally a big rum drinker, but this is by far the best rum I’ve tried. I love this recipe because Due North’s delicate caramel notes enhance the citrus in the cocktail without overpowering.
2 oz Due North rum
1 oz fresh lime juice
½ oz fresh grapefruit juice
¼ oz maraschino liqueur
1½ to 2 cups shaved ice
Combine in a blender and frappe until the drink is foaming. Serve in a large cocktail glass.
Live passionately, drink responsibly.
Our Guest Post today was written by anthropologist, Dr. John P. Homiak. Opinions and commentary is his own, and not an endorsement.
Disclosure: USA Love List received some products in this post unconditionally for review purposes. Our opinions are always our own, and we aim to write fair and balanced reviews to promote only the very best of American-made products.