|Year||Annually on August 16th|
Rum has been a beloved spirit for centuries, enjoyed around the world in cocktails, on its own, and as an ingredient. On August 16th every year, National Rum Day gives us a chance to celebrate the history and versatility of this distinctive liquor.
A Brief History of Rum
The origins of rum date back to the 17th century in the Caribbean islands. Early rum was distilled from molasses, a byproduct of sugar production, giving the spirit its name “rumbullion” or “rumbustion” which meant a noisy commotion or uproar.
The Caribbean climate was ideal for growing sugarcane, which became a valuable crop. Enslaved people from West Africa provided the labor that enabled the proliferation of sugarcane plantations throughout islands like Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico during the 1650s and thereafter.
Distilleries used excess molasses to make crude rum, which was then traded back to Africa or to New England. By the 18th century, rum production expanded with demand. The spirit became popular in the Royal Navy and played a part in the Triangular Trade that sent rum to Europe, slaves to the Americas, and sugar back to Europe.
Over the centuries, rum has evolved from the harsh “Kill Devil” to the refined spirit we know today. Different styles emerged, shaped by local customs and laws. For example, Cuban light rum became crisp and dry, while Jamaican rum gained notoriety for its rich, funky flavor.
The invention of more efficient column stills enabled mass production and consistent quality. Countries like Cuba and Puerto Rico became known for premium rums. Brands like Bacardi gained international fame. Today, rum has blossomed into a diverse spirit with brands and styles to suit every taste.
Fun Facts About Rum
Rum has a fascinating history and culture behind it. Here are some interesting tidbits:
- The strongest rum ever made was 75.5% alcohol by volume. Dangerously high!
- “Rum and Coke” was created in 1900’s Cuba when a member of the Bacardi family recommended mixing Bacardi rum with Coca-Cola.
- The daiquiri cocktail was invented by American mining engineers in Cuba. Its simple recipe inspired countless variations.
- During Prohibition, rum-running or bootlegging rum into the U.S. became popular, including the operations of famous gangsters.
- Ernest Hemingway was a big fan of rum and cocktails like the mojito and daiquiri. His favorite bar, El Floridita, still stands in Havana, Cuba.
- The British Navy had a daily rum ration known as a “tot” until it was abolished in 1970. Sailors received about half a pint per day!
- Rum was sometimes used as currency in early America, leading to the phrase “the real McCoy,” meaning the genuine item versus a fake.
- Most of the rum consumed in the U.S. comes from Puerto Rico, where rum is the official spirit and local favorites include Bacardi and Don Q.
- August 16th was chosen for National Rum Day because it’s the anniversary of the repeal of the sugar tax in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1954, which benefited the rum industry.
How to Celebrate National Rum Day
August 16th is the perfect excuse to pay homage to rum. Here are some ways to celebrate this tasty holiday:
Enjoy Rum Tasting Flights
Savor a range of rums in tasting flights. This allows you to sample different styles side-by-side. Try tasting flights of white, gold, spiced, aged, cask-finished rums. Look for craft rums made locally. See how regions and aging impart distinct flavors.
Mix Up a Rum Cocktail
Rum’s versatility shines in cocktails. Sip tropical rum drinks, like the Mai Tai, Hurricane, or Pina Colada. Keep it simple with a Rum and Coke. Or, re-create a classic Daiquiri or Mojito. Try premium aged rums in an Old Fashioned or Rum Manhattan.
Make Rum Part of Your Meal
Add rum to recipes like jerk chicken, banana pancakes, or rum cake. Use it to create glazes for ham or pineapple. Flambé some bananas with rum for an impressive dessert. Splash it into coffee or milkshakes.
Learn the History
Spend time getting to know more about rum’s place in history and culture. Tour a distillery in person or online to see how it’s made. Visit a tiki bar or Caribbean restaurant to soak up the atmosphere. Read a book about the spirit’s nautical past. Watch documentaries about how rum fueled economies and empires.
Share the Fun with Friends
Make it a party! Host a rum tasting for friends. Challenge guests to craft their best rum cocktail. Provide small bottles for sampling. Play tropical music. Decorate with pineapples and parasols. Compare favorite rums and brands.
Timeline of Key Events in Rum History
- 1650s – Sugarcane cultivation expands in Caribbean, with molasses as a byproduct
- 1655 – First documented rum distillery opens in Barbados
- 1660s – Rum gains popularity in colonial America
- 1690s – New England begins mass-producing rum
- 1700s – Rum ration given to sailors in Royal Navy
- 1773 – Rum playing role in Triangular Trade of sugar, slaves, and rum
- 1800s – Daiquiri cocktail invented in Cuba
- 1862 – Bacardi distillery founded in Cuba
- 1898 – Puerto Rico comes under U.S. rule after Spanish-American War
- 1900s – Cuba and Puerto Rico export rum to U.S. post-Prohibition
- 1970 – British Royal Navy ends daily rum ration tradition
- 1999 – National Rum Day first celebrated in the U.S. Virgin Islands
Quotes About Rum
Over the centuries, many have waxed poetic about rum. Here are some fun quotes celebrating the spirit:
“Rum, n. Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness in total abstainers.” – Ambrose Bierce
“I must say, as to rum, talk of Pandemonium in the garrison itself. It blowed the men all degrees of blazes.” – Charles Dickens
“If you can’t lay off the stuff, it will lay off you.” – R.L. Sharpe
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf
“Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.” – Traditional pirate song
“Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?” – Robert Benchley
Hashtags for Celebrating National Rum Day
Share your Rum Day fun on social media using these trending hashtags:
- #DrinkRum #RumCocktails
- #RumLove #ILoveRum
- #RumHistory #RumQuotes
Popular Rum Brands & Styles
Rum offers incredible diversity across brands and styles. Here are some of the major players that you’re likely to encounter:
Bacardi – One of the most popular rum brands globally. Known for light rums ideal for cocktails. Try their Superior White, Gold, and Black rum styles.
Havana Club – Owned by the Cuban government, they offer light and flavorful Cuban-style rums. Look for their Añejo 3 Años and Añejo Especial releases.
Appleton Estate – Top Jamaican rum brand dating back to 1749. Medium to heavy-bodied with funky, rich flavors. The 12 Year is a classic aged rum.
Mount Gay – The oldest rum brand from Barbados, with a drier and crisper style. Look for their Eclipse Black Barrel release.
Captain Morgan – A huge spiced rum brand, though they make other varieties now too. Their Original Spiced rum leads the pack.
Malibu – Massively popular coconut rum from the Caribbean. Use it in tropical cocktails or mix it with pineapple juice or soda.
Plantation – Acclaimed line of rums from the French founders of Maison Ferrand. Diverse styles from Barbados, Jamaica, and beyond.
Ron Zacapa – Ultra-premium aged rum from Guatemala. The Zacapa 23 Year release is luxuriously smooth and complex.
Don Q – Top selling rum and “National Spirit of Puerto Rico.” Excellent quality rums at an affordable price point for sipping or mixing.
Sailor Jerry – Bold 92 proof spiced rum flavored with cherry and vanilla. Has an eye-catching vintage tattoo style bottle design.
Popular Rum Cocktails & Drinks
Let your taste buds travel the islands with these delicious rum cocktails:
Mojito – Muddle mint, lime, sugar, add white rum, soda water. Icy and refreshing!
Piña Colada – Blend rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice. Island vacation in a glass.
Daiquiri – Super simple blend of rum, lime juice, and sugar. Customize with fruit purees.
Hurricane – Rum punch with passionfruit and orange juices. Iconic New Orleans cocktail.
Mai Tai – Tropical elixir with aged and dark rums, orange curaçao, orgeat, lime.
Dark ‘n Stormy – Classic mix of dark rum and ginger beer. Short and effervescent.
Cuba Libre – Rum and Coke plus a squeeze of lime. Balance of spice, sweetness, and bubbles.
Painkiller – Puts rum to work with orange, pineapple, coconut, nutmeg. Creamy crowd-pleaser.
Eggnog – Rich and decadent blend of aged rum, eggs, cream, sugar, and spices. Holiday in a cup!
Rum Old Fashioned – Swaps whiskey for aged rum in the classic combo of bitters, sugar, citrus.
Rum Punch – Tradition of mixing rum with citrus, sweetener, spice. Endless variations!
El Presidente – Sophisticated rum cocktail with vermouth and orange curaçao. Haitian born.
Airmail – Secret weapon is honey syrup added to rum, lime, and bubbly cava or prosecco.
One final tip: Always drink rum and other spirits sensibly by pacing yourself, eating food, staying hydrated, and assigning designated drivers. Never drink to excess or allow underage consumption. Let National Rum Day be a time to delight in rum culture, not overindulge!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about National Rum Day and celebrating with rum:
What is National Rum Day all about?
National Rum Day celebrates the history and many varieties of rum each year on August 16th. It’s a chance to sample different rums, enjoy rum cocktails, learn about rum’s origins and impact on world history.
How did National Rum Day start?
The holiday was first celebrated in 1999 in the U.S. Virgin Islands. August 16th was chosen because it commemorates the anniversary of the repeal of the high excise tax on rum in the islands in 1954.
How do people typically celebrate National Rum Day?
Typical celebrations involve rum tastings, creating rum cocktails, attending events at distilleries or rum bars, learning about rum’s history, sharing rum drinks with friends, and posting on social media.
What are the most popular rum cocktails to make for National Rum Day?
Some of the top rum cocktails people like to enjoy are the Mojito, Piña Colada, Daiquiri, Mai Tai, Hurricane, Dark ‘n Stormy, and classic Rum and Coke or Rum Old Fashioned.
What are some good rum brands to try for National Rum Day?
Some recommended rums to sample are Bacardi, Havana Club, Mount Gay, Appleton Estate, El Dorado, Don Q, Cruzan, Gosling’s, Ron Zacapa, Kraken, and Plantation.
Are there virtual events for National Rum Day in 2023?
Yes, many rum brands and bars are hosting virtual tastings, cocktail classes, distillery tours, and more via social media and video platforms so people can celebrate safely.
Does Puerto Rico do anything big for National Rum Day?
Yes! In Puerto Rico, where rum is the national spirit, there are rum festivals, tastings, distillery events, and parties across the island. Bars compete to make the best mojitos and other rum drinks.
What are some fun ways for bars and restaurants to celebrate National Rum Day?
Ideas include offering rum flights, featuring rum-based cocktails, hosting trivia contests or costume parties with a rum theme, decorating with rum barrels and tropical motifs, and providing rum recipe cards or tasting mats.
Can I host my own rum tasting party for National Rum Day?
Absolutely! Buy various rum styles, set up tasting stations, make easy apps, have recipe cards on hand, play reggae or salsa music, and encourage guests to sample and learn in a fun, responsible environment.