Okay, it may be something derived from the other side of the Atlantic, but any excuse to have a tot is okay with us, so whilst you’re frying up some eggs and bacon, we’re cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today’s food holiday.
Of course we are talking about National Rum Day today, so get out your tot glass and use our guide below to determine want you wish to fill it with!
There are so many different kinds of rum out there, and the styles vary enormously depending on how it’s made and where it comes from. Aging matters, too: “silver” or “white” rum is often unaged, and it’s a different from rum that’s spent time in oak casks, soaking up those vanilla and toasty flavors from the wood. (However, some silver rum has been aged and then filtered until clear, and some producers will add coloring to unaged rum to make it look like it’s spent time in-barrel. There are few hard-and-fast rules.)
Here are some highlights, but keep in mind that many categories overlap:
- Light rums, also referred to as silver or white rums, in general, have very little flavor aside from a general sweetness. Consequently, they often serve as bases for cocktails. Light rums are sometimes filtered after aging to remove any color. The Brazilian cachaça is generally this type, but some varieties are more akin to “gold rums”. The majority of light rums come from Puerto Rico. Their milder flavors make them popular for use in mixed drinks, as opposed to drinking them straight.
- Gold rums, also called amber rums, are medium-bodied rums that are generally aged. These gain their dark color from aging in wooden barrels (usually the charred, white oak barrels that are the byproduct of Bourbon whiskey). They have more flavor and are stronger-tasting than light rum, and can be considered midway between light rum and the darker varieties.
- Dark rums, also known by their particular color, such as brown, black, or red rums, are classes a grade darker than gold rums. They are generally aged longer, in heavily charred barrels, giving them much stronger flavors than either light or gold rums, and hints of spices can be detected, along with a strong molasses or caramel overtone. They commonly provide substance in rum drinks, as well as color. In addition, dark rum is the type most commonly used in cooking. Most dark rums come from areas such as Jamaica, Haiti, and Martinique.
- Spiced rums obtain their flavors through the addition of spices and, sometimes, caramel. Most are darker in color, and based on gold rums. Some are significantly darker, while many cheaper brands are made from inexpensive white rums and darkened with caramel color. Among the spices added are cinnamon, rosemary, absinthe/aniseed, or pepper.
- Flavored rums are infused with flavors of fruits, such as banana, mango, orange, citrus, coconut, starfruit or lime. These are generally less than 40% ABV. They mostly serve to flavor similarly themed tropical drinks but are also often drunk neat or with ice.
- Overproof rums are much higher than the standard 40% ABV, with many as high as 75% to 80% available. One example is Jack Iron Rum.
- Premium rums, as with other sipping spirits, such as Cognac and Scotch, are in a special market category. These are generally from boutique brands that sell carefully produced and aged rums. They have more character and flavor than their “mixing” counterparts and are generally consumed straight.
Rum has been around for a long time, too. Spirits historians have traced cachaça distilling in Brazil as far back as 1533, aguardiente distilling in Cuba to 1598 and molasses distilling in Barbados to 1637. It has been noted that “the first New England rum distillery was built in Boston in 1657, not long after the Pilgrims arrived on board the Mayflower.”
Rum’s incredible versatility shines in the glass, of course. Most preparations involve the trinity of rum, lime and sugar or another sweetener, and this seemingly-limited combination leads to hundreds of great drinks. There’s the Daiquiri, the quintessential rum cocktail, and the unabashedly tropical Piña Colada, but there are so many more, and just about any gold or aged rum takes flight when mixed with simple syrup, some thin lime slices, a dash of orange bitters and a dusting of fresh-grated nutmeg.
Dark Bermudan rum, lime and spicy ginger beer make up the Dark & Stormy, while aged Barbados rum is swell mixed with Cointreau, lime and falernum (a sweet syrup) to make the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail. You could go in a Cuban direction and mix aged rum with dry vermouth, Curacao and grenadine for the magnificent El Presidente. The delicious and crowd-pleasing Honey Fitz combines aged rum, honey syrup, grapefruit juice and Peychaud’s bitters to great effect. And whilst Bartenders may hate them, it’s hard to top a really good Mojito.
You could of course just drink in neat, savouring the texture, taste and smell. But, however you celebrate, enjoy the taste of the tropics and have a very happy National Rum Day.