Sugar was first produced by crushing sugarcane, boiling the juices, and then leaving the boiled syrup to cure in clay pots. Liquid (known today as molasses) would seep out of the pots and then sugar would be left behind. At that time – the 17th Century – sugarcane farmers couldn’t give molasses away and disposal actually became a problem until all became right with the world once again…
Slaves figured out that if you mix molasses with the liquid skimmed off the cane juice during the initial boiling process, and then ferment it, the end result is rum – which happened to be far more popular than molasses!
After its discovery, rum began to play a very important part in history. The Royal Navy mixed it with water or beer to make grog. Pirates mixed rum with water, sugar, cinnamon or nutmeg to make bumbo. Bumbo was commonly used in Colonial America to buy votes during elections. George Washington was well known for furnishing voters with such “freebies”! In fact, his journals state that he gave a total of 160 gallons to 391 voters. Modern bumbo is usually made with dark rum, citrus juice, grenadine and nutmeg.
Today, the majority of the world’s rum is still produced in the Caribbean, as well as Latin America. There are various grades of rum, ranging from light rum which is most always mixed to make cocktails; to golden and darker rums which are more typically consumed straight or used for cooking, but are also used as mixers; to premium rums, which are served neat or iced.