National Rum Day is the best reason anyone ever celebrated August 16th (sorry, birthday boy Steve Carell). In fact, rum was this country's preferred drink before we even had a nation to celebrate its day. Back in the 18th century, rum was one of the Colonies' biggest exports. It was the basis for almost every cocktail.
Today, we still enjoy rum, but with far fewer powdered wigs and much more fun. Rum is the go-to mixer that fills summer parties. And if partying all summer isn’t a cause worthy of a holiday, it’s only because it probably deserves the full three months.
Whether your reasons are historical or planning tomorrow’s party, rum is the right call.
Rum is the historical drink of the Americas
Ye gentlefolk, rum is an ancient spirit, and no one may speak of whence it hails. One thing's for sure, though: rum has been getting the party going since time out of mind.
Production-wise, the most direct ancestor of what we now enjoy as rum was made from sugarcane juice or "guarapo" in the 17th century. Given that the first known records of rum occur in the 1620s, and that by then it was quaffed everywhere from Brazil to Sweden, you bet your bippy there was rum -- or something like rum -- swirling around cups in the 1500s. And it was all made in the western hemisphere. Rum has the proud claim of being a drink of the new world. Hey, that's us!
Rum is the comeback kid
By the 19th century, rum had become cheap and common, basically firewater. It fell to a Spanish wine merchant named Facundo Bacardí Massó to guss it back up to its former perch. Using the best science available in the mid-1800s (which was, surprisingly, more than just eye of newt and a book of spells), he pioneered yeast and filtration techniques favorable to a smooth rum. The new, more palatable drink became popular because everyone loves an improvement.
Everybody loves a comeback story. It’s why your dad still cries watching The Natural.
Rum made America possible
You know what was terrible? Water in the 18th century. You know what wasn't? Grog, the drink of choice for sailors. You know who enabled Washington's victory by upsetting the British supply chain? Those same sailors, safely hydrated thanks to their rations of grog, a mixture of rum with water.
In fact, at the same time, rum was distilled in New England, and a quality rum was an acceptable currency in any port, which actually made it better than many nations' legal tender (You don't have to pay fees on an exchange rate when you're settling your bill in rum). Also, it was probably easier to counterfeit a foreign nation's money than good rum.
Rum -- like America -- is diverse
There are a great many kinds of rum even before we get into the flavored varieties. You’ve got your dark rum, your white rum, your añejo rum, which is extra-aged, flavored rums... the list goes on and on.
Taken on their own, each has its merits, of course, but combinations are what yield great innovations -- for example, the composite culture of tiki, spanning from the Caribbean to the South Pacific, and its iconic drink, the Mai Tai (which itself is a composite of two kinds of rum).
Hang on, is the entire story of rum just a metaphor for America?
It's the perfect summer drink
Rum is great fit for the idle August days on the beach. A list of summer cocktails is almost inevitably a litany of rum drinks (okay, and mint juleps, to be fair).
Is there any better beverage than a sweet and savory cocktail of fruit juice, rum, and a splash of citrus? No. No sir, there is not. Because summer is all about relaxing and just enjoying the simple pleasures, and rum is that to a T.
Rum isn't stringent
Most liquors have set (or several sets of) standards for what truly constitutes the term. And they're all fairly arbitrary, which is how you can have corn liquor that isn't technically bourbon, and why bourbon can never be scotch.
But rum isn't like that. Is it made from the sugars in sugarcane? Yep, that's rum. Even molasses? Yep. Even pure sugarcane juice? Yep! (Though the Brazilians will contest that that's cachaça, in which no molasses is allowed.)
That’s why rum is so great. Its very existence is a reminder to chill out, kick off your shoes, dance a little, and laugh with your friends -- like your forefathers before you.