The origin and history of rum is a fascinating tale. This liquor that has captivated drink enthusiasts, mixologist beginners, and bartender personnel-learn how to make a cocktail with rum-for years started out on record around 1650 in the West Indies. From there, lighter rums started to get churned out in the late 19th century, mainly in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Rum runner history became part of the mix later on.
Through the years it has been made in many ways, although it does come back to roots of molasses and sugarcane. The people contributing to the distribution of rum have been as varied as the types of rum available on the market and in any given bar business today.
These days, new rum drinkers have a variety of questions they can dive into around rum. Who invented rum? What's the history of rum? What about the origin of rum regionally? Where does flavored rum fit in the mix?
The rum you know today has come a long way from the first rums ever made. In fact, spiced rum, a type that is widely recognized today, didn’t hit the scene until 1984 with Captain Morgan-long after the age of the speakeasy. That being said, although rum has changed throughout the years, its popularity has been a constant through the years. Mixed drinks like the Piña colada are now some of the most popular. That said, rum is still often drunk straight.
Originally, rum started out before it was even called by that name. Way back before the word rum was recorded, there was a drink referred to as “wine sugar.” Wine sugar was most likely the beginning of the drink back in the thirteen hundreds. While the word rum didn’t exist at the time, wine sugar most likely was very like the first official rums, though it was very different from black rum or overproof rums. It may have been something very rudimentary, but on a base level, it was, most likely, the rum origin.
The first recorded rum, however, came about in the West Indies around 1650. However, in 1650, these first rums were known on records from Barbados as “kill-devil” or “rumbullion.” The name rum started to be used as the regular name in 1667. The beginning of rum is tied to a dark part of history. Slaves were traded to the West Indies for molasses, and the molasses was made into rum. Then, it was traded for more slaves.
These days, rum is made and distributed in a way we can be proud of. Many distilleries run small operations. Rum may have gotten a start in the time of slavery, as so many things did. However, the rum we drink today has come a long way.
Who Invented Rum?
When it comes to the question of who invented rum, we don’t actually know for sure. While we can track it to a vague time in the 1600s, we don’t have a name that we know for sure.
That being said, we do know that rum first came into being due to the work of enslaved people in the Caribbean. It was enslaved people who realized that molasses could be fermented into alcohol. That alcohol itself was the very first start of rum. Later on, the process of distillation was used to refine the alcohol into the first products we would truly recognize as rum. While we don’t have the names of the people who invented rum, we do know that rum started with enslaved people on sugarcane plantations.
Where Was Rum First Made?
The first inklings of rum began on sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean in the 17th century. From the beginning of rum in the sugarcane plantations, the creation and production of rum moved to New England. It was in New England that the fermented molasses was turned into rum on a large scale.
After rum had a hold on the world, and it didn’t take long, the production of rum began to spread. As rum grew in popularity, production was generally linked to Jamaica, Barbados, Demerara, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These days the production of rum has spread even further. Many places now produce their own rum from start to finish in the United States.
Difference Between White and Dark Rum
Moving into the modern-day, there are a lot more varieties of rum available than there were back in the 1600s. The types are split between two groups, white and dark rum. The difference between white and dark rum lies in:
- The creation
- Flavor variations
- The types of drinks the various types of rum suit themselves towards
White rum, often also called light or silver, covers a large spectrum of types of rum. Lighter rums are noticeably different from dark rums in their light flavors, lower alcohol content, and tendency to mix with other flavors. All rum generally starts with the same process of distillation of sugarcane. However, the different practice that goes into light rum is the lack of aging time.
Dark rum is, as the name suggests, a richer, often stronger type of rum. As light rum is made by not aging the rum, dark rum is aged for quite some time. The length of the aging process depends on the type of dark rum, of which there are many. In general, dark rum is stronger in alcohol content or ABV, and often sweet and rich compared to light rum. You can use an ABV calculator to test out different rums.
One drink that all rum enthusiasts join together over is the daiquiri drink. There are a few best rums for daiquiri drinks, but overall you can't go wrong. The list of daiquiri recipe options you can enjoy includes:
- Hemingway daiquiri
- Strawberry daiquiri
- Banana daiquiri
- Frozen daiquiris
- Cherry daiquiri
- Peach daiquiri
- Watermelon daiquiri
That list isn't the end of the options either! If there's a particular flavor you enjoy, you can test it out in a daiquiri. Odds are, it'll mix well with rum.
Origin and History of Rum
Overall, the history of rum, or the rum origin story, covers a lot of the world and U.S. history. The answers to the history of rum show some history that we’re disappointed in. That said, as rum has moved forward into what we know today we can be proud. We even serve it in the oldest bars in America. The innovations made and the varieties of rum now available mean that we've made rum our own. The origin and history of rum have led to new flavors (mixed with lots of cocktail ingredients) for everyone in the world to enjoy. Rum cocktails are enjoyed in all manner of bars, and even brunch cafés.
If you're serving up rum cocktails in your bar, it's best to have an inventory program that works with your practice to take inventory. If you're looking for beverage inventory software, reach out to BinWise. The BinWise Pro platform, paired with the BinScan mobile app, can ease your inventory process and make perpetual inventory a breeze. You can mix BinWise with BlueCart to refine your order management system.