A Few Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Rum, For National Rum Day


There’s no disputing the popularity of rum. It’s the main ingredient in some of the most well-known cocktails ever created, including the daiquiri, Mojito, Pina Colada, Mai Tai, and Planter’s Punch. There are few spirits more suited for summer imbibing than rum, too. There’s a reason it’s the most well-known form of alcohol in the Caribbean.

Made by distilling sugarcane juice or molasses, it’s fermented and bottled as white rum or matured in barrels to create dark rum (before finding it’s way into your favorite cocktail). There are other variations, (including spiced rum) but we aren’t going to get into all of that today. We have much more pressing matters to attend to.

As with any classic spirit, there are the known facts and then there are the little slivers of history that aren’t common knowledge. Since today is National Rum Day, we thought we’d give you a few conversation-starting, lesser-known facts about this delicious nectar. Check them all out below.

We can thank Alexander the Great for rum

Even though it wasn’t invented until much later, Alexander the Great had a hand in the spirit’s creation. That’s because way back in 326 BC, his army stumbled into sugarcane and used it to make a primitive version of molasses, the basis for many modern-day rums.

Rum production is as lawless as the wild west

Unlike the strict rules of bourbon, cognac, and tequila, rum doesn’t have any set rules. Distilling rum is like walking into a dusty town in the wild west with your guns drawn: anything goes. The standards are only set by the specific country the rum is made in and since it’s distilled all over the world, the rules are different everywhere.

Rum may have been invented in India

You probably heard that rum has its roots in the Caribbean, but that’s only partly true. According to many, the first record of rum was in the 1500s when merchants from Southeast Asia brought sugarcane to India. In 1590, the book ‘Ain-i-Akbari’ by Abu’l Fazl ibn Mubarak has a section where the process of using sugarcane juice to make a distilled beverage is mentioned.

One of the first rum cocktails was made by pirates

Today, we know rum as an ingredient in many popular cocktails. But, one of the first times rum was used as a cocktail ingredient was by pirates. The drink was called “Bumbo” and it consisted of rum, water, sugar, and nutmeg and was likely imbibed scores of bearded characters resembling Jack Sparrow.

Rum is truly a global spirit

It might seem like all of the rum you see is produced in the Caribbean, but that’s not actually true. The sugarcane-based spirit is also distilled in Latin America, Australia, Austria, Portugal, the US, Fiji, Nepal, Canada, South Africa, Spain, and even Thailand.

The oldest rum distillery in the world is in the Caribbean

Even though rum is produced all over the world and its origins are murky, there’s no disputing the oldest working rum distillery is in the Caribbean. And no, it’s not Bacardi (that’s the largest). It’s Mount Gay Rum in Barbados and it was opened in 1703.

Originally, rum was made from waste

Once upon a time, sugar plantation owners didn’t know what to do with molasses and considered it be a waste product. Somewhere along the line, somebody had the bright idea to use the waste product to make a distilled beverage, thus creating rum. Many rums are still made from molasses.

British sailors used to get rations of rum

British sailors used to receive a ration of rum every day. It was also called a rum tot and Royal Navy sailors got 1/8th of an imperial pint of 95.5 proof rum every singly midday to enjoy as they pleased. This might seem like an ancient tradition, but somehow the practice continued into the better part of the 20th century before finally being abolished in 1970 for obvious reasons.