Rum isn’t just a drink in the Dominican Republic — it’s a way of life. Before your DR escape at Barceló Bavaro Grand Resort, Occidental Punta Cana and Occidental Caribe, learn all about the spirit’s history, its varieties and how to imbibe properly. And hey – did you know that August is National Rum Month? There’s no better time to get into the spirit.
Caribbean Born. The roots of rum go deep in the Caribbean. The region’s very first distillation of the spirit took place all the way back in the 1620s when it was discovered that molasses, a byproduct of sugar refining on Caribbean sugarcane plantations, could be fermented into alcohol. It wasn’t a hit at first – a mid-1600s document from Barbados called rum “a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor.” There’s no accounting for taste …
What’s In A Name? The origin of the word “rum” is murky, to say the least. Some think that it was taken from the last syllable for saccharum, the Latin word for sugar. Others say it might be derived from the British slang superlative (ie “Having a rum time”). Other less palatable names for rum include Nelson’s blood, kill-devil, demon water, pirate’s drink, and grog. We’ll stick with rum!
Good As Gold. Rum wasn’t just a delicious beverage back in the old days. For eighteenth century sailors, it was even used as currency. Allegedly, the method used to make sure no one was getting ripped off was to mix a bit of the rum with gunpowder. If there was ignition, the rum was authentic! Rum had other uses as well; in the 1800s, many used the spirit as a beauty product, claiming that it resulted in clean hair with strengthened roots.
Aging Well. Rum comes in many colors, but like all distilled spirits it’s clear originally. Rum’s final color is the result of the amount of time the rum spends in oak barrels. The barrels are good for something else – they make for a smoother rum and can add such delicious flavors as caramel, vanilla, and spice.
The Dominican Spirit. The original Dominican Republic rum distillery, Bermudez, was founded in 1852, and it’s been going strong ever since with its high-quality offerings. If you can track it down, Bermudez’ 1852 Aniversario variety is coveted by aficionados for its smooth, robust flavors. Brugal’s Anejo is a go-to rum for every day enjoyment – it’s the best-selling rum in all of the Caribbean, so you know it’s got to be good. Ron Barcelo Rum Imperial is another tried-and-true option, with a bright amber color and notes of vanilla, pineapple and caramelized walnuts.
Rum Rules. Different countries have different rules and regulations when it comes to rum. In the Dominican Republic, rum producers must harvest the sugar cane, ferment, distill, and age the alcohol in oak barrels for a minimum of one year – and it all has to happen within the country’s borders.
How To Drink in the DR. Rum is a key ingredient in a variety of tropical cocktails, from the Mai Tai to the mojito. But for many Dominicans, you can’t beat it straight up and simple, perhaps with a splash of water or ice. For a real DR drinking experience, try Mamajuana, a powerful concoction made with rum, red wine, and honey, soaked in a bottle with tree bark and herbs.