The summer solstice happens when the planet’s rotational axis, in either northern or southern hemispheres, is most inclined toward the star that it orbits, i.e., when Earth’s maximum axial tilt toward the Sun is 23° 26′.
We don’t really know what that means either. But the summer solstice, the official start of summer, is upon us. To balance out the extra sunlight, we present a long rum drink for the longest day of the year: a Dark & Rummy, our twist on the Dark ‘n Stormy. It’s boozy and simple and everything you want to drink on a hot Summer day (or night). Let’s get to it.
DARK & RUMMY
What to use:
- 4 oz. ginger beer
- 2 oz. dark rum
- Dash of Angostura bitters
- Candied ginger
- Lime wedge
How to use it:
Pour ginger beer into a tall glass filled with ice, then top with rum and garnish with a lime wedge and piece of candied ginger. So easy!
PRO-TIP: Don’t feel as though the Dark & Rummy fulfills the recommended dietary allowance of rum? Try some Rum Jerky to boost your intake and even things out.
SUMMERTIME IS RUMMERTIME!
Summer doesn’t make much sense without rum. Cocktails with rum are perfect for tossing back under a sunny sky, coconut not required. Rum is refreshing. Rum is delicious. Rum plays nicely with both low and highbrow cocktail recipes. It is good for easy sipping or as part of a complicated concoction. Despite this, rum has a bit of a reputation as being a one-trick pony (or just really sweet and awful). But its diversity—ranging from dark and rich to light and dry—makes it a worthy ingredient for many a drink. Shall we expand our rum horizons? Yes, we shall.
WHERE’D YOU COME FROM, RUM?
Rum owes its existence to an overabundance of molasses. Sugar production creates a lot of molasses byproduct, which folks didn’t have much of a use for until they found it could be fermented and distilled. And voila! Rum was born. Interested in more details? Let’s start with some history.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO RUM
The first fermented drinks produced from sugarcane date all the way back to antiquity, likely coming from ancient India or China and then spreading from there. When he wasn’t busy playing fun pool games, Marco Polo apparently passed some time enjoying “a very good wine of sugar” in what is now Iran, and the Malay people also produced an early version of the drink.
The first distillation occurred in the Caribbean in the 17th century with the discovery that molasses could be fermented into alcohol. Rum then spread to Colonial America. With that came the need for the first rum distillery, which somehow ended up in what is now Staten Island. But rum was very popular and was important to politicians, privateers and pirates alike. Being generous with it could influence the outcome of elections. Trading it was very lucrative. And drinking it made sailing that much more appealing.
GIMME SOME SUGAR
Ready to nerd out on how rum is made? Drop this knowledge and leave your fellow rum drinkers dazzled!
FACT: Rum is produced from sugarcane or its derivatives (like molasses) by a process of fermentation and distillation.
FACT: While there are no global requirements for its production, there are some basics, of course, that make rum, rum. Yeast and water get added to the base ingredient to begin the fermentation process. FACT: The type of yeast used determines the taste and aroma profile—lighter rums typically come from using faster-working yeasts, while slower-working yeasts create a fuller-tasting rum.
FACT: There’s no real standard method for rum distillation—some production happens in small batches using pot stills, but most rum production uses column still distillation.
FACT: The distillate (a clear liquid) is tossed into either oak barrels, used bourbon casks or other types of wooden casks or stainless steel tanks to be aged.
FACT: The aging process determines the color of the rum: rum aged in oak casks becomes dark; rum aged in stainless steel tanks is basically colorless.
FACT: Rum’s flavor—its sweetness or dryness—depends on three things: the type of sugar cane used; the type of barrel it’s aged in; and how long it is aged.
FACT: Once it’s aged, rum is then typically blended to make sure the flavor is consistent. From there it is bottled and packaged. Then you buy it and drink it and all is well in the world.
LIFE IS BEST WHEN YOU DRINK IN COLOR
Ever stand in the liquor aisle in front of the Captain Morgan’s wondering what the difference is between light and dark rum? Let’s get to the bottom of it. Rum is typically categorized by color. Light rum is the mildest; golden/amber rum has done some time in a barrel of some variety; dark rum stays in the barrel or cask for a longer amount of time; and spiced rum is, well, spiced.
You may associate white rum with the cheap, bad-tasting cocktails of your youth. You should let that go. There’s much more to light rum. Its lack of color doesn’t reflect a lack of flavor—or flexibility. White rum works in a number of summer refreshers, like the mojito, and a high-end white rum is good for sipping with just some ice and lime. Ahhh.
These rums are, unsurprisingly, stronger than light rums but lighter than dark rums. The color comes from the barrel—specifically, a charred amber oak barrel that probably previously held whiskey. Also excellent for cocktails—think Cuba Libre or punches—golden rum can offer some toasty and oaky notes and can have caramel and toffee flavors as well (all depends on the distiller, of course).
Dark rum is also sometimes called black rum and is more complex than lighter rums. It’s usually aged longer in charred oak barrels and can serve up some smoky intensity. It’s good for sipping on the rocks or for using in cocktails, such as the Dark & Rummy. Rum daredevils may even want to try replacing the bourbon in your Old Fashioned with some dark rum. Now that’s living.
Spiced rum may evoke memories of rough mornings after rather than thoughts of a tasty adult cocktail ingredient. And this isn’t necessarily wrong. Spicing rum was a way of covering up poor-quality spirits. But better versions are available these days with lots of different flavors popping up. Best bet is to choose a reliable brand should you decide to take the spiced road.
Overproof rum also exists and is basically for those looking to get tipped. These rums have an alcohol content over 57.5%. Youch. These rums are often labeled “151” and also excellent for starting fires. Rum fun!
Sure, rum is fun to drink, and not just for pirates. But there are lots of fun facts about rum that you probably don’t know. Let’s make you a little smarter…
- The origin of the word rum is widely disputed, but many believe it was taken from the last syllable of “saccharum,” the Latin word for sugar.
- Origins aside, rum has a bunch of lively nicknames: kill-devil, demon water, navy neaters, grog, Barbados water and rumbullion are among our favorites.
- Creepy story time! Another nickname, Nelson’s blood, came about after Admiral Horatio Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when his body was preserved in a cask of rum to be shipped back to England. It seems holes were drilled into the sides of the cask so sailors could drink the rum, thereby drinking “Nelson’s blood.” Yum?
- Rum was considered an important beauty product in the 1800s thanks to its ability to clean and strengthen hair. Or at least make your vision blurry enough that you thought your hair looked fantastic.
- The British Navy gave rations of rum to sailors until the 1970s to prevent scurvy. Turns out it was the limes that prevented it, but everybody was certainly in a better mood thanks to the rum.
- July 31, 1970 is known as Black Tot Day. This is the day the Royal Navy decided to end its daily rum rations, a.k.a., “tots” and some sailors wore black armbands to mourn the end of the tradition.
- The Bacardi distillery in San Juan, Puerto Rico, produces out 100,000 gallons of rum a day. A day! Get drinking, people.
- August is National Rum Month, so if you don’t get your fill of rum on the solstice, you can make up for it in August.
- If you’re so into rum that you desire nothing more than to hang out with other rum lovers and drink only the finest rums, there’s a club for that. Caña Rum Bar in Los Angeles is one of the largest rum houses in the country, featuring more than 250 rums to sip. They’ve got tastings and spirit education led by the nation’s top rum experts. That’s a sweet gig.
TIME TO SIT BACK AND UNWIND
We’d like to officially welcome you to summer. The sun is high, the sky is blue, the drinks are nice and cold and it’s the perfect time to get together with friends. This is in fact a time-honored tradition. The summer solstice has long been celebrated with bonfires, picnics, songs and dances to honor the sun and all sorts of things.
Not sure how you should celebrate? You could try some of the Druids’ favorite activities, like building your own Stonehenge, or you could do something less painful, like a Maypole dance or, better still, host a BBQ. Get out your best meat rub, put on your grilling gloves, pour some Dark & Rummys and keep it nice and easy, the way summer is meant to be. Just ask Will Smith.