American bourbon, rye and gin have all enjoyed widespread revivals, with major brands and micro-distilleries alike making new, exceptional bottlings in recent years.
So what’s next?
“Rum is the next renaissance,” says Bill Owens, founder and president of the American Distilling Institute. He says that 117 American distilleries are producing rum today—up from almost none two decades ago.
And, Lord knows, it’s about time. Rum was the quintessential colonial American tipple—the true spirit of ’76. On the eve of the Revolution, some 160 distilleries, mostly in New England, were producing rum made from West Indian molasses. Tavern-goers guzzled it in unfathomable quantities.
Then came Independence, and soon after, whiskey gave rum the heave-ho. Settlers moved into the rich bottomlands of the Midwest, which were ideal for growing grains to distill into bourbon and rye. By the middle of the 19th century, canals and railroads made exports to the east economical. American rum was relegated to a footnote.
Thanks to the recent craft-spirits boom, American rum edged back just before the millennium, when Celebration Distillation in New Orleans and Prichard’s Distillery in Kelso, Tenn., started producing the liquor using domestic molasses.
And the momentum has only increased. Not surprisingly, where there’s sugar cane, there’s rum. In Hawaii, Koloa Rum uses local Kaua’i-grown cane. And there are two new Louisiana rum distilleries being built near cane fields, in Lacassine and Thibodaux. Their products are expected to hit shelves within the year.
And, like salmon coming back to spawn, rum has finally returned to the Northeast. “Now, there are probably five distilleries making rum in the greater Boston area alone,” says Owens. Plus, there’s one on Nantucket, and nearby Newport, R.I., is home to Thomas Tew Rum. Among the best of these upstarts is Ragged Mountain Rum, from Berkshire Mountain Distilling in western Massachusetts.
Paul Calvert, bar manager at Pura Vida in Atlanta, is a fan of Ragged Mountain and invented a concoction called the Some Faraway Beach to play off its robust flavor. Mix one up, and hoist a glass to celebrate independence.
Some Faraway Beach
Contributed by Paul Calvert
- 1.5 oz Ragged Mountain Rum
- .5 oz Lime juice
- .5 oz Cocchi Americano
- .25 oz Domaine de Canton
- .25 oz Angostura Bitters
- Garnish: Candied ginger
- Glass: Rocks
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a rocks glass containing one large ice cube. Garnish with a piece of candied ginger on a cocktail pick.
Wayne Curtis writes about drinks for The Atlantic and is the author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. He is also host of the site Slowcocktails.com.