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NY Cocktail Expo - Rum Academy 1/9/23 - Tiki Chick
Topic: The Impact of Spanish Style Rums on Cocktails and The Category
Rums from countries and regions that were former colonies of Spain, and to some extent - Portugal - have a history that has its origins in the 15th century, when initial attempts at the cultivation of sugarcane got underway in modern day Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, and Vera Cruz, Mexico. Though the Spanish Crown did place the establishment of a sugarcane trade at the top of their list of priorities, it took some time before rums from their colonies began to establish a global presence.
This shift in focus towards Cuban rums - and bottlings from places such as Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Venezuela, among others - began in Santiago de Cuba, when Bacardi established its first distillery - by 1865, their rum had garnered fame and accolades as the first "white"/"clear”rum that was suitable for mixing into the style of cocktails that were in fashion at the time/ These included the Tom Collins, Gin ZFizz, and various sources and daisies. It was the Daiquiri, however - created in the 1890's, that put rum as a cocktailing spirit - and Cuban rums and Bacardi in particular - on the map. Numerous cocktails with Bacardi were created during Prohibition, and some of these serves influenced and inspired the creations of the two seminal figures in the Tiki cocktail genre, Ernest Beaumont Gant aka DonN the Beachcomber, and Victor Begeron, aka Trader Vic.
Up until this time, rum produced and consumed in the Spanish heltd colonies had a lot in common with spirits that we could term "moonshine”today: these spirits, commonly referred to as aguardiente were produced from fresh cane juice and honey, consumed locally, and sometimes softened by the addition of botanicals such as anise seed. These were sometimes mixed with citrus juice and a sweetener, and served warm as a medicinal toddy, or chilled, to be consumed by cane cutters and other agricultural laborers. As the Spanish crown was under pressure from wine and spirits producers on the continent to abstain from supporting the production of rival products in the Americas, rum commercial rum production in those areas did not begin in earnest until the mid 19th century - a full 200 years after the English colonies began producing in significant volume.
Up until the 1960's - when private businesses in Cuba were privatized - Cuban Rums dominated the market in their category, but as time passed following this development, other rum producers emerged, to offer rums in the style made famous by Bacardi and Havana Club.
As other islands and other former colonies began to create brands intended for export began to seek exposure and sales in the US and Europe, some elected to focus on creating rums that could not only be enjoyed in mixed drinks, but enjoyed as quality spirits in their own right. Rums in this vein made use of the Spanish and Portuguese Wine and Sherry industry's approach to blending and maturation to inform their production processes, which aimed for drinkability and consistency across decades: while there is an ongoing debate as to whether the "transparency”around these producers methods, it is worth taking a deeper look into the role Spanish style rums have played in not only bringing this spirit category to the modern bar, but maintaining its relevance and appeal for the better part of 100 years.