Rum is a world-famous alcoholic beverage which is made from sugar cane. Throughout its history, the drink has come to be associated with pirates. You will find a huge variety of different types of rum on the market. The most common type is white rum. As the name suggests it is a colourless rum. This type of rum ages in oak or cherry wood barrels for longer periods of time. There are also golden rums, dark rums, rum añejo, old rums, sweet rums, and light rums, among others. You can obtain agricultural rum directly from the distillation of sugar juice. Therefore many consider agricultural rum to be the most traditional and expensive.
How Did Rum End Up Being Associated with Pirates?
Centuries ago, there were no known ways to pasteurise or preserve food. Therefore, sailors risked dying because their food would go bad and the water was not drinkable. But they started adding distilled or fermented beverages to the water to turn it into a drinkable liquid. Thus, pirates began to add rum to their water to be able to drink it. As a bonus rum also seemed to have some medicinal properties. Pirates drank it to prevent diseases such as scurvy, the flu, and to eliminate stress.
Rum was inexpensive and it quickly became popular among sailors and in the pirate community. In fact, the seafaring explorers and conquerors soon began consuming it in industrial quantities. The English Navy itself loaded rum among its provisions and they gave a ration to the crew every day. However, the excessive rum consumption onboard the ships led to several battles, as the rum increased violence among the sailors.
What Was Pirate Rum Like?
Back in the days, when the pirates were roaming the Seven Seas, rum was saltier than we might imagine. The sailors would fill the empty rum barrels with seawater to maintain the function of the barrels as counterweights. When the ships returned to land they would refill the barrels with rum for their next leg of the journey. However, it was inevitable that the rum would eventually take on the flavours from the salt that had accumulated in the barrels.
Did They Only Drink Rum?
The ships carried three types of drinks: water, beer, and rum. The water was the first to go off. Therefore, they had to add a certain amount of rum to extend the life of the water. The Caribbean rum contained around 70 % alcohol, which was detrimental to the health of the sailors. As a result, they began diluting the rum with water to keep the crew relatively sober.
As for alcoholic beverages, pirates did not only drink rum; beer was also a common drink, although it did not reach the same level of popularity. The beer had the disadvantage that you had to consume it rather quickly once you opened it because it did not keep well. Rum had that advantage; it was safe to open and consume just some of the rum and then save the rest for later.
Fun Facts You May Not Know
- Some pirates and corsairs, like the famous Francis Drake, mixed their rum with sugar, lemon, and mint. They aptly named this cocktail “Drake” and it may be the predecessor of what we know as the mojito today.
- “Treasure Island” was written in 1883 by the Scotsman Robert Louis Stevenson. Literature experts believe that pirates began to be associated with rum thanks to this classic story. The novel mentions Captain Billy Bones’ song “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum” which most people still know about today.
- Because pirates consumed enormous quantities of rum it often caused brawls. It even caused captures! This actually happened with the pirate ship of Calico Jack. Pirate hunters intercepted the ship while the crew was passed out drunk.
- From 1650 it became mandatory to give a daily ration of rum to British corsairs. This tradition lasted up until 1970. During that time, the captains would even sometimes double the ration of rum. This would happen when a confrontation was going to take place to increase the bravery of the corsairs.
What better way to delve into pirate stories than while drinking the symbolic liquor of these famous characters? Here are some recommendations that we are sure you will enjoy.
Translated by Karoline Arberg