Photo of 2 different rum drinks
Brief History of Rum in the United States

As American as Baseball, Apple Pie, and….Rum???

It’s that time of year again, when Spring is in the air, spring breakers have traded their hangovers back in for study time, and families are going to the ballpark to take part in our national pastime. Because what’s more American than baseball? Other than Mom and apple pie. And of course, rum. No, really!

I’ll get to that in a moment. First, let me welcome you to the Rum Guy blog, brought to you by your friends at the Rum Barrel. I’m Alan, the Rum Guy at the Rum Barrel. Many of you know me from your time at the Barrel; normally you’ll find me behind the bar, slinging drinks and talking about rum, among other things. And talking about rum is one of the things we’ll be doing on this biweekly blog, though certainly not the only thing. I hope you enjoy it, but if it’s not your thing, feel free to do what my ex did, and just ignore me. (Hey, it’ll make both of us happier, right?)

But for now, back to rum, that very American spirit. I know what you’re thinking. “Rum’s from the Caribbean!” And that is where it developed, and where a large portion of the world’s rum comes from. But it didn’t stay there. It spread to the a British Colonies quickly, with a rum distillery opening on Staten Island in New York as early as 1664, with another opening in Boston a few years later. Rum was consumed as a part of many Colonial meals, including breakfast, and was often used to treat various illnesses and ailments. And rum was important financially to the Colonies, especially the ones in New England. Early in their history, rum was the largest and most profitable business in the New England Colonies. Not liquor business. ANY business. Leading up to the American Revolution, it’s been estimated that an average of 14 liters of rum was consumed annually by every Colonist. (That number includes children. Draw your own conclusions.) Rum wasn’t just a commodity, though; it was often used directly as currency. Wanna buy my ox? That’s gonna cost you some rum, my friend.

But it wasn’t all rum and games. The profitability of rum helped spawn the slave trade. When 1764’s Sugar Act disrupted that trade, some of the seeds for the American Revolution may have been planted. The role of rum in the Revolution cannot be denied. It helped fund much of the uprising, and when the British made it difficult to import rum into the Colonies, the Continental Congress struggled to fund the rebellion, resorting in at least one wealthy Colonist donating over 100 barrels of rum for the cause. At George Washington’s inauguration, the first President insisted on having a barrel of rum from Barbados. And throughout this time period, politicians of all types sought to influence the voters at the ballot box by supplying copious amounts of rum. Was this political bribery? Pretty much. But hey, that’s another all-American tradition.

Over time, rum declined in popularity in the new nation, with other spirits capturing the American palate. At first it was whiskey, and in the 20th Century vodka rose to prominence. But rum has been making a strong comeback, as more and more rum distilleries are opening across America, at the same time as rum sees its popularity growing faster than any other spirit in the U.S.A.

So as you settle in to watch your favorite team play that most American of sports, enjoy the games with a rum cocktail or some lovely sipping rum. After all, it’s patriotic!

And remember, if you don’t get rum at the Rum Barrel, please…get rum somewhere.

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