And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails

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9781515963172: And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails

And a Bottle of Rum tells the raucously entertaining story of America as seen through the bottom of a drinking glass. With a chapter for each of ten cocktails, Wayne Curtis reveals that the homely spirit once distilled from the industrial waste of the exploding sugar trade has managed to infiltrate every stratum of New World society. Curtis takes us from the taverns of the American colonies, where rum delivered both a cheap wallop and cash for the Revolution, to the plundering pirate ships off the coast of Central America, to the watering holes of pre-Castro Cuba, and to the kitsch-laden tiki bars of 1950s America. Here are sugar barons and their armies conquering the Caribbean, Paul Revere stopping for a nip during his famous ride, Prohibitionists marching against "demon rum," Hemingway fattening his liver with Havana daiquiris, and today's bartenders reviving old favorites like Planter's Punch. Awash with local color and wry humor, And a Bottle of Rum is an affectionate toast to this most American of liquors, a chameleon spirit that has been constantly reinvented over the centuries by tavern keepers, bootleggers, lounge lizards, and marketing gurus.

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About the Author:

Wayne Curtis was the spirits and cocktails columnist for the Atlantic magazine for eight years, and has also written about drinks for the Wall Street Journal, Imbibe, the Daily Beast, and the American Scholar. In 2002 Curtis was named Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers.

Mike Chamberlain is an actor and voice-over performer, as well as an AudioFile Earphones Award-winning audiobook narrator. Along with animation and video game characters, Mike performs narration and voices promos for television. He lives with his wife and daughter in Southern California.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

[ Kill-devil ]

The people have a very generous fashion that if one come to a house to inquire the way to any place, they will make him drink, and if the traveler does deny to stay to drink they take it very unkindly of him. —Henry Whistler on Barbados customs, 1655

Rum—a spirit distilled from the juice of a sugarcane plant or its by-products—was first invented in the early seventeenth century on the British island colony of Barbados.

Or not. In which case it may have been invented on the Spanish islands of Hispaniola or Cuba (where it would have been called aguadiente, or “burning water”), or by Portuguese colonists on the coast of Brazil (where it would later be called cachaça). Or possibly it was first distilled by the French on one of their Caribbean island strongholds (where the poorer grades of rum were known as tafia). On the other hand, it may have been first concocted in the 1400s somewhere in Europe by secretive alchemists searching for the elixir of life and feeding through their retorts whatever fermentable matter they could get their hands on. Or just maybe it was invented even earlier by an anonymous chemist tinkering near the cane fields of coastal India.

The thing is, no one really knows when rum first appeared. If you want to know about the history of sugar, overflowing archives provide enough information to lead to mental obesity. But for rum, it’s a starvation diet. The West Indian island of Barbados has long claimed that first Barbadians invented rum, and it’s telling that no historians have roused themselves to seriously dispute this point. Some, like rum expert Edward Hamilton, have argued that rum was first produced commercially in the Portuguese or Spanish colonies, probably in Brazil, and he has been rooting around for customs documents or ship manifests to back this up. He hasn’t found anything yet. (And he guesses he may never: Rum exports from the colonies were prohibited by Spain and Portugal, which meant any rum produced was smuggled and undocumented. And even if it had been documented, the ports of the West Indies were laid waste by attackers with numbing regularity, so the archives of the earliest days are often nonexistent.)

This much at least is known about rum: Sometime around the middle of the seventeenth century, an outbreak of rum occurred almost everywhere the Dutch, Spanish, French, and English were engaged in their New World errand-running. The British sea captain John Josselyn wrote of a dinner held on a ship off the coast of present-day Maine in September 1639, at which another captain toasted him with a pint of rum. Laws controlling the sale of rum abruptly cropped up in different colonies, as a warden in pursuit of a persistent truant—in Bermuda in 1653, in Connecticut in 1654, in Massachusetts in 1657.

Then, sometime shortly before 1650, rum surfaced at an extravagant feast held at the Barbados estate of James Drax, the most important planter on Great Britain’s most important island colony. For anyone curious about the cultural history of rum—or who wants to learn about the ancestry of that bottle of West Indian rum in the back of their liquor cabinet—I’d argue that this is as fine a place to begin the story as any.

P

Barbados is pear-shaped and just twenty-one miles long by fourteen miles wide—or about one-seventh the size of Rhode Island. On a map of the Caribbean, Barbados lies far to the east, like a wayward child refusing to stand in line with the rest of the Lesser Antilles, which sweep in a great arc from Puerto Rico to Trinidad. Adventurers from Portugal and Spain landed here in the sixteenth century, but finding no precious metals to mine nor Indians to enslave, they lingered only long enough to name the island “Los Barbados,” after the “bearded” fig trees. Barbados lay unmolested until 1625, when a British sailing ship stopped off while heading home from Brazil. The captain claimed the island for the British throne and reported on its pleasing qualities to Sir William Courteen, the ship’s owner. Courteen hastened to cobble together a syndicate, then dispatched a ship with supplies to support several dozen colonists. On February 20, 1627, eighty colonists—plus ten slaves captured along the way—disembarked near present-day Holetown on the island’s west coast.

The mandate given the first settlers by Courteen was not complicated: Go forth and produce. Specifically, produce for export such things as were in demand in England. The colonists tried growing cotton, indigo, and fustic wood, the latter a sort of tropical mulberry useful in making yellow dye. These crops did not produce great fortunes. Taking a cue from the colony at Virginia, which had been settled two decades earlier, the islanders planted tobacco, which was then the most profitable agricultural staple in the colonies. But a glut in London soon undercut prices, and Barbados tobacco was hampered by another problem: It was “so earthy and worthless,” wrote one seventeenth-century island visitor, that it provided “little or no return from England.” A 1628 shipment was described as “foul, full of stalks, and evil colored.” Even the islanders wouldn’t smoke it.

And then came sugar.

The species Saccharum officinarum (“sugar of the apothecaries”), a freakishly tall and sharp-edged grass, had first appeared around 4000 b.c. in Asia, most likely in Papua New Guinea, where primitive agriculturists had selected the sweetest canes for further breeding. These plants migrated eastward with traders, to India and on to the Mediterranean. In 325 b.c. a general under Alexander the Great came upon sugarcane for the first time and described it with wonder as a plant that “brings forth honey without the help of bees.”

Sugar soon became an essential crop in the colonial Atlantic islands off Africa, including Madeira, the Canary Islands, and the Azores. It made the leap to the New World with Christopher Columbus, whose father-in-law was a Madeira sugar planter. On the explorer’s second trip across the Atlantic in 1493, he brought live sugarcane seedlings and oversaw their planting on Hispaniola. The sugar grew fabulously, and colonists were quick to establish plantations over the next two decades in Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. The Portuguese, demonstrating a flair for running complex businesses in difficult environments far from home, planted cane aggressively on the damp Brazilian coast and brought in sugar presses and copper boiling vats from home. The number of sugar refineries in Brazil grew from 5 in 1550 to 350 less than a century later. With great quantities of sugar now being produced in the New World, the price fell, and many of the sugar producers of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic islands were ruined. The New World sugar era was dawning.

Barbados made the most of it. In England, the demand for sugar soared as it quickly evolved from a luxury for aristocrats to a staple for the masses. It was in great demand for making sweets, masking the taste of rancid meat, and sweetening new beverages, including coffee (which arrived in Britain in 1650), chocolate (1657), and tea (1660). Between 1660 and 1700, the per capita consumption of sugar in England quadrupled, and then it doubled again in the next quarter century. The value of sugar shipped to England and Wales was worth twice that of tobacco by the end of the seventeenth century.

With reports filtering home of great fortunes being made, thousands of British colonists boarded ships for the West Indies. The well-off paid for their outbound trips and brought enough cash to acquire some acreage and build a sugar works or two. Those unable to afford the £6 trip traded passage and board by signing on as indentured servants, typically committing to seven years of labor on a plantation, after which they would be freed and given a small parcel of land. A third group washed ashore on the islands: thieves and petty criminals, who were exiled from England to the West Indies much as later undesirables would be shipped off to Australia. Slaves from Africa, too, were beginning to arrive in great numbers against their will, imported by the sugar planters to work the expanding fields. The population of Barbados swelled from just 80 in 1627 to more than 75,000 by 1650.

James Drax—later Sir James Drax—arrived on Barbados in 1627 among the first wave of settlers. He began by planting tobacco, then switched to sugarcane. He quickly amassed an estate of 850 acres, which yielded a torrent of cash. Drax was the first to build island windmills, which were expensive but more efficient and productive than cattle-powered mills. His wealth grew, and he had plenty of company. “It is seldom seen that the ingenious or the industrious fail of raising their fortunes in any part of the Indies,” wrote one planter to an acquaintance in England. Another noted in 1655 that Barbados was “one of the richest spots of ground in the world,” adding that the gentry there “live far better than ours do in England.”

In England, architects had been flirting with a hybrid style for British manor houses, mixing elements of Gothic and classic. The results were often eye-catching, although not always in a good way. The planters commissioned dozens of similarly grand homes of coral stone smoothed with plaster. Drax’s great house was three stories and featured a carved mastic archway near a grand staircase, the ...

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Book Description Tantor Media, Inc, United States, 2016. CD-Audio. Book Condition: New. Unabridged. Language: English . Brand New. And a Bottle of Rum tells the raucously entertaining story of America as seen through the bottom of a drinking glass. With a chapter for each of ten cocktails, Wayne Curtis reveals that the homely spirit once distilled from the industrial waste of the exploding sugar trade has managed to infiltrate every stratum of New World society. Curtis takes us from the taverns of the American colonies, where rum delivered both a cheap wallop and cash for the Revolution, to the plundering pirate ships off the coast of Central America, to the watering holes of pre-Castro Cuba, and to the kitsch-laden tiki bars of 1950s America. Here are sugar barons and their armies conquering the Caribbean, Paul Revere stopping for a nip during his famous ride, Prohibitionists marching against demon rum, Hemingway fattening his liver with Havana daiquiris, and today s bartenders reviving old favorites like Planter s Punch. Awash with local color and wry humor, And a Bottle of Rum is an affectionate toast to this most American of liquors, a chameleon spirit that has been constantly reinvented over the centuries by tavern keepers, bootleggers, lounge lizards, and marketing gurus. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9781515963172

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Book Description Tantor Media, Inc, United States, 2016. CD-Audio. Book Condition: New. Unabridged edition. Language: English . Brand New. And a Bottle of Rum tells the raucously entertaining story of America as seen through the bottom of a drinking glass. With a chapter for each of ten cocktails, Wayne Curtis reveals that the homely spirit once distilled from the industrial waste of the exploding sugar trade has managed to infiltrate every stratum of New World society. Curtis takes us from the taverns of the American colonies, where rum delivered both a cheap wallop and cash for the Revolution, to the plundering pirate ships off the coast of Central America, to the watering holes of pre-Castro Cuba, and to the kitsch-laden tiki bars of 1950s America. Here are sugar barons and their armies conquering the Caribbean, Paul Revere stopping for a nip during his famous ride, Prohibitionists marching against demon rum, Hemingway fattening his liver with Havana daiquiris, and today s bartenders reviving old favorites like Planter s Punch. Awash with local color and wry humor, And a Bottle of Rum is an affectionate toast to this most American of liquors, a chameleon spirit that has been constantly reinvented over the centuries by tavern keepers, bootleggers, lounge lizards, and marketing gurus. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9781515963172

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