Humans have brewed, distilled, and consumed alcohol since the dawn of time. Researchers have unearthed 4,000-year old beer recipes from Mesopotamia and found traces of wine dating back twice that far.
By comparison, rum origins only date back a few hundred years. Like many things in life, we may have saved the best for last.
Are you curious about the history of rum? Did you know there's a strong link between rum and the royal navy?
It's time for history class, but don't worry—this boozy lesson will be fun! Read on to learn more about your favorite tropical liquor.
Rum Origins 101
The first record of rum dates back to 1650 on the island of Barbados, to the time of sugarcane plantations and the slave trade.
Caribbean plantation slaves discovered that molasses (the by-product of the sugar-refining process) could be fermented into a spirit. Distilling the molasses removed impurities and led to "rum-bullion" or "kill-devil," as the first rums were called.
By the turn of the century, rum had replaced brandy as the alcohol of choice throughout the "triangle trade" between Europe, Africa, and the Americas.
Rum and the Navy: The Love Affair Begins
Prior to 1655, naval sailors were given daily rations of beer or brandy. But beer often went bad on long voyages, and brandy fell out of fashion along with Britain's relationship with France.
Rum soon took center stage, as it didn't spoil and took up less room than beer barrels. It served to boost sailor morale, ward off scurvy, and provide a welcome reprieve from bland or spoiled food.
It soon became known as "Pusser's" rum because it was handed out by the ship's purser. The daily tot also evolved over the years to include water, lime, and sugar in a concoction called grog.
Black Tot Day: The Last Daily Tot
From 1655 all the way until 1970, the tradition of daily rum rations for naval sailors lived on. In fact, British sailors were so well-known for drinking lime-infused grog that they earned the nickname "Limeys."
As technology aboard warships advanced, though, it became obvious that operating heavy machinery and drinking rum was not a good mix.
On July 31, 1970, the royal navy celebrated the end of a 300-year old tradition. In what's now known as Black Tot Day, sailors donned black armbands and enjoyed their final navy-issued ration of rum.
Pusser's Navy Rum: The Tradition Lives On
If we could travel back in time, we'd shake hands with the person who decided to turn a sugar by-product into one of the world's most beloved spirits.
We're sure pirates drank their fair share of rum, but its real claim to fame lies with its tradition in the royal navy.
Just because there's no more daily tot on naval vessels doesn't mean you can't start a tradition of your own. The next time you sip your favorite cocktail, take a moment to reflect on these humble rum origins.
Is your liquor cabinet getting empty? Is it time to stock up on your own rum rations?