Celebrate National Rum Day

National Rum Day on August 16 was perfect excuse, should it be needed, for blended beverages and cocktails to create a delicious celebration.

Rum, third most popular spirit in the United States, is fast becoming second only to gin in the UK’s spirit stakes.

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Only vodka and all the whiskeys combined beat it for first and second-rankings in the US.The spirit finds its way into citrusy mixed drinks and cool blended summer cocktails. So much so, rum stirs up images of sandy beaches and brightly colored umbrellas in fruity drinks.

Rum is synonymous with the Caribbean, where first modern rums were distilled on sugarcane plantations in the 17th century.

Think of rum and you also conjure up images of pirates.

“Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” is the famous ditty in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island published in 1883.

The reason for that is how rum came to be.

In the West Indies during the 1600s, large plantations grew sugar cane.

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When they extracted the sugar, they created a by-product called molasses.

For years, the molasses was a waste product until it was discovered it could be distilled ... into rum.

Rum then became not only a commodity for trade but also a ration on the ships delivering the product.

Even in recent modern Royal Navy, British sailors received an allotment of rum until 1970.Rum with brandy and gin was also a favourite contraband brought in by smugglers in the 18th century by gangs along the British coast.

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Such “gentlemen of the night” would pay justices of the peace to turn a blind eye to contraband, including measures of brandy and rum.

They have been immortalised in many novels including Jamaica Inn, Moonfleet, Dr Syn series by Russell Thorndike and trilogy by AJ Mackenzie.

There are many ways to enjoy rum. On a hot summer day, a great way to celebrate is with strawberry pineapple cooler.

Other rum-based cocktails include ...Blue HawaiianCuba LibreDaiquiriHurricaneLong Island Iced TeaMai-TaiMojitoPiña ColadaPlanter’s PunchRum and Coke

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It is also a key ingredient in one of the nation’s favourite desserts, rum baba.

Those of a certain age will also remember the chocolate bar Old Jamaica.

It was originally launched in 1970 by Cadbury’s as a mix of milk and plain chocolate with rum flavoured raisins.

Leeds Gin and Rum Festival, held during recent years, will return in 2021.