Angel 's Reviews > And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails

And a Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis
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's review
Jan 03, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: business-and-economics, foods-and-epicurious, history, pop-culture
Recommended for: rum fans, microhistory readers
Read from January 30 to February 24, 2012

This is a book I definitely recommend. If you like rum, or you enjoy rum drinks, you will probably enjoy this book that will teach you more about the history of this spirit. If you are history buff or reader, you will enjoy the book as well.

The book is organized in chapters named after a different rum drink. Each chapter provides a history of the drink in question as well as a history of the New World in the process. Together, the chapters provide not only a narrative of where rum came from, where it has been, where it is now, and where it is headed. You also get a good amount of history overall from Colonial America to today. The book is a good example of the microhistory genre: it takes a single thing, and it explores its history in depth. However, this kind of book also provides a look at history overall. There is trivia. There is history. There are curious facts. And there is even a little adventure on the high seas. I personally enjoy this kind of book because I often learn more about other things besides the one item in question. A neat thing about this book is that it dispels some of the myths people may associate with rum.

Curtis' narrative is pretty easy to read, and the book as a whole is pretty entertaining. From pirates and buccaneers to Captain Morgan (the mascot; the real Captain Morgan was not a jolly fellow with a big red coat)to Ernest Hemingway and tiki bars. You get it all here. This is a book that will have you longing for some rum, and I do not mean just the mass produced varieties like Bacardi.

As a bonus, the end of the book features a section of rum drink recipes so you can try them out and add a bit more to the reading experience. So, get yourself a good bottle of rum, a sour or two, a weak or two, and a sweet or two, fix your favorite cocktail, be it Rum and Coke or a Mai Tai, and just enjoy this excellent book.

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Reading Progress

02/14/2012 page 14
5.0% "Read the introduction. So far, the book promises to be interesting. We shall see."
02/14/2012 page 24
8.0% "One way to look at rum: "the distilled essence of fermented industrial waste." Hey, it's molasses or sugar cane juice, don't worry. Anyhow, the story is moving along."
02/14/2012 page 31
10.0% "Now, rum making in the late 17th C. not as "clean" as today. In fact, one has to admire how well rum consumption did in Barbados given that "it might be agreed that early rum was horrid, but each batch was horrid in its own way." It would be a while since things like standards and some health regs. become part of the process."
02/14/2012 page 38
13.0% "Finished first chapter. Moving on the Grog, and rum starting to slowly make it out of the islands."
02/15/2012 page 42
14.0% "Image of Capt. Morgan, the buccaneer, going into Wall St. and hanging bankers by their testicles certainly holds appeal. The kind of no-nonsense leadership we need. Anyhow, that came from comment about a 1949 ad introducing the Captain's rum to the U.S. This story is pretty interesting too (and Capt. Morgan was quite the ferocious guy in real life, not the cute, nice, friendly mascot of today)."
02/15/2012 page 43
14.0% "Interesting note. Capt. Morgan, the real one, likely would not have seen or drunk much rum when he plundered Spanish lands. Rum did not take off in Spanish places, unlike in Brit. colonies, so he would not have found much, if any in those places. Also, Spanish wine producers had a good lobby, got Crown to ban Sp. colonial spirit imports, so making rum not really profitable or good business then for Spanish cols."
02/16/2012 page 57
19.0% "BTW, if you hear a pirate ask for grog, not a real pirate. Grog was not really around until after piracy declined. And a rum connection to George Washington and Mount Vernon."
02/16/2012 page 67
22.0% "Finished the "Grog" chapter. Story of the Brit. Navy's rum rations all the way to their end. And why we think of pirates and rum (even though, as mentioned before, rum was not really around in their time). You owe that to Stevenson's "Treasure Island.""
02/16/2012 page 71
23.0% "Remedy for reviving victims of drowning, ca. 1750 in MA: "blowing tobacco smoke up the victim's rectum..." there were special machines for that and "...bathing the victim's breath with hot rum." And if person died anyhow, they still served rum at the funeral to the attendees."
02/16/2012 page 92
30.0% "Rum in the North Am. colonies. Effect on the Indians. Becomes popular in colonies. Rise of taverns, especially as gathering social places. Lead up to the American Revolution to come."
02/20/2012 page 98
32.0% "Can't make this up. Circa mid-18th century: "A merchant with the splendid name of Peacock Bigger built successful distilleries in both Philadelphia and Charlestown, Maryland." Go ahead, do a little giggle."
02/20/2012 page 114
38.0% "Finished chapter on Medford Rum. Sure the Tax and Stamp Acts pissed off colonies to go to war, but Britain was already pissing them off first with Molasses Act, then with the Sugar Act, which likely had more of an impact in driving American colonials' decision to rebel. The later acts were just Britain being tone deaf."
02/20/2012 page 134
44.0% "Finished chapter on rum punch. Also, the Triangle Trade they taught in schools for years was mostly a myth. In fact, slave trade was not really profitable at all (even though slaves did make plantations profitable). Moving on, now come the temperance people trying to ruin everyone else's good times. On we go."
02/20/2012 page 138
45.0% "After Revolutionary War, economics, trade closures bring about fall of rum in the U.S., followed by changing tastes and a sense of new nationalism. So, the nation moves towards whiskey (the Temperance people are not quite effing things up yet)."
02/22/2012 page 170
56.0% "Getting through Prohibition, one of the most boneheaded things Americans ever did. People just got around it. One way to get your liquor (legally, and it was good liquor)? Take a short trip down to Cuba. Even Hemingway did it. Then again, he was also looking for peace and quiet to write. The Daiquiri chapter is getting interesting."
02/22/2012 page 188
62.0% "Americans come to their senses and repeal Prohibition (plus Uncle Sam missed all that booze tax revenue). Hemingway in Cuba and the daiquiri. In the end, for this chapter, how the daiquiri degenerated into the sherbet/smoothie nightmare we often see. Now I am craving a real daiquiri. I may go shopping for some limes. . .and a Hemingway novel maybe."
02/22/2012 page 192
63.0% "Started the Rum & Coke chapter. We are now in midst of World War II. Shortages of whiskey, so on, so rum comes back as Caribbean islands see opportunity to supply the U.S. alcohol thirst. And there is this new popular soda drink that seems to make rum better."
02/23/2012 page 214
73.0% "Finished the Rum & Coke chapter. A lot of little interesting tidbits here, including little bits on the history of Coke, bitters, and even the rise of Vodka. But PR Rums make a comeback. Now moving on to the Mai Tai."
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