Raising the bar: rums from sugarcane juice

Working in bars on a Caribbean island, it’s not surprising I talk about rum a lot. Rum and sunshine go together like Fred and Ginger, gin and tonic and peanut butter and Marmite. (Oh, just me for the last one? Try it sometime!)

Rum and sun are not just about beaches and umbrellas, however. Whereas with the other pairings you can have one without the other, rum literally comes from sunshine.

Saccharum officinarum, or sugarcane as it is more commonly known, is the base ingredient for all rums, cachaças. and other sugarcane distillates. There are over 400 different species of sugarcane, which is a type of grass. It can grow over 14 feet tall and it needs lots of sunlight to grow. Once it has been crushed and the juice extracted, the sugary liquid is fermented in one of its forms.

For cachaça from Brazil, rhum agricole from Martinique or clairin from Haiti, the juice is fermented as is, or after very little processing. Once this is distilled, the resulting clear liquid is complex, aromatic, often fruity and/or floral, and used in drinks such as the Ti' Punch or Caipirinha.

Most other rums use molasses to ferment for their base alcohol. The type of yeast, environment and time taken to break down the sugars and other compounds in the mineral-rich, dark, sticky goo has a massive effect on the resulting "mosto" or “beer." Along with distillation and any subsequent ageing (not to mention the length of ageing, type of barrel and location), this gives us the myriad varieties of rums from all over the world. We’ve a large selection of them at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa's Ave restaurant if you ever want to work your way through some.

Just like rum and sun are inextricably entwined, so is the classic marriage of rum, lime and sugar, which come together to form the basis of some of the world’s most popular cocktails. Since before ice was transported to the Caribbean in 1806 (a story for another time), folks in rum-producing countries have been squeezing sour citrus to take the edge off their local rum, and sweetening it with a dash of sugar to create a drink greater than the sum of its parts.

Ti' Punch

To a rocks glass, add the juice of one lime, 2 teaspoons sugar (more or less to taste), 2 ounces (60ml) of rhum agricole and stir until dissolved. Add a couple of cubes of ice to dilute and a lime wedge for garnish.

Caipirinha

In a rocks glass, muddle one chopped lime with 2 teaspoons sugar (more or less to taste) and 2 ounces (60ml) cachaça. Fill the glass with crushed ice and churn until mixed thoroughly. Drink through a straw.

Jim Wrigley is the beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

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This article appears in print in the August 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times.

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