Sugar cane first came to the Caribbean with Columbus on his second voyage in 1493, and by the late 17th century, when Captain Morgan was establishing his piratical reputation, rum was already widely known. Tradition suggests that Barbados is where rum making began, although Brazil was advanced in its rum production by the 1620s. And drinks from fermented sugar can juice are believed to have been made in ancient India and China. In the 14th century, in what is modern day Iran, Marco Polo recorded a “very good wine of sugar” offered to him.
After sugar cane is harvested, it is crushed to extract the sugar cane juice. In the case of Zacapa 23 and XO, the juice is then directly fermented. Most other rums convert it into molasses, which is fermented. Distillation then takes place by heating the liquid, and then passing through a condenser which quickly cools it, collecting the first part of the process – the heads – which tend to be discarded, as well as the end – the tails – but also capturing the most valued portion know as the hearts, which goes into quality rum. And then comes the ageing process, crucial to rum making in that time in barrel transforms light white rums like Pampero Blanco into dark sipping rums like Pampero Aniversario. Zacapa 23 is aged in three different types of barrels that have previously held whisky, wine and sherry, adding complex, fruity, chocolate notes as well as sweetness.
Rum forms the basis of the great tropical cocktails. The Cuba Libre, Daiquiri and Mojitos are the holy trinity of Cuban rum classics; more obviously tropical long drinks including the Mai Tai, the Hurricane and, of course, the Piña Colada, come from rum forming the main spirit base. Some modern classics, among them the Treacle, are based on the rich dark flavours of aged (añejo) rums. Today many bartenders tweak classic whisky cocktails such as the Manhattan and Old Fashioned by using aged rums such as Zacapa 23. While the most popular rum serve is undoubtedly the rum and cola, connoisseurs prefer the classic Cuba Libre, enhanced with a hit of fresh lime. Rum, particularly Captain Morgan Original Spiced Gold, also blends perfectly with ginger ale, citrus and tropical fruit juices.