A look at the history and lore of rum and the nature of whales

January/February 2007

And a Bottle of Rum:

A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails

By Wayne Curtis

Crown, New York, N.Y.;

304 pages; 2006; $24

ISBN: 1-40005-167-3


A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776

By Ian Williams

Nation Books, New York, N.Y.;

340 pages; 2005; $26

ISBN: 1-56025-651-6

For the past several hundred years rum has enjoyed a unique, adoring relationship with sailors. Barbancourt, Mount Gay, Bacardi, Clement: Look into the spirits locker of most sailboats and you’ll find such a bottle.

The arrangement was an intermingled destiny, born from the happenstance of Atlantic and Caribbean trade routes, which resulted in the drink working its way surreptitiously into shipboard tradition. This connection to sailing is only part of the reason that two authors have chosen to explore rum’s swashbuckling history.

In “And a bottle of Rum,” author Wayne Curtis has chosen to dissect rum’s history through ten popular drinks, crafting what is at once a rollicking, high-seas adventure story and barroom history lesson – all offered in one enticing glass.

Ian Williams’ account, “RUM: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776,” sets the stage in Barbados, where climate, slavery and location combined to make rum a very profitable commodity. He shows how, decades later, New England had inexorably found itself caught in a weave of slavery, tariff avoidance, trade credit and heavy drinkers. He explores consumption in 1770 and draws analogies between the current oil situation and the 18th century rum trade.

Both books are well researched, entertaining and deserving of a place on any cabin bookshelf. Just be sure to water down the rum if you pick up either of these fine reads.  

By Ocean Navigator