Jamaican Rum, Yo Ho Ho, Gimmie a Bottle

Jamaican Rum is one of the Caribbean’s greatest exports. Although the other Caribbean islands are proud of their rums and other spirits, Jamaica is the crowned king of Caribbean rums, winning all sorts of prizes and awards to boot from the back in the 1870’s.

This true mellow spirit from a little English-speaking island in the Caribbean is world renown for making some of the best cocktails and boasts about making the widest varieties of rums in the world.

Jamaican Rum also comes in different colors and tastes…from very dark to light to strong and smooth. Several different brand names of our rum are sold all over the world.

Apart from drinking, Jamaican Rum has many other uses. We Jamaicans use it as cold remedy, with other things added, pour a libation, and flavor other non-alcoholic beverages. We also use it as a rub to fend off nausea.


Drinking

Now, if you were to go to one of the local "watering holes" (bar) in Jamaica and ask for one of those fancy-name tourist drinks that the hotels serve to tourists you may not get what you asked for. And, of course, even the traditional fancy-name drinks like Big Bamboo and Yellow Bird are not what we may call a "drink" for the masses. As a result, they are not on the tip of every body’s tongue. No pun intended. Irie?

On certain occasions when you are out with certain friends in certain neighborhoods, you may choose to go "international," so to speak, and order a fancy name drink just to keep things on the up and up…Wink wink.

But on a whole, fancy name mixed drinks are not the local choice. Mixed drinks with Jamaican rum are usually custom made by the local bartender on the customers’ instructions, however. Some customers will even order different ingredients to make their own blend of a no-name drink. These no name blends are not complicated concoctions at all.

For example, one man may order a drink of Jamaican rum and add cold milk to it. On the other hand, add a drink of wine to a drink of white rum, too. Why? Only he knows…this is a very common practice in local bars.

Most local bars sell Jamaican Rum as a one-ounce serving in a small glass with water as a chaser. But sometimes one may choose to go bold and add soda to the drink of rum, preferably Coco Cola. However, there are no rules for taking a drink of Jamaican Rum at all. You see, the high potency and quality with which this clear colorless spirit is made will cause you to make your own rules to keep your sobriety…really. Saying that to say this, there is a special group of rum drinkers in Jamaica who have few rules, if any, when it comes to drinking "whites" as we so call it…white rum that is.

This group is not really a group as such but individuals who frequent the local bars in their quest to get complimentary rum drinks from the other bar patrons. We call them "water birds" or bar members.

Now the idea of buying free drinks for the local water bird may seem a bit strange, but in my neighborhood it serves a good purpose. Whoever gets the water bird drunk first is in for a treat because the water bird will provide all the entertainment for the night. He, usually a he, will show you how much of an expert he is at everything as long as you keep the Jamaican Rum coming his way.

He will quote Aristotle and Shakespeare, and even tell you the secrets to solving the world’s problems. This is one of the strangest human transformation you will ever see, through Jamaican Rum, a man who has never left the island but is able tell you about all the world’s ills…and how to take care of them.

I saw water birds offer medical advice, athletic instructions, dance lessons, legal interpretations, English comprehension, and recite poetry under the influence of "whites"…rum. One expert all wrapped up in one "water bird"…heh…heh...real serious stuff.

Another Jamaican Rum that is quite popular with the locals is Appleton. A brand not usually favored by the water birds but still a favorite with the drinking public. Appleton Special and Coke is the drink to enjoy when one is out with company, especially females. This spirit is light and smooth to the taste. Appleton is probably the closest macho Jamaican Rum that you could have in a nightclub and not appear as a softie. To order any other alcoholic beverage would make you look like a pedigree man or just a showoff. It is also not the done thing to offer "whites" to a woman, unless she asks.

There are many different types of rums under the Appleton name, which one you prefer on each occasion is up to you.

Another Jamaican favorite that is really getting popular is the Jamaica Rum Cream. This is a creamy liqueur with a tropical flavor. Jamaica Rum Cream-original flavor, a sweet slightly thick sipper is popular with the women and young folks. Because of that, you can get rum cream in small convenient carry out bottles for a drink anytime and anywhere. The Sangsters rum cream brand comes to mind when I think about rum cream, because it is my favorite…I am never without a bottle on my shelf. Rum cream comes in other flavors too, such as banana, coffee, coconut, and wild orange. Well I am very partial to the original flavor because that’s what I am used to.

Overall, no other rum in Jamaica can beat Jamaica White Rum. It outsells all the others, without trouble.

Another potent Jamaica Rum is a no name brand we call ‘Jan Crow Batty or Cullu Cullu. The workers remove this rum from the vat before cleaning it at the end of each year. This is not a for sale product, mind you, because it is not inspected or cleared for sale or consumption to the public. I happen to get some cullu-culllu when I was an older teenager from a man who worked at the local sugar mill.

I seriously would not recommend this spirit to anyone as a celebration drink. No way! I had one sip and that’s all she wrote. It went down my throat like lightening and fire…I could hardly breathe for a brief moment…enough of that, I thought to my self.

However, I have added little drops of it to my Beet Root/ Carrot Drink on a few occasions… just because it has a nice flavor…Yah Mon!

The flavored rum that I, and others, have not talked about too much is the coconut flavored white rum. I think this spirit is good for making mixed drinks. For one thing, if the mixed drink requires adding coconut or its flavor, you just killed two birds with one stone. I use coconut rum in my vanilla ice cream to try to create a unique flavor one time and it did not come out the way I expected. I went back to using whites… Yah Mon!

Now speaking of mixed drinks brings up a touchy subject. In my neighborhood, serving a mixed drink in a bar is not the done thing. I guess economics plays a certain role in our not cozying up to having mixed drinks or the perception of drinking sugar and water with alcohol is not appealing…it can be done cheaper at home.

Making mixed drinks has a formula, though. The simple formula is usually sweet, sour, fire (alcohol), ice, and water. Jamaican Rum is the best fire you can provide because it is one hundred fifty (150) over proof, compared to other strong spirits.

Let’s try a mixed drink and give a name…call it Duppy Conqueror.

1 oz. Jamaican White Rum (fire)

½ oz. Jamaican Strawberry Syrup (sweet)

4 oz. Orange Juice (sour)

Crushed Ice

1 oz. Water

Instead of using these ingredients, you can change the orange juice to pineapple or grapefruit. Add more fire to the rum such as gin, or vodka. Use sugar instead of strawberry syrup, and so on. The point is, you can make any mixed drinks to your liking using the formula I showed you...and name anyway you want. The name I chose was a name I just picked off the top of my head, you know.

Well I did some unusual rum drinking in my time…ghetto style, too. Such as adding rum to my sugar and water drink, cold mint tea, milk, carrot juice, beat juice, orange juice, and sour sop drink. As you might suspect we sometimes add rum to Irish Moss, Sorrell, Peanut Punch, and Front End Lifter. Jamaican Rum can be added to almost anything you want…don’t be afraid to experiment. I have even added it to Jerk Sauce…Yah Mon!

Folk Beliefs

Another way we use Jamaican Rum (whites) is to fend-off unwelcome spirits (duppy). Oh yes, Jamaicans wont admit it but its true. One would go out at night in the back yard, sprinkle several drops of Jamaican Rum in the dark, and walk backwards into the house. This practice is to keep the evil spirits from entering the house. The ritual seems a bit odd at the time…you know, but who am I to question anyone about his or her superstition.

Since gambling is an integral part of our culture, some people pour small amounts of rum on the ground before they buy the lottery to help to increase their good luck. And if they don’t win, well drink the rest of the rum...they have no other choice.

When someone is ready to build a house whites play a very important role in the pre- construction practice. After the bank and local authorities approve the building plans, the future homeowner pours three capfuls of Jamaican Rum in each corner where he or she is going to erect the building. This ensures that the good spirits will protect the workers while they work and bring good fortune to the future inhabitants of the home.

Jamaican Rum (whites) is the only strong drink that we use at nine-night celebrations. Nine-night is the ninth day after a person is deceased. We drink coffee, eat bread, and play dominoes for eight straight days after someone passes. The ninth night we eat fish, drink rum, beer, play dominoes, and sing solemn songs in long meter…back then. Nowadays we do the same except for the long meter singing…we play reggae dancehall music.

The interesting thing about a night-night celebration is the amount of ‘water birds’ that turn up just to drink rum. And, you better not run out of rum….or else!

One rare and dead practice…why did I use the word dead?...that young men used to swear on is that if you soak raw peanut in rum and eat them, your male member will remain harder when its time to indulge in some horizontal endeavors. Well two of my friends and I tried eating raw peanut soaked in rum…no reports please, I will chalk it up to insufficient comparative data. Cool?

Medicinal Use

Jamaican Rum is a medicinal aid, too. If you feel like you are about to have a cold or flu, pour a hand ful of rum into the palm of your hand and then wipe your face with the rum. Wait five seconds and then place the same hand close to your nose and gently inhale the rum. This will help to remove some of the virus and other little critters from the sensitive areas of your body where you are most susceptible to develop a cold.

If you already have the flu, make an 8oz. pot of Jamaican black coffee, add one ounce of Jamaican Rum, and drink it…do not sweeten the coffee, please. Wrap up under a blanket and you will sweat out that flu in no time.

We used to walk bare-footed when we were children. Consequently, we had to pick thorns (makka) from our feet all the time. To avoid the small wounds getting infections, we roast a small shaving of green banana on a wood fire in a polish pan cover and apply it to the wound with Jamaican White Rum. The rum protects the wound and the green banana helps in the healing. If rum is not available with the banana, we use kerosene instead.

The old folks made a pain reliever from rum that had a dual purpose…but they would never admit it. Some of them add green ganja to a bottle of rum and let it soak forever and apply the saoked rum to joint pain whenever needed. I think they take a sip of it,every now and then, without telling anyone…why it would finish so quickly is food for thought…mmm.

Opposition

There is opposition to rum drinking in Jamaica from some small quarters of our society. Among Christians, the general stance is to distant oneself from any rum drinking activity or show even tacit support for anything close to it. Some Christians even refrain from rum drinking, so they say, because it is a sin. Some preachers preach full sermons about the dangers of alcohol and its use. They admit that they welcome the medicinal applications in certain circumstances, however.

Rastafarians are famous for calling Jamaica Rum the "devils soup," among other names. They make no bones about it that using such a potent mind altering drug could never be a righteous way to enjoy oneself…that is subjective, Nuff Said.

In conclusion, you should enjoy Jamaica Rum to your desire whether you are using it as a traditional remedy or for party drinks. Just like anything else, moderation is the key. Any need to overindulge is a sign of something more serious for which rum may get the blame, however. In your plans for having a little fun with the crowned king of rums, be considerate how you indulge. Irie?

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