A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776

Book - 2005
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Rum arguably shaped the modern world. It was to the eighteenth century what oil is to the present, but its significance has been diminished by a misguided sense of old-fashioned morality dating back to Prohibition. In fact, Rum shows that even the Puritans took a shot now and then. Rum, too, was one of the major engines of the American Revolution, a fact often missing from histories of the era. Ian Williams's book--as biting and multilayered as the drink itself--triumphantly restores rum's rightful place in history, taking us across space and time, from the slave plantations of seventeenth-century Barbados (the undisputed birthplace of rum) through Puritan and revolutionary New England, to voodoo rites in modern Haiti, where to mix rum with Coke risks invoking the wrath of the gods. He also depicts the showdown between the Bacardi family and Fidel Castro over the control of the lucrative rights to the Havana Club label. Telling photographs are also featured in this barnstorming history of the real "Spirit of 1776."
Publisher: New York : Nation Books, c2005
ISBN: 9781560256519
Call Number: 973.31 W6729r
Characteristics: xvii, 340 p., [10] p. of plates : ill. ; 22 cm


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Jul 03, 2014

Rum, fairly or not, has had a long road to recover its reputation. Perhaps more than any other spirit, it elicits strong, stereotypical imagery (pirates, sailors, beaches), but also may conjure up bad experiences with cheap rum and cokes (my first cocktail), slushy-like frozen daiquiris, and lighting 151 on fire. Like the author, you can blame Bicardi, geniuses at branding, for conditioning whole generations of drinkers to associate rum with mediocrity. In this lively and informed, if occasionally sloppy (way too many exclamation points, a few grammatical errors), history, Ian Williams takes a look at the socio-economic, as well as the distilling, history of the drink once known as "kill devil," later to become a fixture of the British Navy, and now enshrined as the go-to drink of Americans vacationing in the Caribbean. He rightly points out that the history of slavery is inextricable from the history of rum, which makes this a darker read than another essential rum book, "And a Bottle of Rum." He concludes by touring some of the Caribbean's distilleries, but does not offer much on classic cocktails. You might also like "Sugar: A Bittersweet History" and drinking good rum.


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