This coming weekend, I’ve been invited to a pirate theme party. While it may seem silly for a bunch of (ahem) approaching middle-aged adults to dress up like Johnny Depp fresh from a Disney ride, I can’t imagine that it will be tame. There will be costumes, a river junk and, of course, there will be rum.

It all fits in with the theme, doesn’t it? Fifty half-sauced revelers, giving up our land-lubbing ways for just one evening. Despite its – at best – chequered past, rum has come into its own, rubbing elbows in the well alongside gin and vodka.

Sugar, Molasses & the Sailor’s Share
Once a harsh, unrefined, fiery spirit, rum became a favoured tipple during the American colonial era. Molasses, a byproduct in this process, was fermentable and the resulting brew was then distilled into rum. This led to rum becoming a unit of currency and the centre of the diabolical ‘Triangle Trade’. The British Navy enlisted rum as their spirit of choice, issuing each sailor a daily ration until 1970.

Trader Vic Bergeron
Two big changes came for rum in the middle of last century. First, led by rum giant Bacardi, the trend shifted from dark to light rum. Secondly, starting from the 1930s and peaking in the 1950s, tiki became part of the modern consciousness. Led by such modern mixing gods like ‘Trader’ Vic Bergeron, the tiki style riffed off a romanticised vision of a laid-back south seas lifestyle. Now when we think of tiki, it’s usually mai tais, zombies and umbrella-topped Blue Hawaiians – all rum-based – that come to mind.

And since we like to keep it local here at Imbibe, here’s a twisted version of the classic mojito:

Lemongrass Mojito
Fresh mint leaves
1 tsp chunky brown sugar
1 sweet lime
50 ml lemongrass rum (Brugal Especial Ultra Dry if you can find it, but any light rum will do)
Alba Sparkling Water

Infuse the rum with fresh stalks of local lemongrass. Be sure to smash the ends of the lemongrass to help leech out the oils. Drop a handful of fresh mint leaves to the bottom of your glass. Add chunky brown sugar, not the sticky kind. Using a muddler or similar blunt-ended object, gently rub the sugar and mint leaves together, coaxing out the minty oils. Add ice, then rum. Top with Alba Sparkling, a local favourite, and drink.

Michael Kloster grew up in the vineyard countryside west of Fresno, California. He organises the Lucky Wine Buyers’ Collective for spirits and wine lovers in Saigon. If you want something to drink, please contact him at luckydogvn@gmail.com

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