The Tippling Point | Believe or Not, It was ‘Kill-devil’ Rum that Fetched Votes for US President George Washington
Both the pirates and the Royal British Navy who were fighting against each other in the Atlantic and the Pacific found their first love in rum.
When George Washington became the first president of the United States in the 18th century he wanted to the celebrate the inaugural ceremony with the best drink he loved in the world - Barbados rum. Earlier, the drink, popularly known as kill-devil had almost marred the political career of Washington when as a 23-year-old war hero he took some ideal stance and refused to serve his voters, rum, as was the existing custom in New England (He was then campaigning for the Virginia House of Burgess).
The young lad was promptly defeated in the hustings.
So when Washington ran again in 1758, this time for the presidency, he had the sagacity and experience to supply his voters gallons of finest Barbados rum, beer and plenty of whiskeys. No wonder when he was elected Washington demanded rum from Barbados to be served as toast. But there was a problem.
The British authorities from whom America gained independence controlled the rum production in the Carribean islands back then. The patriotic Americans too didn’t want to sip anything that had an English touch to it. Stalemate, eh? Well, but for rum from Barbados, maybe, the American people would chill a bit and look away.
Right from the early days, the Carribean islands were famous for their sugar and rum. Black people, who were brought from Africa in large numbers as slaves, worked under the punishing sun in the plantations all over the islands. They forgot their wounds and sorrows, memories about their distant families and homeland in the evenings by singing, dancing and imbibing a drink they had discovered from fermenting and distilling molasses.
People in Barbados called it - the kill devil, the Rum.
The drink soon became a rage in places as far as England, not to say about neighbouring America. Both the pirates and the Royal British Navy who were fighting against each other in the Atlantic and the Pacific found their first love in rum. Myths and legends were born around the new drink.
Among the Carribean rum, Barbados rum was considered as the finest one in the world.
Barbados is an island of warm, friendly people, a land which has an exciting culture woven deep into its sunny beaches. Settlers who first came to the island found the soil fertile ready to welcome sugarcane. Soon the abundance of molasses as a by-product while making sugar led to the production of alcohol.
By the last part of the 18th-century sugarcane and rum from Barbados island became the most sought after products in Europe and America. Even though rum production had begun in 1637, it was with the Mount Gay distillery in 1703, the oldest continuously functioning distillery in the world started.
(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)
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