For Jackie Summers, a New York-based spirits industry expert (and many others in the field), there’s no real need for a holiday like National Rum Day to enjoy a pour. “As the grandchild of Caribbean immigrants, rum was an integral part of my upbringing,” says the author, public speaker, entrepreneur and educator. “It was in the foods we cooked and part of every celebration, no matter how small.” Having said that, Summers can appreciate the rum-centric occasion as something meaningful. Today, in a landscape overrun with cultural co-opting and appropriation, it’s more important than ever to be educated and intentional about our purchases as consumers of alcohol (and just about everything else). “The rum industry is rooted in colonization; nowadays I want to know how sugarcane or molasses is sourced, who controls the supply chain, and whether the Indigenous people have an ownership stake in what's contributing to the final product,” Summer notes. With that in mind, along with the inherent obligation to keep yourself and those around you as safe as possible in these times, here are some ways experts recommend you celebrate National Rum Day.
If you’ve traveled to Puerto Rico, chances are you know that Don Q is one of its most prized homegrown products, expertly produced by the island’s oldest family-owned company, Destilería Serrallés. Needless to say, it’s a go-to for many locals and bartenders, including Christian Nieves del Rio of the Aloft San Juan.
“Sipping Don Q Gran Añejo is a pleasure — it is every bit as well balanced as the Gold and the Añejo, yet it displays much more flavor and complexity,” he told NBC News Shopping. “The line taste is clean. Oak, leather, and tobacco notes are well developed, plus the warm cinnamon and citric notes lead from dry to sweet, while other spices such as clove, coffee, vanilla, roasted nuts and cherry coat the palate and give a tingle on the tongue. If you want one of the best premium Puerto Rican rums, this is it.” For anyone building a home rum collection or looking to try something new for National Rum Day, Don Q is an excellent place to look. And if you plan on making cocktails with it, try a round or two of Nieves del Rio’s family tradition: mojitos.
This year, Summers has been turning to a heavy pot still Jamaican rum and hasn’t looked back. “Right now, I am loving The FUNK — at 100 proof, it’s not watered down, it’s unaged and doesn’t taste of additives or colorants… Just pure Jamaican funk,” he says. “You can almost taste grassy fields of sugar cane swaying in the salty breeze.” The best way to enjoy it? Neat and in whatever glassware you prefer, according to Summers.
If you prefer cocktails, be sure to plan ahead. “As we are still in a pandemic, a bit of preparation is required,” Summers adds. “Make sure you can have your rum of choice delivered in time for your fête. Arrange a socially distanced drink with someone you can imagine sitting on a beach with, and decide ahead of time if you’re going to make cocktails; piña coladas and daiquiris require some minimal preparation.” Pro tip: stock up on Coco Lopez, canned pineapple juice, and fresh limes for beachy cocktails on demand all summer long.
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