From its beginnings as daily rationed fuel for the plundering pursuits of the British Navy and wayward pirates in the 1600s, to the inception of Appleton Estate in 1749 (the second commercial rum distillery in history, behind Mount Gay in Barbados), and all the way to modern times, rum has been inextricably linked to Jamaican culture. In its early days, the spirit was the cause of and solution to restlessness and seasickness on the water and a source of great exploitation and tumult on land. Through Spanish rule, British rule, Crown Colony status, and, finally, independence in 1962, Jamaica’s story has had many arduous chapters, many of which center on growing and selling sugarcane and concurrently fermenting, distilling, and aging rum.
But for a long while now, a more equitable share of ownership and representation within the industry as well as a never-livelier social atmosphere around the spirit has advanced this tale to more of a proud, celebratory level. When the sun goes down in Jamaica and the mellow strains of reggae give way to the booming beats of dancehall or hip-hop music echoing out of customized sound systems, you’ll find the local rum in hand too, swaying to the beat and being sipped with a smile.
The number of distilleries in Jamaica has dropped over the centuries from hundreds to a handful, but the range in style and flavor remains surprisingly wide. Some varieties are rich in color and taste of oak aging and the pleasing notes of vanilla, honey, coffee, and toastiness; and then there’s the clearer stuff that the locals mostly turn to, which packs an eye-opening overproof punch and a fruity, funky flavor reminiscent of cachaça and rhum agricole. These styles may seem different on the surface; however, they speak with a united, forceful, and distinctly Jamaican voice. Much like ackee and saltfish, callaloo, or the sneakily spicy curries and jerk dishes served in the country, Jamaican rums are an amalgamation of global influence, having been expertly adapted by the Jamaican people over centuries—and are irresistibly delicious in a unique way.
Welcome to Rums of Origin 2: Jamaica! In last year’s installment, we cruised around to three different countries, but this time we’ll kick our feet up and stay put in joyful Jamdown for the month of July with three hometown hosts as our guides. As Jamaican-American singer, actor, activist, and icon Harry Belafonte once crooned, “Will we dance and sing all night-a, yes we will, yes we will.” And we hope you will too! Subscribe now through July 4th to get yours—it’ll ship the week of July 8th.
Set your imagination ablaze with a smooth old fashioned that utilizes orange bitters and the rich sweetness of raisin to complement the complexity and spiced notes of Jamaican rum. Born in Kingston and known locally as “The Big Belly Bartender,” Randeen Thomas has a finger directly on the pulse of his home turf and shows it off with the Wild Thoughts, an ode to the national spirit inspired by the provocative DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna song of the same name. The tune is hot, the stirred stunner of a cocktail is cool, and, with a mind this busy, the night need not end anytime soon.
Randeen was inspired at a young age to pursue the art of bartending and flex his creative muscles, with his first opportunity to do so at Cafe Eurasia in Kingston. From there he moved on to several other bars and cafes, and has taken home several medals in the 2018 Taste of Jamaica bartending competition. He is currently a rum brand ambassador.
Considering Jamaica’s reputation for producing rums that burst with a diverse range of flavors, it stands to reason that the dishes emerging from their kitchens would offer the same. The national cuisine is a melting pot of mainly African influence, with English, Spanish, Chinese, and East Indian accents—and Jordie Ho-shue is stirring the whole thing up with her Mai Tai–inspired Right Near the Beach, Boy! Refreshing and slightly savory, this cocktail features the classic combination of rum and lime juice—but the expected ends there, as she’s also cooked up a Jamaican curry coconut syrup and peanut orgeat that join forces to bring the scrumptious side of Jamaica into full view.
Jordie has been involved in the operation of multiple restaurant and bar concepts in the Bay Area throughout her career. Possessing a strong passion for cocktail culture and education, she has intimately studied and worked with a variety of artisanal spirits, but the rums of the Caribbean will always hold the key to her heart.
There’s only one thing missing when the sun and sounds of island music have you feeling oh-so-soothed—an icy, fruit-loaded beverage that packs a punch! Enter Ian Burrell, a Londoner who hearkens back to his Jamaican heritage with this tall cocktail that’s just begging for a white sand beach setting. His Reggae Rum Punch floods the senses with a tropical blend of orange, strawberry, pineapple, and lime that’s an exceptional match for the formidable funk of Jamaican rum.
As the world’s only recognized Global Ambassador for the rum category, Ian has conducted masterclasses and seminars and judged competitions on every continent. In true groundbreaking fashion, in 2007 he created the world’s first international rum festival (The UK RumFest) and in 2014 he broke the Guinness World Record for the largest organized rum tasting event. He is a seven-time Spirited Awards final four nominee and took home the gold as the 2018 Spirited Awards International Brand Ambassador of the Year.
There’s a jam session taking place this July, so follow the sun and sounds to the ultimate destination—our Rums of Origin 2: Jamaica Box. Sign up today and “Stir it up,” little darlins!
The Shaker & Spoon Team
*not vegan: nothing