And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails (Crown Publishing, $24), by longtime Yankee contributor Wayne Curtis, tells the story of the rise, fall, and return of America’s most reviled and defamed spirit. Rum began as a byproduct of the 17th-century Caribbean sugar industry but soon took on a life of its own — especially in coastal New England, which was home to as many as 150 Colonial distilleries.
“Demon rum” has long shouldered blame for such dark episodes as the slave trade, the excesses of bloodthirsty pirates, and widespread drinking that led to Prohibition. But rum rarely gets credit for its positive role in American culture. It was the second-most important industry after shipbuilding, and when the British crown meddled with it (think: the Molasses and Sugar Acts), the Colonies learned how to work together to resist.
“Rum is the history of America in a glass,” Curtis writes. “Like moonglow, the life of America is reflected back in each incarnation of rum.”