If you're still wondering why the proverbial Roger was so jolly, you obviously haven't discovered rum. This sugar cane-based drink is the Caribbean's great gift to spiritdom. In fact, no other drink so perfectly captures the tone and mood of the place in which it's created. Think pirates, parrots, and palm-dotted beaches, and you'll start to get the image that comes to my mind when I mix up a rum cocktail. Oh, and don't forget the prawn-red tourists downloading daiquiris under thatched surfside huts. Although it was only brought back to the front burner during the recent cocktail craze, rum actually goes way back in the American experience.
Columbus brought sugar cane to the Caribbean on his second voyage. It went rampant in the ideal heat and humidity. By the late 1600s rum was the most popular distilled beverage in the American colonies. Even the Brits back at home used it to lift the London fog.
It still works today. Open a bottle of rum and the soft, tropical aromas of cane begin to pack the nostrils like cruise line passengers invading a T-shirt emporium. A rum cocktail is practically an engraved invitation to kick back, mellow out, and let your e-mail go unanswered. Here are three of my favorites, using suitably summery rums.
BRUGAL AÑEJO RUM ($14)
Brugal, from the Dominican Republic, is one of those small brands that you might overlook in your search for rum. That would be a mistake. Dominican rums aren't often seen here, but the excellent Brugal Añejo is wonderfully aromatic and sultry, and it checks in at an amazingly attractive price for the quality. The netting around the bottle adds a touch of real class, too. Founded in 1888 by Señor Andres Brugal, the family tradition is still going strong with this top-notch product.