...And a Bottle of Rum (Book Review)
"...And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails ". By Wayne Curtis. 304 p., $14, #0307338622, Three Rivers Press, c2007 (pbk).
Wayne Curtis, usually found helping save historic buildings from the wrecking ball or writing guidebooks for colder northern climates, devoted a year to this "American" historical work, as told through the drinks that made it.
The book is as titled, and is an insightful look at the drink that changed the new world. Via ingenious accidents, sugar abundances, commodity-as-currency systems, sugar taxes, slavery, prohibition, revolt, temperance movements, or a hundred other history-shaping entries -- be it Kill-Devil, Grog, Flip, Medford Rum, Planter's Punch, Demon Rum, Daiquiri, Rum & Coca Cola, Mai Tai, or Mojito (these are the 10 chapter titles of the work), rum was lurking somewhere in the seeds of the Americas. Paul Revere's ride, pre-Castro Cuba ventures, trademark wars, a "Bobo" or a "Pro-Cuba Libre", there is rum - and even Ben Franklin's published euphemisms for being drunk include, "He's been to Barbados!".
As Curtis sets out at the beginning: "Rum is the history of America in a glass", as no other thing was as vital to the social, cultural, and eventually, political life of early Americans. His cocktail history covers the Americas, from the early to the modern. The book is very well done. It is not easy to bridge the disciplines, to research and then write well and interestingly about a topic that is historical, cultural, economic, and often a little risqué. Curtis succeeds and the book is a good read. It is not light or misguided historically or economically and he is never boring. The concluding sections are made up of a micro-guide to rum, followed by the chapter, "When It's Cocktail Time" (pp.265-281), which includes recipes from historical sources and vintage drink-mixing guides, with some remarkably obscure offerings.
Curtis and his book are also tied to: http://republicofrum.com
*** Wayne Curtis is a photographer and guidebook author specializing in Canada and the Northeastern U.S. ("Frommer's" and "Off the Beaten Path" Guides for Canada, New England, Maine, Vermont, Nova Scotia, etc.); he is also editor or "Preservation Magazine", and his essays on art and architectural have appeared in countless magazines and newspapers. ***