The Pirates of the Caribbean series just released its fifth movie which means: A) it's summer blockbuster season, and B) the pirate craze is back again. And this means rum. But what is rum? 

To put things straight, rum is much more than a pirate thing, although it was the drink of choice for sailors to mix with a healthy dose of lemon juice. In fact, rum's ability to pair with fruity flavors has made it one of the most popular spirits to use in cocktails. Piña coladas, daiquiris, Hurricanes, mai tais, zombies—all those yummy fruity drinks you know and love—all owe it to rum.

How Rum Is Made

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Rachael Marks

Rum is often made up of the byproduct of sugarcane. It was first created in the 17th century with the emergence of sugar plantations in the West Indies. While sugar was processed, it would leave excess juice (molasses) that no one knew what to do with. So before the sugary residue was used to make chewy treats like gingerbread men (and women), it was first made into the alcoholic beverage that gave us rum cake and bananas foster. 

So essentially this is how rum is made: 

1) You start off with the results of processed sugar.

2) The fermentation process begins when yeast and water are added (this is what turns it into alcohol).

3) Distillation is started. This is where the soon-to-be rum is heated. 

4a) Some manufacturers (typically independent ones who produce premium rums) use a more traditional process. The product is distilled twice in a contraption called a copper pot still. Because the rum is much too impure to drink after this process, it has to be aged in a wooden barrel for some time afterwards. Typically darker rums are ones that have been aged in a barrel.

4b) More commonly a process of continuous distillation is used. This rum doesn't have to be aged because of the amount of processing it has gone through so it is typically put straight into the bottle and sold. These tend to be the whiter or lighter rums.

Today, rum is still most commonly produced in the West Indies as well as the eastern part of South America. While most rums still originate as sugarcane byproduct, the best grades of rum can start out at independent companies that grow the sugarcane for the sole purpose of becoming rum. 

The Types of Rum

Rachael Marks

There are several different types of rum—golden, white, dark, light— and they have very distinct flavors. The darker you go on the shade of the rum, the richer the taste will be. This is typically due to the different factors in the aging process, such as the type of wood the barrel it was stored in was made of. The lighter shades (think Bacardi) will probably have more of a bite. Because of this, they tend to be the choice for sweeter drinks.

Rums, regardless of color, pair well with many different types of flavors (for some ideas check these out). Most often they are found with fruit, but can very well be paired with chocolate, fish, and spongey desserts. So what is rum? Rum is a versatile, alcoholic, flavor-enhancing liquid that comes from sugar processing... and, of course, the drink of choice for Captain Jack Sparrow.