Now you know: Pirate Drinks
Pop culture constantly reminds us of the fact that pirates love rum. Many a person have uttered “Why is the rum gone?” quoting beloved movie character Captain Jack Sparrow. What lies beyond this conventional truth, is an assortment of interesting tidbits and facts, for Pirate Drinks have an interesting origin and later history.
Piracy has existed as long the human species has embarked on voyages across water. There are many ages of piracy ranging from the ancient Greeks to the modern-day Somalia pirates. The “Golden Age of Piracy”, however, took place in the Caribbean between the 1650’s to the 1730’s. This period is the point when pirate culture hit a peak and is where we gather most of our assumptions and stereotypes.
Many pirates of the “Golden Age” began as merchant sailors or sailors enrolled in a Navy. While at sea, their ships would sometimes be boarded and overtaken by pirates. If the invading pirate captain was merciful, he would offer to the crew members a choice to join the pirate crew and subsequently, the joys that come with not being dead. While on their original ships, Navy workers were given daily rations of what they called “Grog” or “Royal Navy Grog” which was a mix of rum, a bit of citrus juice, and water. Originally a sailor’s ration would consist of just rum, but the sailors would often hoard rations for extended periods so that they may drink it all at once. This proved troublesome on many occasions for the Royal Navy, so adding water to the ration became the best solution. The added water would dilute the power of rum as well as speed up the rate of spoilage, which meant the ration must be drunk faster. Sailors also added citrus to help curb the bad taste of the ration, as well as prevent scurvy. Sailors who crossed over to the side of piracy knew too well of the terrible quality of grog (Rum in that day was not consistently distilled and often tasted foul. Thus the nicknames "Kill Devil" and "Devil's Death"). Pirates, however, typically had reserves of spices and sugars that they commandeered from merchant and Navy ships. This allowed pirates to create a much tastier drink called “Bumbo”. Bumbo contained the same base recipe of grog (rum, citrus and water), but by adding sugars and nutmeg, the taste was enhanced and the serving became far more enjoyable. Bumbo eventually became popular throughout the American Colonies and all across the world. It has been recorded that George Washington, in one instance, acquired 160 gallons of Bumbo to distribute to 391 voters to help his campaign for the Virginia House of Burgesses in July 1758.
Since these times, rum rations for sailors have become a thing of the past and so Grog and Bumbo have faded into history. Although, the ingredients are still commonly found, so you are able to try these recipes out for yourself!