by Pink Lady
If you checked out this week’s column in the Dig, you know the ladies of LUPEC have molasses on the brain. As mentioned in broad strokes in print, this dark, sticky sugar by-product and the rum that it produces are about as tightly woven into the history of New England as the American Revolution. Here are a few more facts and great resources to continue reading about them, for the history buffs among us:
- As Pink Gin mentioned in last week’s column, “History reminds us that we once had a thriving rum industry that was buried along with any acknowledgment of our role in the slave trade.” Indeed, rum in New England has a distinctly checkered past. As Stephen Puleo summarizes in Dark Tide,
It was from Salem, as well as from Boston, Newport, and Bristol, Rhode Island, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and New London, Connecticut, that the slaving ships set sail for the coast of West Africa, their holds laden with barrels of rum. Once they arrived, they traded the rum to African coast merchants in exchange for black slaves, whom they sold, in turn, in the West Indies for local products – most notably molasses. These ships then transported molasses to New England to be used as a cheap sugar substitute, and to distill into rum. The cycle then began all over again. The “Triangle Trade” was born and became the backbone of New England’s economy and prosperity before the American Revolution.
For an more in-depth exploration of the history of rum in the United States, you can check out Wayne Curtis‘ And A Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, or Ian Williams‘ Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776.
- A neighborhood decimated, 150 people injured, 21 people killed – the details of the Great Boston Molasses Flood are pretty shocking, even to disaster-weary modern minds. But the scandal surrounding the flood is a fascinating, David vs. Goliath story in itself that is deftly recounted in Stephen Puleo‘s Dark Tide. 119 separate legal claims were brought again United States Industrial Agriculture, which the Superior Court of Massachusetts decided to consolidate into a single legal proceeding, “creating in effect, if not by strict legal definition, the largest class-action suit to date in Massachusetts history and one of the largest ever in U.S. legal annals.” The USIA tried to blame anarchist bombers for the tank explosion, but were ultimately held responsible and paid hundreds of thousands of damages to North End residents. To learn more, pick up a copy of Dark Tide – it’s a compelling, well informed read that will teach you tons about early 20th century Boston history and culture.
And now for some more molasses cocktails!
Adapted from David Wondrich’s Imbibe:
BLACK STRAP (a.k.a. BLACK STRIPE)
2 oz. Santa Cruz rum
1 tablespoonful of molasses
“This drink can either be made in summer or winter; if in the former season, mix in one tablespoonful of water, and cool with shaved ice; if in the latter, fill up the tumbler with boiling water. Grate a little nutmeg on top.” (Source: Jerry Thomas, 1862)
Writes Wondrich: “The Nutmegs [New Englanders] so loved theif Black Strap that, according to the memoirs of Henry Soule, a New England parson, bowls of it were even circulated at weddings. One shudders.”
Here’s a modern one, which we located on Trader Tiki’s Booze Blog. It comes originally from Martin Cate of Forbidden Island, and was named Trader Tiki Most Officially Excellent and Outstanding
Original Drink for Tales of the Cocktail 2008.
1 1/2 oz Pampero Aniversario (rum)
1/2 oz Mild (aka first boil) Unsulfured Molasses
1/2 oz Simple Syrup (2:1)
1/4 oz St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
Dash Angostura Bitters
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 1/2 Charged (fizzy) Water
Combine all ingredients except fizzy water in an ice-filled shaker; strain into a Collins glass. Top with fizzy water, stir to combine, garnish with mint & serve.
Yum! Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Trader Tiki!