Full confession: I love rum. It may even be my favourite of the brown spirits. At one point, Jess even banned any new bottles of rum from entering our home because our booze shelf was already stacked with plenty of it. So when this book arrived in my mailbox, I was pretty excited to rip into it. One of the reasons that we started Bartender Atlas was that we wanted to encourage the sharing of ideas between bartenders and their patrons. Spirit of the Cane The Story of Cuban Rum will help any bartender to tell their guests about Cuban Rum in an engaging way.
In Spirit of The Cane, Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller have relayed hundreds of years of not just rum history but the history of Cuba itself. Factoids and dates are presented with such passion and fluidity that you won’t even realize how much information you just absorbed. There are so many dates, places and names of the people responsible for the proliferation of “sugar brandy” and somehow you find yourself interested in each of these people and their stories.
Beyond the style of the writing, the contents are thorough. As mentioned above, the history of Cuba itself and the history of the production of Rum are dealt with in these pages but unless the guest sitting at your bar is already really into Rum, they will most likely just want to know about the cocktail in their hand. Great news, Spirit of The Cane goes deep, very deep into the creation of Cuban cocktails.
Much time was spent researching where well known classics like the Daiquiri, Mojito and Piña Colada came from. Maybe my favourite heading in the entire book concerns the Daiquiri: “An Identity Crisis In A Glass”. It is really interesting to learn about some of the steps these cocktails took to get to their well known present forms.
There is a fair amount of ink and paper here dedicated to the various influences on Cuban cocktails as well. From mining towns run by foreign companies to the influx of Americans in Havana during Prohibition. In the city of Havana there have been many important bars credited with the creation and popularization of countless cocktails, and Spirit Of The Cane gives history lessons on each of them while still sounding like you are being told the story by the bartenders at these storied temples of Rum.
Maybe the most surprising and often unknown or forgotten bit of information in this book is the story of El Club de Cantineros de la Republica de Cuba. A Bartender Union of sorts that was created 9 years before the United Kingdom Bartender’s Guild which published standardized drink recipes for it’s members. This was to ensure that the tourism trade in Havana stayed strong, but you can read more about it when you pick up the book. Something that I really recommend you do.