February 4: Bacardi

BacardiIt was on this day in 1862 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba that the Bacardi bat took flight.

The Bacardi company was founded by Facundo Bacardí Massó, a Spanish wine merchant who sought to “refine” rum. You see, at the time, rum was often cheaply made and not viewed as appropriate for finer drinking establishments. In order to purify  the rum, Bacardi used yeast and charcoal filtration. Then, he let the rum age in white oak barrels. The end result of this process was the first ever clear, or “white,” rum.

In 1862, Bacardi and his brother José bought a distillery in Santiago de Cuba. They soon discovered that there were fruit bats living in the building’s rafters, which of course inspired the iconic Bacardi logo. Over the ensuing decades, Bacardi rums continued to play a key part in cocktail history: After the Cuban War of Independence, drinks like the Cuba Libre and the Daiquiri were invented with Bacardi rum. Later, during Prohibition, Bacardi helped turn Cuba into a hot tourism destination for American drinkers.

However, after the Cuban Revolution and the rise of Communism, the Bacardi family fled the island nation and took their company to Hamilton, Bermuda and today Bacardi rums are not available in Cuba. Bacardi Limited remains family owned to this day, and owns over 200 notable liquor brands including Grey Goose vodka, Dewar’s scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin and Martini & Rossi vermouth.

Believe it or not, Bacardi has its own cocktail. The Bacardi Cocktail is a twist on the Daiquiri made with grenadine. Apparently, this drink is the only cocktail that is legally protected. It turns out that in the 1930s, it was discovered that several New York bars were making Bacardi Cocktails without its namesake agreement. A fraud case actually went all the way to the New York Supreme Court, who ruled in 1936 that “a Bacardi Cocktail must be made with Bacardi rum.”

Bacardi Cocktail

  • 2 ounces Bacardi Superior Rum
  • 2/3 ounce lime juice
  • 1/4 ounce grenadine

Shake wit ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Tomorrow: One of entertainment history’s greatest failure.

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