Bartender 608: Yo ho ho! Fun facts and ways to celebrate this year’s National Rum Month

MADISON, WI – Even though International Talk Like a Pirate Day isn’t until September 19, you can still let your Jolly Roger flag fly throughout the month of Arrrgh-gust. All you have to do is lift a glass in celebration of National Rum Month (National Rum Day is Aug. 16). 

“It really is a thing!” says ChinaMoon Crowell, Owner, Operator & Lead Intoxicologist of Bartender 608, a Madison-based beverage catering business. “And August is perfect for it. Summer is a great time to have a refreshing fruity rum cocktail like a Mojito, Pina Colada, Hurricane or Dark and Stormy.”

Even though Wisconsin is known for Old Fashioneds, neither brandy nor whiskey is the state’s best-selling liquor. Believe it or not, that honor goes to Captain Morgan rum, according to data collected by the social app BARTENDr. Nationally, 26 percent of people of legal drinking age consider rum their “go-to alcohol.” That number goes up in the summer time when 37 percent of beach-goers opt for rum over any other liquor.

“People love ordering a fancy rum cocktail when there’s a professional bartender to make it for them,” says Crowell. “But if they’re at home and have to fend for themselves, a Rum & Coke will suffice.”

So what is rum and where does it come from? In short, the majority of the world’s rum (80 percent) comes from the Caribbean, specifically Puerto Rico where the Bacardi Distillery is headquartered. Rum is made by distilling molasses, a byproduct of sugar production. Varieties of rum include light, dark and spiced.

“Rum production is heavily associated with the Caribbean, hence the correlation with pirates and buccaneers,” says Crowell. “But nearly every country makes their own version of it.”

In its simplest form, rum dates back as far as the third century BCE. The liquor as we know it today was first produced in 1620, and America’s first rum distillery was founded on Staten Island in 1664.

“American history and the history of rum have many parallels,” says Crowell. “Did you know that rum became so popular in colonial America that a British imposed tax on sugar in the 1760s led directly to the American Revolution?”

Speaking of the British, it was less than 50 years ago that their navy stopped giving every sailor a ration of rum to ward off scurvy while they sailed the high seas.

“Truth be known, the vitamin C that keeps scurvy at bay is provided by a hint of lime that goes into the production of rum,” says Crowell. “See? Rum is even good for you!”

American colonists drank 12 million gallons of run annually (today U.S. citizens go through about 30 million gallons each year). Even George Washington jumped on the rum bandwagon, giving away free rum while he was on the campaign trail. He even developed his own recipe for Egg Nog! (That recipe can be found here:

What rum-flavored recipe does Crowell suggest to help you celebrate National Rum Month/Day? 

“I’d say go with something with a bit of history,” she says. “Hot Toddys have been popular since the winters of the 1700s, but I doubt you want a warm drink in August. I suggest a Mai Tai.”

Created at Trader Vic’s restaurant post-prohibition, The Mai Tai became so popular in the 1940s and 1950s that it caused a rum shortage. It also has the somewhat dubious distinction of being the official cocktail of the Nixon Whitehouse.

Mai Tai ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Blanco (white) rum
  • 0.75 oz. Orange Curaçao liqueur
  • .75 oz. Orgeat
  • 1 oz. Fresh lime Juice
  • .75 oz. Dark (aged) rum

Recipe How To:

  1. Add white rum, orange curaçao, orgeat, and lime juice into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously for about five (5) seconds.
  2. Pour into an Old Fashioned glass and,
  3. Float the dark rum on top.
  4. Garnish with mint and lime; feel free to add a little umbrella too!

Another way to celebrate is by taking rum out of the glass and into the oven for a fiery cooking and baking experience.

“Who wouldn’t love to dig into a dessert like rum raisin pie, spiced rum cake, or bananas foster?” asks Crowell. “Rum sweets are delicious!”

Crowell says rum’s versatility, from cocktails to food, has contributed to its longstanding popularity worthy of a month-long celebration.

About Bartender 608

Bartender 608 Intoxicologists & Cocktail Caterers, LLC is a beverage catering business owned and operated by ChinaMoon Crowell. The company, established in 2007, provides experienced bartenders, staff servers, bar-backs and all associated beverage amenities for social and residential events, private parties, intimate and big bash weddings, along with many other event types in Wisconsin, Iowa, Northern Illinois, and destination events. Bartender 608 caters about 150 events and celebrations in a typical year. Interested clients can get a same-day book running proposal by visiting the company’s website at