Bourbon may be the United States' official native spirit, but you could make a good argument that rum deserves that title instead.
Rum was distilled in the U.S. hundreds of years before bourbon ever was, and it has a rich history from the mainland through to the Caribbean.
But rum starts with sugarcane, and the story of sugarcane does not start anywhere near the Caribbean islands. Instead, sugarcane was brought west, possibly from China or India to the Middle East, where it was first refined into sugar in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Sugar was then introduced to Europe through the Mediterranean and quickly spread across the continent. It was when Portugal, wanting to control their sugar supply, began growing sugar in several places along the African Coast — including the Canary Islands in the 15th century — that the plant made its first move toward this hemisphere.
In 1492, among the many things Columbus brought on his voyage was the sugarcane plant. Soon after, the Spanish and Portuguese began cultivating the crop in Jamaica, Cuba and other islands, where it also spread to the mainland of Brazil and Mexico.
One of the byproducts of refining sugar is molasses, and fermented molasses was commonly used as a sweetener in the 16th and 17th centuries. And then, in 1651 word of rum being distilled from this sugar byproduct made its way across the globe — and the rest is history.
What to learn more about the history of rum? Here's the latest Cooking with Fire podcast, in which Chef Tom and I will be discussing this wonderful spirit.
- 6 whole chicken wings
- 2 tbsp smoked salt
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
For the glaze:
- 1/4 cup pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup rum
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tsp garlic, minced
- Prepare your grill for high heat (500ºF) direct grilling.
- Combine the smoked salt, paprika and red chili flakes and mix well. Season the chicken wings with the rub on all sides.
- Grill the chicken over direct heat until nicely charred. Flip and repeat. Continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 170ºF. Move to indirect heat to finish, if necessary.
- While the chicken is cooking, preheat an 8” cast iron skillet on a side burner or stove top. Add all ingredients for the glaze. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced to a syrupy consistency.
- Remove the wings from the grill and skillet from the heat. Toss the wings in the sauce and coat well. Serve warm.