Author: Wayne Curtis
Narrator: Mike Chamberlain
Length: 10 hrs, 7 minutes
“A rum bottle serves better as a prism through which to see how America changed and developed from the arrival of the first European settlers to the present day.”
As a 21-year-old who’s worked at restaurants, learned cocktail ingredients, and scarcely actually experienced artistic alcoholic creations, the premise of And a Bottle of Rum enticed me. Wayne Curtis presents a history of America in 10 cocktails, in 10 chapters, in 10 hours. Each chapter has a cocktail recipe, followed by the historical framework that brought that drink into being, and explains how rum, in each drink, morphed along with the nation.
Narrator Mike Chamberlain does an excellent job, bringing the tone and humorous anecdotes of the author to life. Curtis’ voice is engaging, conversational. He admits that many answers to origin questions are unknown, and recounts enchanting personal journeys to find authentic pieces of history. He includes an abundance of background facts on pirate crews, colonial tavern atmospheres, and individual key figures who shaped the history of rum. Curtis candidly presents the dark side, and the positive effects, of rum trade throughout the centuries. His depth of research and knowledge is impressive.
A comment on the density of the text: I received the most enjoyment and knowledge out of this book when I coupled it with other activities. For instance, in the car on the way to school, or coloring, I set it playing in the background. There are a dizzying amount of facts, which is wonderful; only, don’t expect to retain everything. Enjoy the storytelling and development of rum and America. Don’t be afraid to tune out every so often if you get overwhelmed. Enjoy the descriptions, the background, and the stories of individual bars and drinks and people.
The element that excited me most, personally, was Curtis’ description of El Floridita in Havana, Cuba, where Hemingway used to sit frequently and order Daiquiris—now I really want to try one! That to say, keep your eyes and ears open for details you can file away for personal experience. If you’re young, or simply desire to expand your horizons in the drink sphere, give And a Bottle of Rum a listen. It covers other liquors as well, such as whiskey, bourbon, and tequila, as they interacted with rum. Overall, it’s a handy reference and colorful narrative on the development of an important facet of American culture and autonomy.
That’s about it for this review: Let me know in the comments what your favorite drink, alcoholic or not, is at the moment! And have a positive, light-filled day. 🙂