Six libations that have helped shape our world


Hard liquor, particularly brandy and rum, placated sailors during the long sea voyages of the Age of Exploration, when European powers plied the seas during the 15th, 16th, and early 17th centuries.

Rum played a crucial part of the triangular trade between Britain, Africa, and the North American colonies that once dominated the Atlantic economy.

Rum may have been more responsible than tea for the independence movement in Britain's American colonies.

Distilling molasses for rum was very important to the New England economy. When the British tried to tax molasses it struck at the heart of the economy. The idea of 'no taxation without representation' originated with molasses and sugar. Only at the end did it refer to tea.

Great Britain's longtime superiority at sea may also owe a debt to its navy's drink of rum-based choice, grog, which was made a compulsory beverage for sailors in the late 18th century.

They would make grog with rum, water, and lemon or lime juice. This improved the taste but also reduced illness and scurvy. Fleet physicians thought that this had doubled the efficiency of the fleet.
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