Rum: A Pirate’s Perspective

This blog post deviates slightly from our usual straightforward ESL and TEFL posts. However, feel free to use the information here as an interesting topic for any of your adult conversation classes. At the very least, let this post  fuel your love of rum and all things pirate!


It seems like there’s a little pirate in many of us. This is most pronounced in these summer months when rum is often the drink of choice. From a daiquiri to a dark and stormy, a mojito or cable car – rum drinks are as popular as ever.

We are going to take a brief look at the history of rum from a pirate’s eye. These sea bandits had a more utilitarian view of this sugarcane-based alcohol.

Rum was being consumed long before beaches were densely populated with colorful umbrellas and big white bellies. During the 1700’s pirates were adding rum to their water rations during voyages.

The problem with storing water on board a ship is that it would go rancid. Bacteria in the water would multiply and cause the water to smell and taste terrible. This is where the common practice of adding a “dram,” or small amount, of rum to the water to mask the flavor came from.

Adding some citrus to the rum spiked water would turn it into a drink known as “Grog.” Grog had a two-fold purpose – it would mask the flavor of rank water and the citrus would ward off scurvy. Proper Grog would include limejuice, which is where the scurvy inhibiting properties came from, as well as some cane sugar to offset the bitterness.

Isn’t this starting to sound like one of your favorite rum drinks….like a mojito, hold the rank water.

Pirates would add each of the sailor’s rum rations directly to the water stores. Pirates were not known for their self-restraint and would likely consume their entire ration quite quickly. By adding it to the water, sailors would have their fair share in moderation throughout the journey.

The rum spiked water also had an impact on a pirate’s courage. We all know that pirates liked to fight, pillage and plunder – the thing is, that’s really scary stuff. Anyone that’s ever been to a bar can tell you what alcohol does to courage – it’s like an exponential courage multiplier. Pirates and their gun crews could maintain their “spine” or courage more easily after a few big glasses of Grog.

There you have it, a brief, pirate-y history of rum. So the next time you find yourself with a glass of rum and citrus, embrace the fact that you are following in a long line of pirate history. Blackbeard commends your sensibility!

 big-work+travel banner


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *