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Nixon’s chosen cocktail and other things you didn’t know about rum

by Nicholas Coldicott

* Captain Morgan was a real person. Sir Henry Morgan was a rather bloodthirsty 17th-century Welshman who blurred the line between privateer and pirate, plundering ships in the Caribbean.

* Vice Admiral William Penn, whose son later founded Pennsylvania, was the first captain to make rum a daily ration on his ship. By the late 17th century, a sailor with England’s Royal Navy received half a pint (284 ml) of Demerara rum per day. By the time rum rations ended in 1970, the measure was down to one eighth of a pint.

* According to receipts held in the Library of Congress, George Washington used 160 gallons (605 liters) of rum to lubricate his successful 1758 campaign for a seat in the Colony of Virginia’s lower house.

* Richard Nixon sipped Mai Tais; JFK preferred daiquiris.

* In an effort to speed up his intoxication, Ernest Hemingway devised a method of inhaling the vapor of rum by swilling the drink around his closed mouth, then drawing and holding a deep breath. It has since been hailed as an effective, if not particularly safe, treatment for respiratory illnesses.

* In the early years, rum was so rough that it was nicknamed “killdevil” and fobbed off on the slaves.

* Naval tradition, according to Winston Churchill, was “nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.”

* According to a Jamaican saying, “God caused men to raise themselves up onto their feet; rum sees to it that they fall over again.”