Why Tom Cruise Chose Jamaica for His “Cocktail” Bar
Remember Cocktail, the 1988 movie with Tom Cruise as a New York bartender who follows his dreams and sets up a beach bar in Jamaica? No great classic there, but this beach flic with a twist (so to speak) belongs to that elite club of movies that, despite a lack of any obvious artistic merit, are remembered fondly for decades.
But I’m not here to trash the movie. Why did Cruise’s character choose Jamaica as the location for his perfect bar? It should hardly surprise: The lush island south of Cuba is known not only for its abundance of sun, sea and sand, but also for the production of rum, one of its most important exports. So what is the story with Jamaican rum, and why is it such an important part of the island’s culture?
Jamaica’s links with rum go all the way back to the 17th century. Slaves working on the sugar plantations discovered that the molasses that were a by-product of the sugar refining process could be fermented into alcohol. By distilling this mixture a pure liquid was produced: the first rum. The color of the rum depends on the amount of time the molasses are allowed to ferment and Jamaican rum is traditionally considered to be a dark rum.
Rum quickly became the drink of choice for the Royal Navy and its influence spread far and wide. The demand for molasses would be a critical component of the slave trade throughout the 18th century, while distilleries were soon established in New England and became the region’s most important industry. Rhode Island rum was even considered a legal currency in Europe for some time, on a par with gold.
Jamaican Beach Bars
In a modern cocktail bar, rum is only one of many spirits on offer. Even so, a bottle of Jamaican rum does still enjoy a strong association with the Caribbean and with the laid-back beach lifestyle that holidaymakers travel to the island to enjoy. Take a stool by any cocktail bar and you’ll be able to choose from a bewildering range of rum-based Jamaican recipes. And if the bartenders are anything like Brian and Doug from the movie Cocktail, you can sit back while your drink is being prepared and watch the show.
Photo | Tjeerd