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And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails Hardcover – July 25, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book by Frank Caiafa
"The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book" by Frank Caiafa
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Like a great barroom raconteur, the author of this engaging treatise regales his audience with piquant opinions, colorful trivia, lush rhetorical turns ("[t]he first taste washes over me and brings to mind the scene in Wizard of Oz in which the black-and-white world suddenly bursts into color") and an exalted, occasionally inflated, sense of liquor's place in the greater scheme of things. A travel writer and contributing editor to Preservation, Curtis follows rum's checkered 400-year career through various incarnations, from the cheap, caustic "kill-devil" that fortified 17th-century pirates (Blackbeard was said to enjoy a glass of flaming rum mixed with gunpowder) to today's mojitos, made from palatable, if bland, mass market rums. His profiles of rum-based cocktails (with an all-important appendix of recipes) serve as starting points for excursions on such topics as slavery in the West Indies, the temperance movement, Ernest Hemingway's epic daiquiri binges and the rise and fall of the tiki bar. Curtis's grander pronouncements ("Rum embodies America's laissez-faire attitude: It is whatever it wants to be")are true only in the groggiest sense, but readers who come along on this charming barhop through cultural history will toast them nonetheless. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Toasts to And a Bottle of Rum

And a Bottle of Rum is a fascinating tale of cultural metamorphosis, tracing rum’s remarkable journey from colonial rotgut to SoHo cocktail. A book with as many revelations about American history as about this archetypally American drink.” —Jack Turner, author of Spice: The History of a Temptation

“History never tasted so good. What Herbert Asbury did for the gangs of New York, Wayne Curtis does for rum: The profiteers who traded it, the pirates who raided it, the underclass who guzzled it, the mixologists who exalted it, and the corporations who homogenized it—Curtis tells their tale with style and sweep in a tour de force of social history, urban anthropology, and cocktail ‘alcohology.’ A delight from first sip to last.” —Jeff Berry, author of Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log, Intoxica!, and Taboo Table

And a Bottle of Rum reveals the facts behind rum’s colorful history while telling a great story of rebellion and rumbustion!” —Dale DeGroff, author of The Craft of the Cocktail

“Wayne Curtis breaks fascinating new ground in this very palatable history of the world-through-rum-colored glasses. The writing shows what makes modern journalism so great: clean, succinct, inclusive smoothness—not unlike great rum—and Curtis is a virtuoso at it.” —Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh, author of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (July 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400051673
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400051670
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am not so much a sucker for history books as I am a sucker for very focused, almsot gimmicky, history books. Andrew Carr's _Drink: A Social History of America_ is a similarly gimmicky history book that I (pun coming) ate and drank up furiously, and Wayne Curtis has provided an equally capturing read with _And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails_.

This book comes from the level perspective of a connoseur of rum, one who enjoys the depth of the drink, which includes the history of it and the stories behind it. Besides the unsolveable questions of who ever first invented something like the mai tai or who even first made the first batch of the molasses-based spirit, Wayne Curtis delves through a liquor that has been both a savior and a demon for America.

And that is the main point of this book that I truly treasure--for nowadays, rum is considered a very tropical drink, something more at home in a pina colada or a tiki bar than something attached to the dirty farmland of the New World, but Curtis reattaches rum to its colonial identity and heritage, along with solid associations with pirates and seafarers. Rather than being a light, sit-back-on-the-beach drink, Curtis attaches rum back to flogging and piracy and the Revolutionary War. And he does this in each chapter through identifying a particular way of serving rum (the mojito, the flip, or just plain grog) to examine how that drink played its role in history.
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Format: Hardcover
What a pleasure to roam the shipping lanes of history with this wry storyteller! From rum's inception, when an industrial waste (molasses) trysted with the human desire to be wasted, this spirit has led an adventurer's life. In the beginning, in a Caribbean fouled with pirates, sugar and slavery, rum's fermentation was sometimes jump-started with a bolus of manure or an animal carcass. In the end, Guatemala is turning out a 23-year-old rum that tastes like moonlit waves and rolls you for $50. In between, rum enjoyed a bizarre and frequently hilarious career involving the English Navy, an astronomical number of limes, Paul Revere, hot pokers, Newfoundland salt cod, Earnest Hemingway and Fidel Castro, and the geographically-challenged Tiki-bar phenomenon. For a surprising night-cap, rum finds its way back to... well, some place it was before, which I also found surprising. To my even-further surprise, the ten cocktails mentioned in the subtitle really do chart the course of rum's New World bender. The additional cocktails in the appendix have me scribbling a shopping list: Jamaican dark, a Cuban light, and a Barbados medium, seventy-five limes, falernum, Thai basil, a bottle of that $50 Zacapa...
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By MW on August 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If you, like me, feel your eyelids droop at the words "history book," you, like me, are probably remembering the tepid tomes the nuns made you read in seventh grade. Well, this is NOT your grade-school teacher's history book. This is a lively, slightly drunken account that begins with the madness and mayhem that accompanied the settling of the New World, and from there roams far and wide through many lives and times. And it goes down real smooooth. It's full of stories, stories, stories, and boy, can this guy WRITE. Thank you, Wayne Curtis, for making me love history again.
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Format: Paperback
And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails is really all about rum. Should be obvious from the title, but some of these narrow-focus histories are all about social context and compelling commentary. And a Bottle of Rum has these things, but when all is said and done, reading this book is more like drinking a fine rum than reading an ordinary history. Curtis writes with the practiced ease of someone who's thoroughly familiar with his subject, and who doesn't have anything to prove, although at one point it seemed clear to me that he was aiming to undo some of the exaggeration Ian Williams presented in his earlier book. But there is no pervasive attitude of having to prove that rum was one thing or another; Curtis tells it like it is.

For such a short book, the reader never feels like he's missing something; if I only had this book about rum, I think that'd be enough. The title is misleading; Curtis doesn't stop at ten simple cocktails - he gives you the whole run that rum has made from its haziest origins to present upscale rum bars. The author appends a modest list of easy-to-find and enjoyable rums; the list is not comprehensive, but would serve as a good jumping point for those wishing to try different styles. He also includes some of his favorite recipes besides the ten featured in the core chapters. Technically, if you don't consider punch or grog to be a cocktail, it's only six, since Chapter 6 is about Prohibition and features a recipe for the nonalcoholic Prune Water, and the first chapter is simply entitled Kill-Devil. This is not a nitpick; no chapter is out of place here.
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