The essence of all things tropical, rum is far more than just a mixer for a drink or a flavoring for a bread pudding. A cultural phenomenon, this spirit cannot be extricated from the rich and glorious Hispanic tapestry of life and cuisine. Just the word "rum" conjures images of swashbuckling pirates brandishing swords upon sailing ships, hidden treasure, and most of all, warm, romantic nights along the dazzling Caribbean Sea. An integral part of the history, mentality and romance of a people, rum's place in the world is, perhaps, just a bit too heavy to contemplate while languidly sipping on a pina colada or a rum and coke.
Bacardi Rum has its own particular story and its history is connected with a most unsuspecting television star: Desi Arnaz, aka Ricky Ricardo of "I Love Lucy" fame. His mother, Dolores Acha y de Socias, was one of the most beautiful and prominent women in Latin America, and her father, Alberto, was one of the three original founders of the Bacardi Rum Company. The family owned three ranches, a palatial home and a vacation mansion on a private island in Santiago Bay, Cuba. All that changed in 1933 when they lost everything to the political dictatorship and bloody revolution that overtook Cuba.
The actual evolution of Bacardi Rum as the drink that is known today began back in 1828 when a man named Don Facundo Bacardi Masso emigrated from Spain to Santiago, Cuba. A lover of fine food and spirits, Don soon discovered the popular drinks consumed on the island he called home. He noticed that one in particular, the local rum that was so very popular, was dark and rich, but much too strong.
With the skill, patience and tenacity of a research scientist, he analyzed the fermentation and distillation processes, and even though he didn't find penicillin, he did discover that utilizing a charcoal filter to remove the impurities and contaminants that rendered the local rum so very powerful resulted in a much lighter, smoother and tastier drink.
In 1862, with the development of this "new" rum, Bacardi bought a tin-roofed building, which he planned to use as a distillery. Within the rafters of the roof lived a family of fruit bats, which were considered omens of good luck in Cuban mythology. The official logo of Bacardi Rum became that of a fruit bat in flight and remains unchanged to this day.
In 1944, Bacardi Imports, a quickly growing Cuban company, opened its doors in New York City and became the lucrative hub of the American rum market. By 1960, this company's assets totaled well over 75 million dollars. In 1966, the Coca-Cola Company agreed to advertise with them, creating ads for the ever-popular Rum-n-Coke and increased the sales of both dramatically. By 1978, Bacardi Rum had become the number one best selling spirit brand in the United States!
In 1987 Bacardi sold over twenty million bottles of rum, which was the first time any single brand of liquor reached that mark. With the acquisition of Martini and Ross in 1992 and Demars, Bombay Gin and Disaronno Amaretto in 1999, the Bacardi-Martini USA company became the single largest supplier of alcoholic spirits in the world. There were many obstacles that stood in the way, such as poor relations between Cuba and the rest of the world, strict embargoes and the vagaries of the liquor market in general. The success of Bacardi rum was the direct result of one man's persistent belief in both his product and himself.