Exploring India's Love For Rum And The Cocktails It Inspires
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The history of rum consumption in India dates back to 1885, starting with an attempt by the British to make a locally brewed alcohol that would be the primary alcohol ration throughout the British Indian military. Several entrepreneurs would rise to the occasion, making cheap beer that was fit for the task. The first brewery in the country that was devoted to the task was built by Edward Abraham Dyer, a Scottish businessman, in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh. The brewery was said to have been the first in Asia, hence being the first to manufacture beer on the continent. The beer, called "Lion," was a favorite amongst British soldiers that were stationed across the  Subcontinent. Dyer later joined hands with HG Meakin, an English brewer, after which the two repurposed the brewery into a distillery that manufactured rum. The distillery would exchange hands just two years after the country's independence, bought out by Narendra Nath Mohan. It wasn't until a few years later that almost half a century of experience led to the creation of the company’s most unique and well known product: Old Monk Rum. Mohan's descendant, the late Kapil Mohan is credited with having blended the current and final recipe for Old Monk Rum, through the course of the last few decades, up until his untimely passing in 2018.

It was around the same time that the Khoday Group of Bangalore launched their Hercules rum, produced exclusively for the armed forces. The product is now available for purchase in the retail space, along with the ever-popular Khodays rum.

These beverages would go on to sell in extremely high volumes owing to the versatility of the base spirit and the unmatched cost to performance ratio. In the years following independence, rum became a symbol of celebration and togetherness, and it quickly gained a reputation as the drink of choice for special occasions and holidays. This trend was helped along by the proliferation of liquor stores and bars throughout the country, as well as the rising popularity of cocktail culture in India.

As the years went on, the demand for rum continued to grow, leading to the emergence of numerous domestic and international brands vying for a share of the market. From traditional pot-still rums to modern column-still styles, there was no shortage of options to choose from. Several popular international brands, such as Captain Morgan and Bacardi, entered the fray, launching their ranges of black rums in the country, at competitive prices against domestic offerings.

Indian brands were not left out either; over the last few decades, several homegrown artisanal rum labels have taken over the country's many bars as the new pouring brand for craft cocktails. The most notable examples include Amrut Two Indies, Makazai Gold, and Segredo Aldeia Cafe Rum. All three rums have also performed incredibly well on international markets, garnering rave reviews from rum enthusiasts the world over.

The mixological potential of rum is one of the things that makes it so appealing to enthusiasts. The beverage is truly versatile in that it tastes great neat, on the rocks, and in a cocktail, at nearly a fraction of the price of more popular spirits such as whisk(e)y and gin. The most popular rum cocktails in India include the classic rum and coke, the cuba libre (rum and coke with lime), and rum with soda. The inclusions in the rum can make some pairings seem more conventional than others; the subtle spice in Old Monk makes for a great pairing with a generous splash of coke, and the unmistakable notes of coffee in Segredo’s Cafe rum benefit from a twist of orange on the rocks to make a simple but memorable cocktail.


But it's not just the variety and versatility of rums that have contributed to the craze; it's also the rich history and cultural significance of the spirit in India. For many, rum represents a symbol of celebration and togetherness, and it's often the drink of choice for special occasions and holidays. It therefore comes as no surprise that the country’s long history of rum production and consumption has made for some record numbers. India has long been considered the biggest market for black rums in the world, only recently losing out to the Philippines. Two of the country’s favorite rums, Old Monk Rum and McDowell's No. 1 Celebration, have dominated both Asian and global markets for decades, with McDowell’s currently ranked as the fourth most popular dark rum in the world today. 

So next time you're at your favorite bar, be sure to raise a glass to the country's love affair with rum. Whether you prefer to sip it on its own or mix it in cocktails, you're sure to find a rum that suits your taste. And with the wide range of flavors and styles available, it's easy to see why the rum craze in India shows no signs of slowing down.