Rum Ration: A Unique Naval Tradition That Witnessed World Wars

With an explosion of sweet and smoky flavour, rum has been among the most popular liquors for ages. Made by fermenting and distilling sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice, it is popular in the world of mixology too. But have you ever heard of the old tradition of distributing this alcohol to the sailors of Royal Navy ships? 

Called as rum ration or “tot”, the practice of providing a daily ration of rum to all seafaring men dates back to the 17th century. Started by the British Royal Navy, the reason behind introducing this tradition is said to be the shortage of water supply during the long voyages at sea. Apart from this, the rum ration was also a way to boost the morale of the sailors. Before rum, beer was the original rationed drink, but it would easily spoil at sea. 

It was believed that rum had medicinal properties which could protect sailors from various ailments faced during long and challenging voyages. The Royal Navy's rationing system, formalised in 1655, when between 11 am and noon a signal was made for all the sailors to gather on the deck and receive the daily measure of rum. They were given a small but potent amount of the beverage, and this ritual quickly became an integral part of the sailors' routine. 

Rum ration became a ceremonial event in the naval culture and the tots were often consumed in one gulp. In the year 1740, Admiral Edward Vernon, a Royal Navy officer who later became the Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies Station introduced a new concoction that mixed watered-down rum with sugar and lime juice, which came to be known as "grog". This was done to reduce the drunkenness among sailors, but many of them saved their rations for binge drinking sprees. 

As a result, this ritual affected the routine, discipline and health of the crew on the ship. After so many failed attempts, rum ration finally ended in the latter half of the 20th century. However, this tradition was alive during Carribean conquests as well as the two World Wars. On July 31, 1970, naval sailors performed their last rum ration ritual and it concluded with pouring their rum into the sea as a symbolic burial of the cherished tradition.  This day later came to be known as Black Tot Day and its legacy is still alive in the history of maritime. This ritual may be ended but the tradition of sipping rum cocktails during celebrations is going to remain for centuries. 

Rum Swizzle 

Often called Bermuda’s national drink, rum swizzle dates back to 18th century. This cocktail contains multiple rums and juices giving it a complex flavour. To prepare the drink at home combine rum, fresh orange juice, pineapple juice, grenadine and Angostura bitters and you are good to go. Cherry, orange slice and pineapple wedge are the common garnishes used for rum swizzle.  


This classic delight is loved by everyone for its sweet, tart and refreshing flavour. Made by shaking rum, lime juice and simple syrup, this simple and elegant cocktail originated in Cuba in 1898. Traditionally prepared without ice, it is best sipped in a coupe glass. Daiquiri has also got a frozen variation. 

Pina Colada 

This cocktail is perfect for people who love creamy drinks. Made with a smooth blend of light rum, cream of coconut and pineapple, pina colada is ideal for tropical celebrations. Created in 1954, it has a perfect balance of sweet, crisp and tart flavour. You can serve this drink with the garnish of pineapple leaf along with the wedge of the fruit.