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St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Friday Happy Hour: How Best to Enjoy Cruzan Black Strap Rum

Friday Happy Hour: How Best to Enjoy Cruzan Black Strap Rum
Cruzan Black Strap Rum from St. Croix/SBPR

In the history of new product introductions from our legendary hometown distillery, the unveiling of Cruzan Black Strap Rum was a dud for me, and most of the tried and true Crucians in my circle of friends. This came as a shock, of course, as like all proud St. Croix natives, we’re steadfast in our staunch support and unabashed bias toward our blessed Cruzan Rum.

What we didn’t know – what we just could not know at the time – was that the problem wasn’t the Black Strap Rum… It was us!

To understand why, one must first understand the tradition of navy rum. Our St. Croix-based mixologist friend, Jesse Card, discussed it a bit in this great piece on Grog. Accounts vary, but for the most part it seems that Grog became the drink of choice within the British Navy sometime during the mid-17oo’s. From 1655, when the British seized Jamaica (and its stocks of rum) from the Spanish, ’til about 1740, the sailors’ daily “tot” consisted of a pint-a-day of straight rum.

No sour (usually), no sweet, no weak – just rum… and it wasn’t that good, either.

Navy rum was a far cry from the aged and sophisticated blends we enjoy today. It was dark, rich and overly thick with molasses. It was probably a bit like drinking motor oil… which brings me to the Cruzan Black Strap Rum of today.

As noted on the official Cruzan Rum website, Cruzan Black Strap Rum is a “cleaner, less heavy navy rum.” This is in keeping with Cruzan’s signature five column distillation process, a method that ensures all Cruzan Rums are light-bodied, exceptionally refined and, if you ask us, the equal of any rums in the world.

This brings me to the other thing one must understand to, err… understand why Black Strap was initially seen as a black-eye among my friends: our drink of choice was rum and Coke.

Actually, our only drink was rum and Coke. It’s really the quintessential Crucian cocktail (much to the chagrin of our pal, Jesse), enjoyed by all generations of islanders of age for, well… ages.

Naturally, when we discovered this new Cruzan rum on the market in the 90’s, we excitedly mixed it with Coke. Don’t ever do this.

No greater sin had been perpetrated on our dear friend, Coca-Cola, since some idiot messed with the original formula back in the 80’s The mix was beyond un-drinkable, leaving us sad, thirsty and perplexed.

Black Strap was never intended for such pedestrian mixing, though, something I came to know a few years later…

The launch of Cruzan Black Strap Rum coincided with a mid-1990’s resurgence of Tiki Culture in America, the kitschy Polynesian movement originally popularized in the 1930’s. Carved ceramic mugs like these, lei’s, flowered shirts and Tiny Bubbles were all part of the American Tiki fun, but the most lasting imprint of the movement were a series of cocktails, led by the Mai Tai, that generally called for just the kind of flavorful touch a bit Black Strap Rum can provide.

Employed as a finishing element, or float to Tiki-style cocktails, Cruzan Black Strap absolutely shines. It adds an extra dimension of robustness, the rich molasses and licorice flavor adding an exotic character that’s all about the tropics.

For some really incredible cocktails featuring Cruzan Black Strap Rum, check out Jesse’s Rainbow Beach Swizzle or his Single Barrel Shipwreck. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a classic Mai Tai or Colada either.

(One of these days, I’ll have to remember to add a shot to a Painkiller to see how that works…)

So, definitely give Cruzan Black Strap a try, especially if you fancy yourself a mixologist. Truly, no home bar specializing in exotic cocktails should be without it.


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  • Love Black Strap. I have a Boat Drink recipe I’m working on using Black Strap and some other items. Now that I think about it, my bottle is about out! Thanks for the reminder. Cheers

  • RonJames

    It goes excellent over ice cream, and I’ve cooked some desserts with it as well.

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  • Greta

    Bought the black strap for painkillers…thought it would taste good…well, it does taste good but its no longer a painkiller. I will stick to the Mt. Gay/Cruzan Estate combo for my painkillers and keep the black strap for a Mai Tai.

  • trying to find a good way to bear this bottle. I cant give shots away….

  • CYD

    Cruzan Black Strap is my ALL TIME FAVORITE rum! Two parts Black Strap to one part Grand Marnier = A Black Pearl! The best after dinner sipper around. A shot of Black Strap in a spicy ginger beer = the best Dark & Stormy I’ve ever had. And it’s the secret ingredient in my famous sweet potato casserole. Can’t say enough good about this rum!

  • Crucian Contessa

    I LOVE to bake with the Cruzan Black Strap Rum! I use it in my Rum Buns made with Dominican Cinnamon and a tender brioche and pecans. SINISTER!! Please NEVER stop making this rum, if only for that reason alone!! There really is no substitute! It is dark, smokey, and heavenly! Not sure about the drinking part, but GOOD on the baking and flavoring part. I also use it in my granola. Yes, rum and breakfast! LOL.

    • uncommoncarib

      Rum and breakfast? You’re a woman after our heart!

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  • the_warthog

    I tried this rum in a Painkiller and liked it. Also my favorite for toppings. I even snuck some into a diner and tried it on pancakes, great!

    • uncommoncarib

      Wow, pancakes, huh? Gotta’ try that one soon. Thanks for the tip!

  • The BEST Blackstrap Rum recipe is from the bar at Hotel 1829 in St. Thomas, USVI. The drink is called Blackbeard’s Revenge.

    Equal parts Pineapple Rum, Mango Rum, Banana Rum, and Coconut Rum.
    A splash of grenadine.
    A splash of fruit juice (I think the bar used a mix of passion fruit, pineapple, and orange)
    A float of Blackstrap Rum.

    The grenadine sinks to the bottom and represents the blood of Blackbeard’s victims. 😉

    It sounds like it would be too fruity and sweet, but the smokiness of the Blackstrap Rum cuts through the sugar and makes this drink.

    Delicious, too easy to drink, a bit dangerous!

    • Steve Bennett

      Sounds pretty good, Slicey! We’ll be sure to give it a try soon. Cheers!

  • Bob Costin

    Just had this last night. 2 shots n fill glass with vanilla coke. Amazing