Some Rum Before The Next Dance, Señorita?

There are no known pictures of a fandango in Alta California, but this 1848 image of one in Mexico by Iziquio Iriarte is probably as close as we will ever have.

When you think of a place where rum was made and enjoyed in the early 19th Century, the first to come to mind probably isn’t California. Nevertheless it was a popular drink, as reported by multiple observers. Sugar cane was planted in those areas of Southern California with enough water to sustain it, and in 1828 Russian naval officer Kirill Khlebnikov noted that rum made from it was drunk widely but moderately. “Many women of the lower classes readily drink vodka and rum but not a lot. One should generally say of Californios that they are temperate, and drunks are to be seen very rarely.”

Apparently sugar stocks from California didn’t  satisfy the demand, because in 1842 Swedish traveler G.M. Waseurtz noted imported materials in his description of a rancho at Refugio Beach, near Santa Barbara. “His little farm was romantically situated and its produce were cattle, a few vegetables, and very good wine. He had also begun to distill rum from Sandwich Island sugar which Mr. Thompson provided.”

A little sugar is still grown in California near San Diego, but as far as I know nobody is now making rum from it. The fresh cane juice commands such a high price at health food stores and farmer’s markets that it would be madness to make rum from it these days…