Some people feel and taste colors. Other people associate feelings with sounds. Me? Well, I drink in music. In this blog series, I pour myself a glass and pair 10 sips to 10 songs. Today, I’m drinking rum and it tastes like carnival drums over a jubilant sing-a-long.
The best way to recover from experimenting with aguardiente is to have the drink of my people: rum.
I say my people, not because I’m claiming nationalistic ownership over it, but because I have an emotional connection with its drinkers.
Rum brings people together. Sometimes too together.
I had Mount Gay on the beach with strangers who became friends in Barbados (the true birthplace of rum), and I had Angostura in Trinidad while being taught how to dance soca.
A friend tucked me in after celebrating with Flor de Caña in Nicaragua and I helped another friend drown their sorrows with Appleton in Jamaica.
I had too much Don Q and mooned some people in Puerto Rico, and have made countless friends while waiting in line at the Bacardí-sponsored open bar at seemingly every event in…Miami. Not Cuba. At least not yet.
“The government stole their factory. Can you imagine? It’s like the U.S. walking into Budweiser and saying ‘this is mine.’ And then the government rounded up the family and threw them out of the country. So they went to Puerto Rico. But they are really Cuban.”
This was my dad’s idea of a bedtime story. Although most of his facts were wrong, the last part, the one where he stresses that they are Cuban, is the most true. Not unlike most of the exiled Cubans his age, he was a staunch defender of the embargo and loathed all-things socialist, Marxist, Soviet, or communist. Even the color red would set him off.
We never agreed on anything politically…or on anything.
When I was a little older I gave responses like, “But shouldn’t Bacardí be grateful to the Castro regime for making them expand beyond a little island in the Caribbean that no one would even know about if it wasn’t for Ricky Ricardo?” just to get him going. Oh it was glorious.
So, in honor of what would have been my father’s birthday, I am taking 10 sips of a Cuba Libre or as he would call it, a mentirosa. The recipe is simple, I liberally poured Bacardí Superior over ice, followed by 4 ounces of Coca-Cola (the reason I know the measurement is because it was nearly half of the content of an 8 oz. glass bottle) and squeezed a lime wedge over the drink before throwing it in the mix. And, of course, I’ve paired 10 songs to the 10 sips it took me to empty the glass.
Sip 1 – O Mais Belo Do Belos by Daniela Mercury From the moment that cold, dark fizzy liquid touched my lips, it was carnival in my mouth. Listen to every whistle blow in this song, because they match the intensity of flavors. And from the broken Portuguese I know, I can gather that Daniela Mercury is singing about something pretty awesome, which is exactly how I felt about this silly little concoction.
Sip 2 – Sawa Sawa De by Herbie Mann The sugar rush from my second sip made my head spin in a delightful way. I almost wanted to yell out “Wooo” for no reason. I blame this entirely on the soda, because I scarcely ever drink Coke (but when I do there’s rum in it). That got me thinking about the ingredients individually. Coke on its own is like Herbie Mann’s flute: unmistakable and crisp. Rum on its own is like African drums: strong and deep. But together, they taste as if they were always meant to be, like those sounds on Sawa Sawa De.
Sip 3 – Daggerin’ by RDX By the third sip, I was ready for a good time. And by good time, I meant dancing that involved violent pelvic thrusts. If you’ve never seen Daggering dancing, you need to stop reading this and be one with the Google. There is no blog post that could ever compete with that much entertainment.
Sip 4 – So Mi Like It – Raw by Spice When my (sober) drinking companion was not amused by my attempt at Daggering, I tried to impress her with a twerking performance. At only the fourth sip, my back was not properly numbed and the show was unfortunately cut short.
Sip 5 – Mambo Gozon by Ray Barreto Just like the impeccable horn crescendo throughout this descarga, by the fifth sip I had reached the pinnacle of my sugar rush.
Sip 6 – West African Drum Music More than halfway through the drink I felt the sudden urge to play all of my percussion instruments. Like Goldilocks I went around a played them while judging their sound, “Out of tune,” “Too loud,” “Too soft,” “I’m bored.”
Sip 7 – Pon de Floor by Major Lazer The drink was a bit warmer now and so was my face. I was wound up and ready to release some tension, which can best be done to the marching beat of a single snare drum.
Sip 8 – River by Ibeyi The eighth sip was the crash. The haunting beat of River is the perfect soundtrack for this sip and for the internal monologue that always goes through my mind when I’m reminded of my father.
Sip 9 – Leave Your Troubles by Elastic Bond And by the next sip, I had moved on and was ready to sway my hips again.
Sip 10 – Differentology by Bunji Garlin With nothing left in my glass, I was ready for the road, like the song says. Not necessarily driving it, but definitely traveling on it.