Ahoy matey! After seeing all of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean films and having a good laugh, it’s normal to wonder, are pirates real? Why did pirates drink rum?
Pirates are very real, but everyone looks at them with rose-tinted glasses. They terrorized the seas in the 16th-18th century: they stole cargo, threw people overboard, raided coastal villages, and sold enslaved people.
Pirates weren’t intrepid, gold-hungry men with an accent as portrayed in movies; they were mostly ordinary people who had to resort to crime to make ends meet.
But pirates were civilized in their own weird way. They had a code not to fight each other on the ship, they distributed chores accordingly and split food and drink rations fairly.
One of the drinks that kept them going on the sea was rum. Believe it or not, the cliche that pirates drank all the time was true. But why didn’t they drink water or orange juice? You’re about to discover why rum was these scallywags’ favorite beverage.
So why did pirates drink rum?
Pirates drank rum for many reasons: rum was prevalent in the Caribbean, water couldn’t stay fresh for long, rum offered protection from diseases, and pirates felt that it improved their strength and courage.
Continue reading as we explore why these marauders cherished this sugary boozy drink.
Why Did the Pirates Drink Rum?
Arrr, matey! We all know that pirates loved to drink rum. But why? Was it because rum was the only alcoholic beverage available to them? Or was there another reason?
It turns out that there are a few reasons why pirates drank rum.
1. It Was Available
The Caribbean. was and is still one of the world’s largest producers of rum. They have hundreds of rum distilleries, and a large chunk of their revenue comes from the sale of rum.
Since the 18th century, Caribbean islands have had many sugarcane plantations (what rum is distilled from), so they do everything from the cultivation of sugarcane to the production of molasses, brown sugar, and rum.
As we all know, or if you don’t, the Caribbean was the focal point of piracy when pirates were in their prime. Sugar was a bit expensive to transport to Europe and America, so it was distilled and transported as rum instead.
Barrels of rum were leaving the Caribbean to other countries, so it quickly became a popular loot for pirates. Any pirate would have been glad to drink whiskey or beer; they drank rum because it was available.
The ocean is a dangerous place, and pirates lived each day like it was their last because they might get killed or imprisoned the next day.
Most importantly, pirates were far from their families. What better way to forget your sorrows than getting inebriated for most of the ride?
Unlike military ships that watered down their rations or distributed them in little quantities, pirates drank rum all the time because it was stolen after all, so they can easily get more.
This did both good and harm because even though they forgot their troubles, they were left vulnerable all the time, and inebriated pirates were easy to raid.
Pirate captains also provided crew members with all the rum they needed to boost their morale and prevent mutiny. Rum brought these men with a common goal together. You could say it was the mast holding their sail.
3. Water Couldn’t Last Very Long
Life at sea is a long and thirsty one. During the prevalence of piracy, freshwater was difficult to come by. When pirates got drinkable water, they stored them in barrels, but the water quickly became stagnant.
Mold made stored water unsafe to drink, so pirates had to look for other ways to quench their thirst. They soon discovered that water was safer to drink when rum was added, and since rum was so easy to get, they used rum to stay hydrated.
They created their own drink called grog which is a mix of water, rum, lemon or lime juice, and brown sugar. More about why they added lime water in the next point.
4. To Prevent Scurvy
Scurvy, the deficiency of vitamin C, is a disease that plagued many pirates at sea. Pirates didn’t take vegetables because they went bad far too quickly, and they didn’t have refrigerators to store veggies.
Scurvy causes severe joint or leg pain, bleeding gums that cause the teeth to fall out (this may be why some pirates miss a tooth or two), and fatigue.
So to prevent their pearly whites, pirates added lime or lemon juice to their grog to prevent and cure scurvy.
5. It Was a Currency
Yes, pirates stole from ships, but they weren’t totally barbaric. Pirates traded with other pirates and sailors. Since they had more than enough rum to spare, they traded rum for other things they wanted, like food, clothes, medicine, and tools.
Weighing the Anchor
Now that you know why rum was pirates’ favorite think of how you get to drink rum with no strings attached. You’re not drinking to prevent any diseases, or because water is bad, you’re simply enjoying the sugary beverage because you like it.
Fun Facts About Pirates You May Be Interested In
Here are a few fun facts about pirates that you may want to know.
Blackbeard Was the Most Feared Pirate
The most famous pirate is Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, because of his terrifying aura and legendary feats. He was rumored to be involved in voodoo, and he had an MO of weaving hemp into his beard and lighting it on fire before capturing a ship. This made him look terrifying and certainly terrified his victims.
The Pirate Flag Has a Name
The famous skull and crossbones pirate flag is called the Jolly Roger. There are different theories as to why it’s called this, but the most prominent one is that it comes from the french phrase “Joli rouge.” which translates to “pretty red.”
Centuries ago, a blood-red flag was used during naval warfare to signal that the wielders would show no mercy. As pirates would say, dead men tell no tales.
Pirates Used Eye Patches
Hollywood wasn’t lying. Pirates did have eye patches, but not for the aesthetic. It’s said that they wore it to adjust their second eye for night vision so they could see below the deck.