The taste of dark rum brings to mind sailors and pirates, swarthy, profane men and exotic island ports, ship decks and ocean as far as the eye can see. Rum was birthed on the sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean, allegedly on the island of Barbados, in the 17nth century. To this day most of the world's rum is made on these islands and in Central and South America. But one worthy competitor is being distilled and bottled right here in our fair landlocked city, by Amalgamated Brewing Co. inside the Stable, located in the old Lemp Brewery complex on Cherokee Street.
Winston Churchill once said, "Don't talk to me about naval tradition! It's nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash." Leaving aside the sodomy, the name 85 Lashes alludes to the long and intertwined history of rum consumption and corporal punishment in the British Royal Navy. Errant soldiers were sentenced to a public flogging with a cat-o'-nine-tails, the number of lashes varying with the severity of the offense. Typically no more than 100 lashes were inflicted at one time, not as a gesture of compassion but a concession to the realities of blood loss, as this disciplinary measure was not intended to be fatal.
Because the rum is bottled at 85 proof. On a ship, the lashes were proof, too, enduring them proof of a soldier's manliness, a seaman's rugged disregard for pain. Officers, who weren't subjected to flogging, "earned their stripes" by moving up in rank and wearing another stripe on their uniform, but for grunts the term had an entirely different meaning. Then, as now, they wear their badges of honor on their skin: scars, and tattoos.
One soldier we know (who has on occasion earned himself stints in solitary confinement and bread-and-water rations for defiant behavior) has the words "No Remorse" tattooed on one forearm and "No Regrets" on the other. The British abolished flagellation in 1948; now the only kind most of us know is the self-inflicted variety. We beat ourselves up for opportunities missed, loves lost. Drink of the Week can't claim not to have any remorse, but as for regrets, we don't have too many. The distinction is subtle -- we may feel bad for some of the things we've done, but it doesn't mean we wouldn't do them the same way again, given the opportunity.
Though the Stable offers 85 Lashes in several cocktails, we implore you not to mix it. (You can get it with Red Bull, in the cleverly named Bullwhip, but seriously, don't do it.) This is no Sailor Jerry, no Captain Morgan, all tarted up with spices and flavorings. She is a natural beauty, made with only pure cane sugar and molasses, twice distilled in old-fashioned pot stills and aged on French oak for up to a year, redolent with vanilla bean and burnt sugar but dry on the tongue. The only acceptable adulteration is a few ice cubes melting silvery threads into your golden glass.
So man up and drink it straight. As our father, a onetime Navy man himself, likes to say, "It'll put hair on your chest." If, after you have one or two at the Stable, you find that you have a few sentiments that you want to inscribe on your skin, you can grab a bottle to go, head over to Trader Bob's or one of the other tattoo shops nearby and do something you might regret.
The Stable 1821 Cherokee Street; 314-771-8500