When showing friends around the beautiful town of Annapolis, one of my go-to stops is always Pusser’s. I absolutely enjoy bringing tourists into our local rum bar for a classic Painkiller, a view, and a boozy history lesson. Little did I know the history of this local staple cocktail actually dates back for centuries! Pusser’s is no doubt one of the quintessential Annapolis pillars when it comes to our bar scene, however it is much more than a dock bar with a good view. Pusser’s is rich in tales of sea and grog.
Sailors and rum have a long past bond in history, the two are nearly interdependent. To think, where would rum be without sailors? Or sailors without Rum? Due to its formulation with cane sugar or molasses, this spirit was kept on board for those long journeys at sea. The Pusser’s formulation, long before its official name was made with molasses and given to sailors as a daily ration in the British Royal Navy. This ration, or “tot” was given out by the officer who gave out the daily goods, also known as the Purser. Hence, the name “Pusser” developed over time. Prior to 1740, the tot was a full pint given to sailors where they would drink it neat. In battle or after a victory, more of the rum was given out. You can only imagine what a ship full of heavily intoxicated 16th century sailors celebrating would look like. The tot of Pusser’s was given out for decades in some form to the Royal Navy until a screeching halt in 1970.
On July 31st, 1970 the Admiralty Board abolished the issuance of rum naming this day “Black tot day”. The seas may have gone dry since, but the rum lives on today and is available for indulging around the world thanks to Charles Tobias, MBE. Mr. Tobias has an incredible life story of adventure and entrepreneurship. After earning degrees in Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering at University of Southern California, he enlisted in the Marines and became a Vietnam War Pilot and later special forces in Laos. The veteran has sailed around the world twice, and at one point he had a chimpanzee and cheetah on board. True story. He filmed The Way of the Wind where you can follow his adventures at sea. In 1979 Tobias acquired the right to sell Pusser’s Rum and subsequently opened the very first Pusser’s Rum outpost and bar in the British Virgin Islands in 1982. Pusser’s has come a long way since their first establishment. Now with locations in Munich, Florida, the Caribbean, and right here in Annapolis.
Tobias also created a foundation and gives back nearly 50% of the sales of Pusser’s merchandise from his global stores or “outposts”. The Royal Navy Sailor’s fund and other charities give back to armed forces in the US and UK. He was awarded a spot on The Queen’s 2011 honors list and received an MBE for his resurrection of the Royal Navy’s rum and his charitable work.
Today, we enjoy this delightfully sweet dark rum in our painkillers while most have no idea of the importance of the most valuable ingredient in this sweet sunny day cocktail, the Pusser’s Rum. The recipe is 4 parts – Pineapple, Orange Juice, Cream of Coco, Rum. Topped with nutmeg and garnished with a cherry and orange slice. You have a choice of levels 2, 3 or 4 based on strength of the drink. In my experience, drink responsibly because these super sweet treats really can creep up on you!
Find a booth set up on the dock this month for the famous Annapolis Boat show and celebrate 50 years of boat show tradition with a centuries old rum cocktail!