Bumbo, The Drink of Pirates
by Darcy O'Neil on February 2011
It’s that time of year when we are assaulted with a new block-buster movie every weekend until the end of the summer. Many of the movies will be a waste of time because they lack character development or the story is covered up by special effects. But, there is one decent movie coming out, with a really well developed character, and that of course is Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. So what’s this have to do with drinking? Well rum drinks of course and real pirates had real drinks. Bumbo was a mostly forgotten drink until Captain Jack brought it back.
People often speak of Navy Grog, but in the days of Pirates, Bumboo (or Bombo / Bumboo) was the better drink. Navy Grog was simply watered down rum, and if you were lucky you might get a lime to go with your Grog. Bumbo on the other hand was a better version of Grog because pirates pillaged all the good stuff from villages. Plus, to give pirates a little bit of credit, they were better at living “off the land” than the conscripted sailors, who rarely got shore leave.
Bumbo is a simple drink, with its key components being rum, water, sugar and nutmeg. But Bumbo gets better depending on the resources at hand. It can obviously incorporate limes but for the most part are not included. Fruit juices can also be added. Think tropical fruits. So if you think about it, pirates may very well have been the first people to drink “girly drinks”. Captain Jack does wear a lot of makeup, so it may not be that far from the truth. But, if a pirate wants to drink a fruity girly drink, who am I to stop him.
But, if you stick to the traditional recipe, a mug of Bumbo would be a spicy rum cocktail. Cinnamon was often added, along with the nutmeg, to make the drink better. It almost seems very Christmas punch like. There probably isn’t a proportional recipe, so it is to each person tastes. Here is how I make mine:
2 oz Navy Rum (or amber rum)
1 oz Chilled Water
2 Sugar Cubes (brown or cane sugar)
Combine all ingredients and stir. Bumbo doesn’t take ice so it is served only slightly cooled. But if you want you can add ice, the modern preference if for drinks to contain ice.
Additional things that would have been added to Bumbo include coconut water, any tropical fruit juice, or more rum. A pirate can never have too much rum.
A cocktail similar to Bumbo is the Ortona Cocktail which was served to Canadian soldiers, fighting in Italy, in World War II. It is basically sweetened rum with a splash of water.