Plantation Rum, a brand owned by the French spirits company Maison Ferrand, announced last week that it is “evolving” its brand name in light of the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
We featured Plantation Rum in our 2019 episode, “When White People Say Plantation,” because the spirit’s name inspired food writer Osayi Endolyn to delve into what’s behind “plantation” branding. The word has long been used in the food industry to conjure images of a romanticized, whitewashed American South, even though it has no specific culinary meaning (think “Plantation Mint Tea” or “Plantation Chicken”). Osayi wrote an article on the subject, which in turn inspired our episode.
Now, as Black Lives Matters protests have become some of the largest in history, Plantation Rum is just one example of a company rethinking how it uses racist imagery and words in its own brands. Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben's, and Mrs. Butterworth's are all planning branding changes; Land O’Lakes and Bigelow Tea already had similar changes in the works before George Floyd’s killing.
On this new episode, Osayi returns to discuss these changes, including what she learned about the thought process behind the Plantation Rum rebranding from her conversation with owner Alexandre Gabriel.
We also take a hard look at the way Plantation Rum and Bigelow Tea tell the stories of their brands, beyond using the word “plantation.” For instance, why does Plantation Rum spotlight the countries where its rum is produced, but not the people who produce it? Why did Bigelow change the name of its Charleston Tea Plantation to Charleston Tea Garden with no explanation? And what is a company’s responsibility to educate its consumers about the history of slavery in the U.S.?
Finally, we talk with Shannon Mustipher, a bartender, rum expert, and author of Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails. Shannon is the first working African American bartender to release a cocktail recipe book with a major publisher in more than a century. She explains why she doesn’t have a problem serving Plantation Rum, and she walks us through some of her favorite rum-based cocktail recipes. These drinks pair especially well with having difficult conversations.
Bigelow Tea turned down our multiple requests for comment, but they provided the following statement: “We so appreciate the conversation you want to have and have agreed for a long time that we need to all recognize and respect the fact our history clearly shows why the name plantation needed to change. As you know we embarked on this journey years ago.”
This episode contains explicit language.
Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:
"Slightly Carbonated" by Erick Anderson
"Lawless" by Lance Conrad
"Midnight Grind" by Cullen Fitzpatrick
"Party Hop" by Jack Ventimiglia
"New Hot Shtick" by Jack Ventimiglia
"Can You Dig It" by Cullen Fitzpatrick
Photo courtesy of Ron Dollete.
Dan Pashman: This episode contains explicit language.
Dan Pashman: Well, here we're back in the saddle.
Osayi Endolyn: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: It's good to see you.
Osayi Endolyn: It's good to see you.
Dan Pashman: Maybe we should just like record thing straight to tape here because we're dealing with some news. Important new in the world of The Sporkful. We're putting this episode together quickly. Maybe we should just do the intro all in one shot. Do you want to do the intro?
Osayi Endolyn: Sure. It's just this is The Sporkful.
Dan Pashman: It's not for foodies, it's for eaters.
Osayi Endolyn: It's not for foodies, it's for eaters.
Dan Pashman: You can imagine, some music underneath you that like...
Osayi Endolyn: Vibes?
Dan Pashman: Yeah, yeah. There you go. Alright.
Osayi Endolyn: Vibes. Hold on. Let me put some essential oil. I need all the help I can get. Oh, Jesus.
Dan Pashman: It's been a long...however long…
Osayi Endolyn: It's been a long life.
Osayi Endolyn: This is The Sporkful. It's not for foodies, it's for eaters, I'm Osayi Endolyn.
Dan Pashman: And I'm Dan Pashman. Each week on our show, we obsess about food to learn more about people. This week’s show is a special update on our episode, "When White People Say Plantation". While we do recommend listening to that one first, if you can, you'll still appreciate this one without it. That episode came out last fall, we re-posted it a few weeks ago because it won a Webby Award, and because it seemed especially relevant to discussions going on in the country. And now there are new developments to share, and to discuss. We’ll get to that. But first, my co-host today is the person who wrote the essay that inspired that plantation episode, Osayi Endolyn.
Dan Pashman: Hey, Osayi.
Osayi Endolyn: Hey Dan.
Dan Pashman: So what's...food writers? Is that still the appropriate title?
Osayi Endolyn: Well, it's so funny. I was just talking with a friend about this philosophical difference. It is an accurate description but I don't think of myself as a food writer. But I don't dislike it for me.
Dan Pashman: So how do you think of yourself? As writer who happens to often to write about food?
Osayi Endolyn: Yeah. You just happen to have caught me in a existential moment.
Osayi Endolyn: But yes, that was the short answer.
Dan Pashman: Okay, so if you haven’t heard our plantation episode, or if it’s been a while, here’s a brief recap. It was a look at the use of the word "plantation" in food branding. Now, that word doesn’t refer to specific spices or cooking methods, it doesn’t tell you anything about a food or drink but it still pops up all the time.
Osayi Endolyn: Definitely, I have seen recipes online for plantation chicken, plantation peanut crunch. You know, speaking more broadly, I've seen plantation condominiums, I've seen vacation destinations with plantation in the title. But I first got interested in thinking about this in relationship to our food and rinks when I encountered a brand of rum, called Plantation Rum.
Dan Pashman: So back in 2019, for our episode on this subject, You and I met up at a rum bar in Brooklyn called Glady’s. And over cocktails made with Plantation Rum, you said…
CLIP (OSAYI ENDOLYN): I don’t know that I want to celebrate and partake in a spirit that seems to be, in some way that I’m not clear about, calling forth a history where people who looked like me and people who made this rum were enslaved, and subjected to mental and emotional and physical and sexual abuse over generations and generations. That for me is the immediate connection. And I couldn’t fathom why anybody would want their rum to be associated with that.
Dan Pashman: So the question became, why are white people in food using this word? What are they trying to evoke? As I say in the episode, until I read Osayi’s piece on this topic, I’ll admit it... if you told me you were gonna make me something called plantation chicken, I would have immediately had a very idyllic picture in my head. The big white house with the pillars, a bountiful feast, it’s a very romantic image. And I’ve never even experienced that. I’m from New Jersey. But there was always one feature missing from the picture in my head: the enslaved people who would have been cooking all that food.
Osayi Endolyn: So what we hear in that plantation episode is that this idyllic vision of the Antebellum period is not an accident. It's actually by design and in the early part of the 20th century, the Great Migration begins, many Black Americans are moving north in search of opportunity. Yes, but also because they are fleeing oppression and systemic violence.
Dan Pashman: As history professor Karen Cox told us, all these black people north make white people in the north very nervous. And marketers from New York to Hollywood see an opportunity. They start creating products, books, and movies that remind white people in the north of a time when life was easy and affluent. When they were in their so called “rightful” place, above black people.
Karen Cox: What Aunt Jemima and all these other caricatures of the south were about, was about was northern capitalism and wanting to—they knew they could make a buck off of it. There were 75 films in the 1930s that were set on the plantation or in the plantation south. Even before Gone With The Wind was even an idea in Margaret Mitchell's head, you have an image of the south that is leisurely, that is wealthy and in which blacks play the role of servant. Although they call them servants, they’re not saying they’re slaves but that’s exactly what they were. If you watch Gone with the Wind, that’s what you see. These are faithful servants that don’t leave their white families.
Dan Pashman: It’s worth noting that the period when marketers started making all these movies and products, that’s also about the same time most of the confederate monuments were built. Anyway, here’s the point: When people use the word "plantation" in the name of their food product in order to evoke warm and fuzzy feelings, whether or not they mean to, they are contributing to an ongoing whitewashing -- the perpetuating of a myth.
Osayi Endolyn: And so now, with the conversations happening in the country, Aunt Jemima has been retired. Bigelow’s Plantation Mint Tea has been renamed and we’ll get into that in a little bit.
Dan Pashman: Yeah, the state of Rhode Island changed its name. Its official name used to be Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, up until two weeks ago.
Osayi Endolyn: Who knew?
Dan Pashman: And Osayi, the change that has brought us together today…Plantation Rum, the product that inspired your piece, it inspired our original episode on this subject, they announced last week that they will be changing the name.
Osayi Endolyn: Yes. I got a call from Alexandre Gabriel, the Master Blender at Plantation Rum, and he is the head of Maison Ferrand, their parent company. And he wanted to tell me in advance of the press release that this change was happening. And it was really nice to get that news directly and to hear a little bit about his thinking that preceded it. It was a big moment in a few ways. You know?
Dan Pashman: In what few ways? What are the ways?
Osayi Endolyn: First off, as he shared with me when I interviewed him for the essay I wrote, his thinking was always La Plantación, and it was a reference to the agriculture and the founding ingredients that created this spirit.
Dan Pashman: I should say real quick, Alexandre is French. His company is based in France.
Osayi Endolyn: Yes. And so it was news to him, in a sense, to be approached with the framing of this terrible history of oppression in the United States. He was extremely attentive and empathetic to that when I spoke to him a few years ago. And I have to say, having that kind of conversation with a white man and to be so thoughtfully listened to, it was refreshing for me. And I felt that it was a personal journey for him to see what was happening in this global call for equity. He was able to connect the dots from our conversations in, I think that was 2017, to this moment. I don't think if I had not written that essay and developed that rapport, he would have approached this thinking at this moment in the same way.
Dan Pashman: I just want to read a bit from the press release just to give folks an idea of the announcement. So the headline is, “Plantation Rum Announces Brand Name to Evolve”, meaning the brand name is going to evolve. They have not yet said what the new brand name will be, but they say the brand pledges to work with its stakeholders in this initiative and will communicate more specific details at a later date. The rum itself will not change. And there's a quote here from Alexandre, “As the dialog on racial equality continues globally, we understand the hurtful connotation the word, "plantation", can evoke to some people. Especially, in its association with much graver images and dark realities of the past. We look to grow in our understanding of these difficult issues, and while we don't currently have all the details of what our brand name evolution will involve, we want to let everyone know that we are working to make fitting changes.” And so when you got that call, Osayi, how did you feel personally about it?
Osayi Endolyn: I felt glad. I felt some sadness that it takes so much to get what feels to be such symbolic gestures. I know that's actually not all on Alexandre. Right? But just kind of collectively, you know, watching many companies have this conversation much closer to home, by the way in terms of American brands, which we'll get into later. But, you know, if he has a complex logistical road ahead.
Dan Pashman: Trademarks and labels.
Osayi Endolyn: Yeah. And it's a lot. It's expensive. Whether or not you like it, there is brand recognition and association that they have a fantastic product. He is someone who works with a lot of black people in Barbados, who are deeply involved in various iterations of this rum and he's accountable to them, too. So all of that is kind of wrapped up in the different considerations that Alexandre is making and in my interpretation of this step.
Dan Pashman: One of the things that you said in our original plantation episode that really stuck with me was, you know, as I was sort of setting out on my quest to talk to white people about why they're using the word "plantation", you said that you're less interested in the conversation around, "Stop using the word," and more interested in the conversation of, "Why does this word 'plantation' keep popping up?". Why do you feel like that's a more important area to focus on?
Osayi Endolyn: What tends to happen in our modern discourse, at least, is someone says something or does something. Another person slaps their hand or shames them, and then the conversation stops out of fear of being wrong or looking bad. That's what I was trying to get away from. Yeah. I mean, I would love to live in a world where we don't romanticize what plantation means and I want people to be conscious of when they choose to use that word because of that. It’s about removing the mythology and being responsible for the real history.
Dan Pashman: One of the things I've been thinking about lately, you know, I'm Jewish and I grew up learning about the Holocaust. And one of the recurring themes is sort of like, we must keep telling the stories so that people don't forget that it happened. Because when they forget, that's when it happens again. Well, obviously, I understand we shouldn't be romanticizing or erasing history but by simply removing the word "plantation" without fleshing out the story, it just pushes it more towards a story—a thing that nobody talks about.
Osayi Endolyn: Right.
Dan Pashman: I've been looking on the Plantation Rum website and they've a section called The Rum Heritage. And you go to The Terroirs. And there are five places listed here, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana, and Panama. And on each one of these pages, first of all, there's pictures of all the places. There's no pictures of any people. And each one of these histories says they give all the credit to the country. So on the Guyana page it says , "The country has been harvesting sugar cane since the 16th century." Well, who is doing the harvesting?
Osayi Endolyn: Yeah. That's like on the plantation events spaces here in the U.S.A., say "The workers".
Dan Pashman: Right. And so I almost wonder if it would be better if they continued to call it "Plantation", but instead showed us the faces of the people who historically made this product and who make it today.
Osayi Endolyn: Yeah. I think the copy needs a full reboot. I don't know that it is my expectation that Plantation Rum or Maison Ferrand or Alexandre Gabriel take the responsibility of educating people about the history of rum. I think from a philosophical point of view, they have an opportunity to introduce a new way of talking about these issues. But when you talk frankly like this and you give people an opportunity to digest so much of what has been hidden from them, you’re not only dealing with the impact of learning this for the first time, you’re also processing all the lies you were told. And that happens on a personal level, and it happens on a systemic/national/patriotic level. It’s a real loss. I empathize with the sense of bewilderment because it’s like, "What’s the deal with all the lies?!" Right? What’s the deal? And I think for a lot of people, especially who have not been personally impacted, or who don’t feel they have been personally impacted because I actually do think this stuff affects white people, just the sheer shock of it can be hard. I mean, that can take years for people to come up off of.
Dan Pashman: But also I think that human beings need myths. Every country, every culture, every religion, every ethnic group, every tribe has some stories that get passed down from one generation to the next. We pass these stories down to tell the next generation who we are.
Osayi Endolyn: Totally.
Dan Pashman: And the stories get changed and distorted and the heroes become bigger and stronger and better over time. That's not to defend all the myths. I'm just relating to what you're saying, that it can be hard. Because I think there's part of us that that likes those stories. And so we react negatively to having those stories questioned, even when they need to be questioned.
Osayi Endolyn: Well, some of us react negatively. Yeah. Some of us are like, "That makes a lot of sense to me." Right? And it's actually a relief and a salve that the truth is healing, I think. At least it creates the opportunity for healing.
Dan Pashman: Shifting gears from Plantation Rum, Osayi, one of the brands that we talked a lot about in our previous episode was Bigelow Tea. They had for a long time, Plantation Mint Tea, which you could find in almost any supermarket in the U.S. After a long campaign of pressure, but before George Floyd, before the protests started, they announced they're changing the name to Perfectly Mint. It's no longer Plantation Mint. It's now Perfectly Mint. But in contrast to Plantation Rum, Plantation Rum, his press release pretty clearly says, "The dialog on racial equality continues globally." Like they're pretty straightforward about like what is motivating this change. In contrast, Bigelow’s website makes no reference to race or history or current events, it simply says, “We are excited to share that we changed the name of our tea to Perfectly Mint, which better reflects the perfect blend of American grown mint and tea.” That was their original announcement. And then also, this got less attention, but Bigelow also owns the Charleston Tea Plantation. They changed the name of that to Charleston Tea Garden, with no fanfare whatsoever. Now, we did reach out to Bigelow, they declined to be interviewed for this episode, but they did send us a statement which reads, "We have agreed for a long time that we need to all recognize and respect the fact our history clearly shows why the name 'plantation' needed to change. As you know we embarked on this journey years ago. The new name, 'Perfectly Mint', should finally be on all the shelves soon." What do you make of that?
Osayi Endolyn: The tone of the statement annoys me. The sort of the, "As you know...".
Dan Pashman: Right.
Osayi Endolyn: Like.....Maybe I'm—and I will totally own projecting a bit—but I feel like we teach our children better than this. Right? Like, if you have harmed someone, you can say you're sorry but that doesn't mean that the person you've harmed is over it. They still might have a stubbed toe. I think I would have just liked to see something a bit more empathetic and holistic. Just own it. Like, we understand now how troubling and disrespectful and painful this is. And we want to be able to sell our tea without this negative narrative attached to it and we're gonna do our part to continue educating ourselves and our consumers. You know? I mean, to me, that's the adult response.
Dan Pashman: I like you seizing on the "As you know..." part. Like, As you know we embarked on this journey, years ago...". Well then, what took so long?
Osayi Endolyn: And also like, where was the public discourse on this years long journey? What journey?
Dan Pashman: Right. We requested interviews with them last summer. Alright? A year ago, they wouldn't talk to us. When the episode was coming out, we asked them for comment. They wouldn't talk to us. When they made this announcement in the spring, we asked them for an interview and for comment. They wouldn't talk to us. And we weren't the only ones talking about this. So the idea that like that they are now gonna claim this has been a long time coming, I mean, really what seems like is they just held out as long as they possibly could until they were placed into a position where they had no choice. And now they have begrudgingly and with as little fanfare and discussion as possible made the change.
Osayi Endolyn: And you know, I would even appreciate a statement that said that. We're actually in a house divided but we're doing this because we see the winds of change but we're still catching up. I mean, you know? It would be so refreshing for a brand to speak authentically to where they actually are and now where they think it is politically advantageous for them to appear to be. In regards to the Charleston Tea Garden, I think it just—again, it's like what are you taking ownership of. What are you being responsible for? It's not like a Control-Z on the keyboard, right? It's not hard to tell the truth. And sometimes once you tell it, it's like, "Gosh, why did I sit on that for so long?"
Dan Pashman: Listen to this line from the website of the history section of the Charleston Tea Garden's website. "In the late 1700s, tea bushes first arrived in the Unites States from China. Several attempts were made in South Carolina over the next 150 years to propagate and produce tea for consumption, but none were successful." Like the idea like the narrative is about the bushes?
Osayi Endolyn: Yeah. Attempts by whom? You know?
Dan Pashman: Right.
Osayi Endolyn: Who was making the attempts and who was directing and who was being forced to make these attempts. Right? I mean, there is so much masking and we learn about passive versus active in like what....like third grade? I don't know. If you're interested in telling the truth, you tell the truth. And when you're not interested in telling the truth, you know, you...
Dan Pashman: You talk about the bushes.
Osayi Endolyn: You talk about the bushes. Yeah. You just make shit up. Yeah. The tea bushes arrived.
Osayi Endolyn: Oh God, this country is a trip.
Dan Pashman: Alright Osayi, so when we first mapped out this episode, there were several other conversations we really wanted to have. One was with a black rum maker in the Caribbean. But we wanted to get this episode out soon after the Plantation Rum announcement and we couldn’t make that happen on such short notice. We’ll put a pin in that idea. We requested an interview with Alexandre Gabriel, the guy from Plantation Rum. But he politely declined.
Dan Pashman: Now, one of the things that listeners had requested was they wanted to hear from the white people that they heard in the last plantation episode.
Osayi Endolyn: Ohhh.
Dan Pashman: Have they changed their minds? Are they seeing things any differently now?
Osayi Endolyn: I mean, I'm not that curious.
Dan Pashman: Emma had made the point when we talked. She sort of agreed with that. But her one quick thing was like, "Well it might be interesting if one of them has a specifically interesting reason for having changed."
Osayi Endolyn: Honestly, I hear that. But fuck that. Like your reasons? I know what your reasons are. You saw a black man named George Floyd get lynched on camera and you are now ashamed. That's the reason. So fuck that. Sorry. Not interested. Get out of here. I'm gonna go paint my nails. I'm done.
Dan Pashman: All right. Done. We're not talking to them.
Dan Pashman: Another person we really want to talk to about all this, Shannon Mustipher. She’s a rum expert, and the author of the first cocktail book written by a black bartender and put out by a major publisher in over 100 years.
Osayi Endolyn: Yeah, Shannon is at the intersection of all of this. In fact, she’s the one who served it to us our cocktails at Glady’s Rum Bar, in our original plantation episode.
Dan Pashman: Yeah, Shannon’s the one who made the daiquiri that led me to say...
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): Oh man, this daiquiri is firing on all cylinders. Let me tell you.
CLIP ( OSAYI ENDOLYN): It's happening.
Dan Pashman: So after the break, we’re talking with Shannon Mustipher.
Osayi Endolyn: I always love chatting with Shannon, I wish I was having her Painkiller right now.
Dan Pashman: I think you were on your second Painkiller when I was still on my first daiquiri.
Osayi Endolyn: There was a lot going on. Stay with us.
+++ BREAK +++
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful. I’m Dan Pashman.
Osayi Endolyn: And I’m Osayi Endolyn.
Dan Pashman: Make sure you check out last week’s show, where I talk with writer Kiese Laymon. In his memoir Heavy, he weaves together themes of disordered eating, anti-Blackness, and growing up in the south.
CLIP (KIESE LAYMON): It's just a conflation of all these things. And as artists, we got to be able to talk all of it at once because it always happens at once. Food, to me, is a paradoxical way to get into all of the mess of what we are.
Dan Pashman: This was an incredibly powerful conversation, I hope you’ll check it out, it’s called "Writer Kiese Laymon Wants To Be Heavy". It’s up now. And if you're enjoying our show, please take minute right now to subscribe in Apple podcasts. Or if you're listening on Spotify, click follow. If you're listening on Stitcher, click favorite. That really helps out our show and ensure that you won't miss future episodes. Go ahead, you can do it right now while you're listening. Thanks. Ok, back to the show.
Dan Pashman: So Osayi, I know you you've known Shannon Mustipher for a while.
Osayi Endolyn: Yeah. I met her a couple of years ago a conference called, Resistance Served and I wrote about her in an article for the Los Angeles Times, last year when her book came out, Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails. To me, she really represents the long history of black bartenders in the U.S., who haven't gotten much credit for their ingenuity and their craft. The last black bartender who got a platform to share their recipes in the book was Tom Bulluck. In his book The Ideal Bartender came out more than a century ago.
Dan Pashman: As I mentioned earlier, Shannon also ran the drinks program at Glady’s, a rum bar in Brooklyn, until Glady’s closed a few weeks ago because of COVID. Before we got to the topic of plantation rum, we asked Shannon what we should be drinking now that it’s summer.
Shannon Mustipher: You should drink what you like. That's always been my philosophy. It's like obviously there are things that like new stuff that I like to turn people on to, but I'll just start right there.
Dan Pashman: Osayi, what are you been drinking lately? What’s been at the top of your cocktail rotation.
Osayi Endolyn: Well, I'm enjoying....I just started my rosé season. But in terms of cocktails, honestly, I've been doing a lot of ti' punch. And just to be clear, like ti' punch is not T-E-A. It's ti' with an apostrophe.
Shannon Mustipher: It's as in petit. So it’s little. That's what they're they're saying there.
Dan Pashman: Got it. Got it. Got it. Shannon, what makes a great ti' punch?
Shannon Mustipher: So no right answer. So in Martinique, which is a national drink, there's a saying, "Chacun prépare sa propre mort," which means everyone prepares their own death. Which literally means that everyone makes it according to their own taste. So if you order ti' punch at a bar, for instance, they may make it for you or they may just bring you the ingredients, which in this case is Rhum Agricole, which is around made from a fresh pressed cane juice. Sirup Akane, which is cane sirup here in America. We think of it as simple syrup, it is actually made from the cane juice. And then a lime disc. It's not a lime wheel. It's just a little kind of dime piece that's cut off the side of the lime. And the reason for that is that you really just want that the oils more than you want the juice inflection there. So you pour your rum, as much as you like. You pour as much of the sirup as you want, whether you want it sweet or dry. Squeeze in the lime muddle a little bit and that's it.
Dan Pashman: That's so interesting that they serve it and that you mix it yourself. And I don't know how I feel about that because on one hand, I'm generally kind of obsessive, detail oriented person who likes things just so. So I like the ability that I could, like, tweak the drink to my liking. On the other hand, I'm not the world's greatest bartender. And I remember the daiquiri you made me, Shannon. When we went to your bar and I was like, I know there's only one to three ingredients in here but I don't feel I could ever make it taste this good. And that's sort of why I go to a bar sometimes is to have a great bartender. So I'm torn about myself and stuff that.
Osayi Endolyn: Oh my God, Dan. Stop it. Stop. Stop. Stop. I can't listen to this anymore. It is literally like mix, stir, and taste, like not complicated.
Dan Pashman: It just crossed the line into like legit summer here in the Northeast in the past week or so. And and it's only when it gets very hot that I tend to switch to Dark and Stormies. Ginger beer, dark rum, lime. I love the Dark and Stormy, but sometimes I'm just—maybe I've been having a lot of Dark and Stormies. I want something similar, but I want something different. What could I do?
Shannon Mustipher: Yeah. I mean the easiest thing to do. You know, typically you make your way lime goslings and ginger beer. Right? So if you want to twist it up a little bit, but keep it simple for yourself, you can make ginger syrup. So that’ll add a little more spice and bite to it. You can infuse the rum with ginger, which will also add a little more bite to it. You can swap out the rums or add maybe a pot-still Jamaica rum to the goslings and that's going to give it a little more bite because the pot steel rums tend to have some cinnamon and clove notes. So again, like really simple tweaks be it to this the sirup or to the rum itself without having to go too far off the beaten track. Now, if you want to try another cocktail altogether that you like, I would go with the Planter's Punch, which follows a very similar template and it's super easy. It's two ounces of Jamaica rum. I prefer a pot-still Jamaica rum. Three quarters ounce of grenadine, half an ounce of fresh lime juice and two dashes of Angostura bitters.
Osayi Endolyn: If you were going to recommend that a person interested in rum...well, you know, if they were going to buy three or four bottles for their home bar, could you give us the spectrum of, like, what styles to look for? I'm also creating my own shopping list right now just to re-up.
Dan Pashman: Yeah. Osayi has a friend that needs some help stocking her bars. So if you can help her out, please, that’d be great.
Shannon Mustipher: I mean look, you don’t have to ask twice. So I'm always happy to help with that. So one thing to bear in mind is that there are three main cultural styles of rum. They kind of share a few basic characteristics. English style rums tend to be a little kind of like heavier bodied, a little earthier, a little less sweet. And then if you go to a Spanish style rum, and this is referencing rums from any former colonies of Spain or from a Latin culture, they might be sweeter, rounder, creamier on one hand and more suitable for sipping. Or in a case of like the wider clear rums, and I mean very dry and clean and light, the third one is a rum agricole that's made from fresh press juice. And they're going to get like more raw natural flavor. A Guyana rum is really important because that was one of more iconic sows that got more play on the global stage in their early 1800s. It was a big component of a lot of export blends. I prefer rums that don't have sugar added to them. And so in the case of a Guyana rum, that would be something bottled by Ed Hamilton. To that, you would want Barbadian or Bagian Rum. Barbados was one of the first islands to combine two techniques of distillation in their blends. If you like things that are a little on the funkier side and you want to experience like those wild raw floral notes are like a big fruit nose. That's where you would go to an agricole. Or alternatively, you would pick out an un-aged pot-stilled Jamaica rum. So the most popular example of that is Wray and Nephew or Rum Fire from Hamden's state, which I personally gravitate towards. And then for, let's say, a Spanish style rum I tend toward Panamanian rums because they tend to take the lead from old Cuban styles of production. If you can get Cuban rum, by all means, go with it. Havana Club, eight year. Anything above. If you can't do that, I love any Panama rums that are produced or consulted on by Don Poncho. Don Poncho formerly worked in Cuba in a government position, in their rum industry. He's a very defining figure in rum.
Dan Pashman: Well, that is a great list and it has made me very, very thirsty.
Osayi Endolyn: So Dan, you remember from our first conversation about the brand, Plantation Rum. The name aside for a minute, I love their range of products. Especially the pineapple rum. Shannon really appreciates their work, too. She was first introduced to Plantation Rum she began the drinks program at Glady’s.
Shannon Mustipher: I tasted something like two hundred and fifty rums that come up with the back bar 50. And I noticed that the Plantation Rums were among the better crafted examples. You weren't seeing a lot of rums that were crafted in a more traditional style or a crafted with an eye to really showcase the place that it was sourced from specifically, which is at the foundation of the plantation project.
Dan Pashman: As we said, Shannon might be the best person to talk about Plantation Rum because she’s at the intersection. Like Osayi, she’s gotten to know Alexandre Gabriel over the years, so she knows the people behind the brand. She also understands what goes into making rum. She tells us that in the time of slavery, the work in Caribbean cane fields was so brutal, the treatment so abusive, that the life expectancy for an enslaved person there was just 3 to 5 years. Even today, it remains backbreaking work. Also, as a bartender, Shannon's the person talking to customers, presenting them with their different spirit options. So in some ways, in that moment, she becomes the face of the brand.
Osayi Endolyn: And Dan, you know I have mixed feelings about using the word "plantation" in branding. So I was curious if Shannon felt the same way about Plantation Rum. And, specifically, if she talked about the name with guests. Or if it felt jarring to her.
Shannon Mustipher: No. I mean, it wasn't jarring for me in that, you know, it's a fact that sugar cane plantations are where the first examples around were produce. I didn't question the choice of the name. I just kind of took it at face value.
Osayi Endolyn: I guess for me, it was more about this perception I had that this was kind of overtly playing on something that I didn't quite—I wasn't clear at the time when I first saw the bottle, like whether or not I was reading the signification right. And it turned out there was a French interpretation behind it but how I read it was kind of celebratory in a way that that struck me as as odd.
Shannon Mustipher: I didn't make that assumption because I was aware from the very beginning that it's a product from the House of Ferrand. And because they were coming from a cognac point of view where the location of where the liquid is sourced is important to showcase and highlight. "Plantation" really had next to nothing to do with glorifying that past. It's more about glorifying the land the product is derived from.
Dan Pashman: And so now Shannon we have the news as of just about two weeks ago, Plantation Rum announced that they're going to evolve the name. What are your thoughts on this announcement?
Shannon Mustipher: I understand why they would want to show their effort to understand why is important to be culturally sensitive and respectful. I just feel some concern about some slippery slope elements, where people will be calling for changes to be made without having done any research or ask any questions about what the intent or the origin of this thing in question is. And so I support the decision to change it, but I just think that at least within the spirits industry we should be asking ourselves, how far do we let this go?
Dan Pashman: Is there an example that comes to mind in the spirits or food world, maybe that you feel like maybe would you know, if there was a movement to change this other thing, that that would be something that you would consider too far or more than is necessary.
Shannon Mustipher: I'll use a whiskey example. Some of you may be familiar with Uncle Nearest. Uncle Nearest is a project that was started maybe three or four years ago to draw attention to the fact that the formula for Jack Daniel's was in fact created by an African-American gentleman and that he and his family oversight a distillery for at least three generations. And this is true of a lot of distillation in the American South. It was carried out by black women. So, you know, there is a Uncle Nearest brand right now. But what if things got to the point where people demanded that Jack Daniel's changed the name to reflect that truth? And it's just kind of like a superficial glossing over. It's like change this name to make us feel better. But it's like you can't change what actually took place.
Osayi Endolyn: Yeah. I mean, I just want the story to reflect what actually happened. You know?
Dan Pashman: The label and the name is is really superficial.
Osayi Endolyn: I wouldn't say it's superficial, but it's just symbolic. It's just not the whole story. Yeah, I think it matters. I mean, I think what we call things absolutely matters. I also think what we do behind that gesture matters just as much.
Shannon Mustipher: If not more, because if all you're asking for is changing the name in some kind of superficial I would say lip service sort of thing, you're not actually asking for what I think would be of a meaningful change. It's just like I want you to change this because it makes me feel bad when I look at it.
Dan Pashman: So Osayi, I think what I’m hearing from Shannon and you, and the point we’re coming to here, is that changing the names of products does mean something. But what really matters is changing the story we tell. Are we telling the story of the idyllic plantation, with the happy, loyal servants? Or are we telling the truth?
Osayi Endolyn: And really there are two truths, and I think we can find ways of sort of claiming both truths. Right? Like, this terrible thing happened. And there are terrible, terrible ongoing results of this big thing called slavery and its impact on people of African descent. And in this conversation, also, some really incredible things emerged, too, like rum. How do we hold both of those truths at the same time?
Dan Pashman: Our thanks to Shannon Mustipher, her book is TIKI: Modern Tropical Cocktails, get it now wherever books are sold. And follow her on Instagram @ShannonMustipher.
Dan Pashman: Alright Osayi, it was a great time, as always.
Osayi Endolyn: Always.
Dan Pashman: So good to hang out with you.
Osayi Endolyn: Thank you.
Dan Pashman: And you have a couple of online events coming up very soon that folks all over the country and the world can participate in. Tell us about those.
Osayi Endolyn: Yes, this is very exciting. I am going to be the keynote speaker for Fab, which is an educational workshop created by women for women in the hospitality industry. That's Saturday July 18th. And I'm moderating a panel for the Freedom Festival around food and activism and anti-racism. And that's on Sunday, July 19th.
Dan Pashman: And people can find details on those events on your social media, on Instagram and Twitter. You are @OsayiEndolyn.
Osayi Endolyn: Yes.
Dan Pashman: And you got a book deal also! There's a book in the works.
Osayi Endolyn: I got a book deal! I'm so excited.
Dan Pashman: Congratulations!
Osayi Endolyn: Thank you! I’m excited to be looking at American restaurants through the lens of...,surprise! Systemic racism. So I’ll be working with the Amistad imprint at Harper Collins.
Dan Pashman: Alright well congratulations. Can’t wait to see that and take care. We'll talk to you soon.
Osayi Endolyn: Alright Dan, peace.
Dan Pashman: A couple of notes.You heard Shannon and Osayi mention the story of Nearest Green, the enslaved man who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey. As it happens we’re prepping a show on that story. That one will be out later this summer. We are off next week but we’ll be back in two weeks with a new episode. In the meantime make sure you check out last week’s episode with writer Kiese Laymon. And please make sure you subscribe to our show in Apple podcasts, or follow in Spotify, or favorite in Stitcher. That way you'll never miss an episode and it helps other people discover our show. Thanks.