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Alcohol’s icons

Capt MorganCaptain Morgan
Preening Pirate or Bloodthirsty Buccaneer?
Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum

He may appear a bit of a fop on the bottle, but the real Captain Morgan was cut from a rougher swath of cloth. Captain Henry Morgan (1635-1688) was a Welsh privateer who won English knighthood and historical renown for his daring (and quite bloodthirsty) attacks on Spanish colonies and shipping.

He was also a notorious drunkard. While pirating, and during his stint as the Deputy Governor of Jamaica, he drank rum by the gallon and was a dedicated habitue of the rough-and-tumble taverns of whatever port he might find himself in. He eventually drank himself into his grave.

OldWhy It Worked: Pirates enjoy the same privileged status in the popular consciousness as ninjas, mafioso and gunslingers. At once flamboyant, murderous and disdainful of authority, the pirate was the ultimate rebel. And what red-blooded drunkard hasn’t yearned to sail the high seas in search of rum, wenches, and adventure?

Evolution: In the initial 1950s adverts, the Captain appeared unarmed and with his hat respectfully doffed (he was often found in the company of high-society types), but the homicidal gleam in his eye was unmistakable. No doubt fantasizing about running the gang of snobs through with his cutlass and making off with their wives and wallets.

They started “spicing” the rum in the 1980s and the icon became rather spicy himself. He shed his social graces, put his hat back on, and began brandishing his sword in a menacing fashion.

the leerThe present, more cartoonish incarnation of the Captain was drawn by fantasy and sci-fi artist Don Maitz, and while there is still fire in the Captain’s eyes, it seems more the leer of a sexual predator than the bloodthirsty gleam of a proper pirate.

Dark Secret: Though the label insinuates otherwise, the rum has no historical connection to its namesake. The Captain Morgan Rum Company came into existence in  1943 and didn’t start using Morgan’s image until the early 1950s. The “original” spiced version was introduced in 1983.

Claim to Fame: Killed legendary drunkard and actor Oliver Reed. Reed had a heart attack after downing three bottles of Captain Morgan’s Jamaican Rum (along with beer and other liquors) and whipping five Royal Navy sailors at arm wrestling in a pub on the island of Malta.

From MODERN DRUNKARD magazine. Read the rest of the article (click here) and find out the story behind the striding man on Johnnie Walker bottles, the Bacardi bat, Wild Turkey’s turkey, the Guinness Toucan, the Jägermeister stag and more.