The history of rum began in the Caribbean when the inhabitants of Barbados took the leftovers from the sugar cane used for making sugar, molasses, and made alcohol from it.

Rum, and its twin, cane spirit, are made by distilling fermented sugar and water. This sugar comes from the sugar cane and is fermented from cane juice, concentrated cane juice, or molasses. Molasses is the sticky residue that remains after sugar cane juice is boiled and the crystallised sugar is extracted. Most Rum is made from molasses - over 50 % sugar - but it also contains significant amounts of minerals and other trace elements, which can contribute to flavour. In 1672, the beverage acquired the name rum.

The name is held to have originated from the word 'rumballion,' which in the slang of the time meant clamour or noise. Rum is traditionally a clear drink, yet many manufacturers age or colour their rum to give it a dark or golden tint. Most aging takes place in barrels that once held whiskey or bourbon. Plantation owners sold rum to navy ships and pirates. In the 1730s, the British Navy started the custom of giving sailors a daily half-pint of 80 per cent proof rum. This was later diluted with the same amount of water, after which it was called grog. The main reason for sailors' use of rum was that it could endure long voyages better than water or beer.