Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane byproducts such as molasses, or directly from sugarcane juice, by a process of fermentation and distillation. The distillate, a clear liquid, is then usually aged in oak barrels. But even though rum begins as sugarcane there is no sugar in rum. Because of the processes of fermentation and distillation, you end up with ethanol alcohol, which is in fact a drug, and was the main items, along with guns that Europe exported to Afrika during the slave trade. The first distillation of sugarcane took place the slave plantations of the Caribbean in the 17th century. There, enslaved Afrikans first discovered molasses, a byproduct of the sugar refining process, which is fermented into alcohol. After fermentation distillation concentrated the alcohol and removed impurities, producing the first true rums. Barbados is the island credited with the development of the plantation system, and the first place to produce rum.
Rum's popularity and it economic value soon spread to the British colonies of North America. To support the demand for the drink there, the first rum distillery was set up in 1664 on present-day Staten Island, New York. Three years later Boston, Massachusetts had a distillery. Soon the manufacture of rum became early Colonial New England's largest and most prosperous industry. Due to the technical, metalworking and cooperage skills and abundant lumber, New England became a distilling center. Rhode Island rum was so valued that for a period of time, it was even accepted, like gold, as currency in Europe. Estimates of rum consumption in the American colonies before the American Revolutionary War had every man, woman, or child drinking an average of 3 imperial gallons of rum each year. Rum was consumed more readily than water. (Even to this day, there are a number of Western nations whose alcoholic consumption surpasses their water consumption, France being one of them, Ireland perhaps another.)
In the slave trade, rum was also used as a medium of exchange. For example, the slave Venture Smith, whose history was later published, had been purchased in Africa for four gallons of rum plus a piece of calico.
This demand for rum, along with the increasing demand for sugar in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, created a greater demand for slaves to work the Caribbean sugar plantations. As a result, a triangular trade was established between Africa, the New World, which consisted of the various European colonies, and Europe. The triangular trade operated from the late 16th to early 19th centuries, carrying enslaved Afrikans, cash crops, and manufactured goods between West Africa, Caribbean or American colonies and the European colonial powers, with the northern colonies of British North America, especially New England, sometimes taking over the role of Europe. As the above diagram, we will use the New England colonies as the first leg. This leg of the trade consisted of sugar, cotton, and tobacco being exported to Europe where it was manufactured producing rum, textile, and various chewing and smoking-tobacco products, the likes of snuff, cigarettes, cigars, etc. The leg emanating from Europe and terminating in Afrika exported textiles, rum, and firearms. The textiles helped to undermine and destroy Afrika's textile industries; the rum, which was over-proof, served two purposes; it was us for ritual libations, and highly sought after because of its high alcohol content which was considered more efficacious when dealing with the spiritual world. Rum also helped to foment slave raids, as inebriated young warriors attacked neighboring societies, often a society they had historical enmity with. The forming of alliances with Western nations in order to acquired the gun, a new advanced weapon, would be the beginning of the end for a number of Afrikan kingdoms. The gun, which was a sort of carrot, enticed Afrikan kingdoms into a relationship with Europeans that only served to exacerbate the political relationships between Afrikan societies.
The European, motivated by mercantilism, a materialist philosophy driven by greed, and an individualistic desired to enrich oneself and one's nation by acquiring gold, slaves, and colonies. The Afrika living according to another set of values, another worldview, became entangled in this international trade network, and consequently was devatated by it, becoming along with the native American, another victim, another casualty. For all his assistance, the European wanted war captives in return, and on a one-to-one ratio-one gun, one captive. The gun, along with its partner in crime, rum, had a devastating impact on Afrikan political dynamics. The last leg of the triangular trade saw Afrikan war captives shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in overcrowded European and American made vessels. This journey across the Atlantic was the infamous "Middle Passage," where many Afrikans died of disease in the crowded holds of the slave ships. Once the ship reached the New World, enslaved survivors were sold in the Caribbean or the American colonies. In the colonies the use of enslaved Afrikan was fundamental to growing colonial cash crops, which were exported to Europe. But the Afrikans were also the laborers that built the physical infrastructure of the colonies as well. The ships were then prepared to get them thoroughly cleaned, drained, and loaded with export goods as this cycle would simply repeat itself. And again, the ships loaded with cargoes of sugar, rum, molasses, and other goods.
So sugar has been our enemy for some time now.