06/20/2012 06:46 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Summer, Barbecues, and Rum

The start of summer means the beginning of one of America's favorite pastimes -- barbecuing! Did you know barbecuing has its origins in the Caribbean with the local famed method of cooking barbacoa ("sacred fire pit")? The Islands may have given birth to barbecue, but America has taken it to the next level. For many years, I have been fascinated by barbecuing and I've been looking for ways to put my stamp on this staple of Summer. I travel frequently to the Caribbean and have some fun ideas for livening up your Summer cook-outs.

As grillers, your primary focus is likely the food and we all have our favorites. But you may want to pay particular attention to your beverage choices vs. the usual beer or wine. It's time to shake it up, literally. Perhaps not the typical drink you associate with grilling, rum is arguably THE premiere summer beverage for its versatility. It can be served straight over ice or mixed with a fruity concoction. History buffs will know its role in American history and remember the backstory of the Rum Triangle Trade and boomers know it from Hunter S. Thompson's The Rum Diary.

America's love affair with rum dates back to the 1600s where New World sugarcane plantation workers learned to ferment and distill molasses into an alcoholic beverage. Fast forward to today and most know rum best through ever popular Mojitos and Pina Coladas. Rums can of course be enjoyed solo -- similar to wines, many quality rums are made in small batches and incorporate the best sugar cane and oak barrel aging.

By picking a few top rums and pairing them with the right foods and fun drinks, you can transform your barbecue into a new experience for your guests. Let's infuse a little Islands culture into your gathering today! Confused by the varieties of rums out there? Don't be. Here are some tips for you:

"Light" rums (aka silver or white rums) are commonly found in daiquiris or other beachside cocktails as they are usually clear and sweet/mild tasting. These tend to come from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and the Virgin Islands. Light rum drinks mixed with pineapple and coconut flavors are a perfect match for lighter summer fare. Try pairing a Pina Colada with sliced steak nachos or Jamaican Jerk grilled chicken. On the healthier side, match with a nice salad with grated lemon and orange peels. Pair a Mojito with some grilled plantains and you can enjoy this Caribbean favorite food as your own perfect summer appetizer. Rum brands to look for include the granddaddy of all rums Bacardi (Puerto Rico) and Cruzan (St. Croix, USVI), and other gems including 10 Cane (Trinidad) and Wray & Nephew (Jamaica).

"Dark" or gold rums hail from Jamaica, Barbados, Aruba, Bermuda as well as South/Central America, and are medium bodied and generally aged more than two years. They have a strong molasses/caramel type of flavor and are usually consumed neat or on the rocks. Today, darker rums are increasingly combined with mixers to add substance to any drink. Pair dark rum with a nice burger or steak from the grill and you are good to go. Seek out Myer's Original (Jamaica) Gosling's Black Seal (Bermuda), Pusser's Dark (British Virgin Islands), Cockspur (Barbados) and Appleton Estate (Jamaica). Pusser's is a particular favorite of mine -- this rum was so prized it was part of British Navy daily rations for more than 300 years.

"Spiced" rums such as Puerto Rico's Bacardi Oakheart or Captain Morgan Original are dark rums known for the addition of spices and occasionally caramel. Ranging from cinnamon to rosemary overtones, spiced rums can definitely add new sensations to your palate. These rums tend to be naturally sweeter, so you don't have to worry about adding too many mixers. Barbecue chicken and beef can be the perfect pairing here. Try it as a marinade for grilling meats as well!

Experiment with the many types of food and rum combinations that you can easily put together this Summer. Your friends and family will enjoy the change in the norm and get a taste of a different culture, while still feeling at home! Or come to Bahama Breeze Island Grille and try some of their Legendary Island Cocktails made from over seven different rums.

Check out my latest rum trek to the Soggy Dollar Bar in Jost Van Dyke, BVI to uncover the secrets of the national drink ... The Painkiller!