You might want to whip up a few drinks with Screech tonight, not because it’s always best to party on a Monday, but because there will be Monday Night Football on TV and because, if you are an Oakland Raiders fan you’re going to need some sort of painkiller.
I got my first introduction to Screech just over a week ago while visiting with
friends from Newfoundland. We were on the Gaspe Peninsula at Salmon Lodge, in Quebec, fishing the Grand and Petite Cascapedia rivers for Atlantic salmon. The Newfies were well armed with spirits, having bought out flats of pre-mixed tomato juice and vodka, plus every Beck’s beer they could find. In addition, they’d packed along a little piece of Newfoundland with them: Screech, that province’s official rum.
I took some slugs off Screech with the boys and on the final day was able to fish with John Kelly, who brought along an airline bottle of the stuff. We were fishing the Petite and dealing with a couple arrogant anglers on the opposite bank (more on that in another post) and we were dying to catch a fish in front of them. That’s when big John whipped the Screech from his pocket and said, “This ought to do it.”
We took sips off the stuff and then John poured a little in the river. Twenty minutes later, having let those other anglers fish through, I was in the run, with the a-holes watching from the other bank, when I hooked up on a great Atlantic salmon. Fought that fish gingerly, thoroughly enjoying my audience, and then finally landed it. I have to say, that was one of the most rewarding fish of my life, having picked those angler’s pockets, and now I have a great memory of what Screech did for me. Can’t guarantee it will do the same for you, but it’s worth trying. Here’s an official description of how Screech came into being (well worth reading, by the way) and a recipe for what I like about the Newfies I know: Simplicity. Enjoy. GT
Long before any Canadian liquor board was created, the Jamaican rum that was eventually to be known as Screech was a mainstay of the traditional Newfoundland diet. At this time, salt fish was being shipped to the West Indies in exchange for rum. This resulted in fish becoming the national dish of Jamaicans and rum becoming the traditional drink of Newfoundlanders.
Not being overly concerned with alcohol content, the early fishermen tended to drink the rum at incredibly high strength with no attempt made to temper the taste. When the government took control of the alcohol trade in the early 20th century, they put the rum in a sophisticated, unlabelled bottle and fortunately did not alter the rum itself.
This delightful product may have continued indefinitely as a nameless rum except for the influx of American servicemen to Newfoundland during World War II. As the story goes, the commanding officer of the first detachment was taking advantage of Newfoundland hospitality for the first time and was offered a drop of rum as an after-dinner drink.
Seeing his host toss back the liquor with nary a quiver, the unsuspecting American adhered to local custom and downed the drink in one gulp. The look of shock on the American’s face was overshadowed by his bloodcurdling howl as he managed to regain his breath. Sympathetic persons from miles around rushed to the house to assist the poor man and of course to satisfy their curiosity as to what was going on.
Among the first to arrive was a garrulous old American sergeant who pounded on the door and demanded “What the cripes was that ungodly screech?” The taciturn Newf who had answered the door replied simply, “The screech?” ‘Tis the rum, me son.” Thus was born a legend. As word of the incident spread, more soldiers began trying this mysterious rum, adopting it as their favorite.
The liquor board immediately pounced on the name and reputation and began labeling Famous Newfoundland Screech. Over the years, the alcohol content of Screech has been toned down and the flavor mellowed, so that in 2003, Screech Rum won a gold medal for excellent taste at the International Rum Festival. Today, Screech Rum is an international favorite amongst all rum aficionados.
Fill a tall glass with ice, add Newfoundland Screech, and top with your favorite Cola.
FROM: Travel & Liesure’s Strangest Newfoundland Screech Rum, Canada
Why It’s Unique: Technically, this rum is made in Jamaica, where it was once traded to Canadians for salt fish (who got the better deal?). It has been imported, bottled, and distributed up here for so long, however, that it’s considered homegrown. Originally much stronger than your typical rums, it got its name during World War II when an American soldier stationed in Canada supposedly took a generous shot of it and let out the namesake outburst. Unlike most rum one finds in America, Screech is aged at least two years, resulting in a mellower flavor.
Where to Find It: Canadian liquor stores, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador; read more at screechrum.com.
Cost: About $20 per bottle.