In a rum shop, water comes in a whisky bottle.
At least it does at the John Moore Bar, one of the venerable rum shops in Barbados and a legendary spot on the island.
The rum shop, you see, is a peculiarly Bajan institution, as several hundred such shops dot the island, depending on how you count, offering easy days and always-robust liming.
It should be noted that this is not a “bar” — at a rum shop, the story is rum and its direct, unfettered distribution.
You buy your rum by the bottle, asking only for ice and a glass (or a coke, if you prefer), participating in what is as close to a religious rite as one can have in Barbados outside of a pew.
A rum shop is about rum, about the essence of rum, and for any lover of the spirit, taking a rum in a Barbados rum shop is as close a thing as there is to a pilgrimage in the West Indies.
The choice is simple on this late afternoon: a medium-sized bottle of Mount Gay XO (formerly known as Extra Old), taken on the rocks, done so all too easily on the humid sands of Weston Beach in St. James.
John Moore Bar has a privileged position on the waterfront, up just a few steps from the water and owning, as far as rum shops go, as good a view as one will find in Barbados.
And while no one can say for sure when it opened, its advanced age seems not to be in dispute.
I ask the proprietor how old this place is and he confirms this is indeed one of the oldest, if not the oldest rum shops in Barbados.
He then mentions that he had seen me here drinking rum a few evenings ago.
“I wasn’t here,” I tell him. “But I should have been.”