How a passion for scuba diving inspired one of our favorite rum brands – The Manual

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How a passion for scuba diving inspired one of our favorite rum brands

Mark Stock


Todd Thrasher.
Jon Thorpe / Thrasher’s Rum

Thrasher’s Rum is not your typical spirit company. The D.C.-based rum outfit started in 2018 and is headed by a man who forged an interest in fermented sugarcane while diving around the world.

Thrasher is no stranger to the scene, having run many esteemed beverage programs in the past. The Virginia native grew up spending summer days at his grandparent’s rural house and got his first bartending gig when a barkeep failed to show up for their shift at an Arlington watering hole. The rest is history.

Today, Thrasher has a growing brand that honors a long-established love for rum. Former home experiments in distilling have turned into a full-scale operation overlooking the Potomac River. But it may have never happened without his former life as a waterlogged pursuer of pristine turquoise diving waters.

From ocean to spirits

Aerial view of two men snorkeling in clear, shallow tropical water.
Ovidiu Caragea / EyeEm / Getty Images

“Scuba diving has been a lifelong passion of mine,” he says. “I have been diving since my teenage years and became an instructor in 2003.”

Thrasher no longer instructs but fondly reflects on his time in the water and sharing the love with the rest of his family. “It’s been so meaningful to share diving experiences with my wife and son,” he says. “My son is around the same age that I was when I started diving, and I love passing along what I have learned and taking our family to experience some of my favorite diving spots.”

Many of those great spots were in or near prime rum-making zones, close to the equator where sugarcane thrives. “I vividly remember spending many years witnessing picture-perfect sunsets after a long day of scuba diving in the South Pacific, Caribbean, and West Indies, with a neat pour of dark rum in my pruny fingers,” he says. “I have a deep love for the ocean. I wanted to create a rum that, to me, was synonymous with my experiences traveling as a scuba dive master.”

Thrasher says he marveled at the Tiki bars of the South Pacific, the kind where you settle the tab with wet money from your swimsuit. Places like the Rose Inn in Bonaire come to mind. The sleepy bar in the town of Rincon is known for its creole and international food, washed down with the self-proclaimed coldest beer in town and some local rum. There’s no written menu but plenty of convivial patrons and some quality local dishes. Thrasher also loves Restaurante El Moro in Cozumel, which is beloved for its rum-centric cocktails and no-frills atmosphere.

“At Tiki TNT, the three-story rum emporium that also houses Potomac Distilling Company, I created a cocktail inspired by this experience,” he says. “The Wet Money cocktail features tequila, Thrasher’s White Rum, lemon juice, passion fruit, salt water, and Blue Curaçao, which is meant to represent the crystal clear waters from my diving days.”

The regionality of rum

Thrasher's Spiced Rum.
Jon Thorpe / Thrasher’s Rum

Bacardi may jump to mind when we think of rum, but there’s a whole galaxy out there, defined by how and where it’s made and ranging dramatically in flavor. Sure, there’s white rum versus aged and spiced rums, but it runs much deeper than that. The sugar source can show a sense of terroir, and because different rum-producing regions have different mandates, the equipment and types of distilling equipment are rarely ever the same, especially where small producers are concerned. Translation? There’s a rum for everybody out there; you need to find it.

“Rum is derived from three main ingredients: yeast, water, and some derivatives of sugar,” Thrasher notes. “The distinct flavor and characteristics of rum come from the sugarcane that is used in fermenting. The style is largely dependent on that rum’s country of origin and its colonizing history, specifically, how sugar is incorporated into the spirit. English-style rum is made from molasses and then aged in oak barrels. Guyana, once an English territory, is home to a favorite rum brand, El Dorado. I like to think that I’m bringing a distinct English Caribbean-style of rum to America, a country that has primarily relied on rum to be imported from other countries.”

There’s not much of a sugarcane scene in the nation’s capital, as you might imagine, but that doesn’t mean Thrasher can’t honor the tradition of rum and even put his stamp on it. “Thrasher’s Rum is unique in that we only use natural sugars and molasses– with zero preservatives. We follow a process that has been a tradition for hundreds of years by using the purest products,” he says. At the distillery and emporium, they grow citrus and herbs and make their way into releases like Thrasher’s Green Spiced Rum.

How to understand rum better

Tiki TNT in D.C.
Ray Lopez / Thrasher’s Rum

“The biggest stereotype about rum is that it’s a sweet, sugary spirit,” admits Thrasher. “I often hear people say that they don’t like rum because it has so much sugar or that they don’t like rum-based cocktails because they are crazy sweet. But rum is incredibly versatile, complex, and diverse. Rum can be refined. It can be aged. It is complex, and there are just so many different styles.”

How does he like to enjoy rum? “Ideally, anytime I have a glass of rum in hand, I’m near the water,” he says. “I love the versatility of rum. For me, the style and age of the rum dictates whether I am enjoying a rum-based cocktail or simply rum on the ice with a single ice cube.”

Thrasher hopes the rum renaissance continues and looks forward to more artisanal producers who share a genuine appreciation of the craft. In the meantime, we can appreciate rum more just by seeking out better brands and sampling the many varied styles.

We’ve got the rum sector covered. Check out our guide to Hawaiian rum and the best resort drinks you can make right at home (for the ultimate staycation). And if you want to follow Thrasher’s lead, get into the water after checking out our scuba diving certification breakdown.

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Mark Stock

Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…

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