Screech gets an Olympic shout-out

If you were paying close attention to the opening ceremonies at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, you heard mention of something called "screech."

And, if you are like most non-Canadians, you wondered what they were referring to during the Newfoundland punk tap dancing fiddler portion of the heritage showcase.

Well, screech is an eastern Canadian sort of moonshine, often illegally made but also refined and sold in the state-run liquor stores.

Around the globe, some form of home-made, generally unregulated and untaxed -- and therefore illegal -- whiskey or whiskey substitute is made from many base ingredients and goes under many names.

In the U.S. it’s old-fashioned moonshine from corn. In Ireland it’s poitin, or poteen, from grain or potatoes. Langkau from rice in Malaysia. Raki or rakia from plums or grapes in Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and the Serbo-Croatian region. Filuferru from grapes on Sardinia. Siddiq from sugar water in Saudi Arabia. Mampoer from peaches or marula fruit in South Africa. Boukha from figs in Tunisia ... You get the idea.

Well, in Canada's Newfoundland province, screech is the potion of choice for many traditionalists, as well as those trying to shock visitors.

It actually is a form of rum, originally imported from Jamaica in colonial times. The legal version today is made in Newfoundland by the Newfoundland & Labrador Liquor Corp. It also is sold in at least three U.S. states -- Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, all of which abut Canada.

The original screech was made by using boiling water to melt the sweet molasses sediment that built up in barrels, then either fermented and distilling it or mixing it directly with grain alcohol. The result, as you might imagine, is a potent bit of firewater.

The name "screech," legend has it, came from visiting American servicemen during World War II who used it to describe the vocal reactions of visitors upon trying their first taste of the spirit. The national Liquor Board eventually adopted the name officially.

Although Newfies, as Newfoundland residents are called, often drink legal or illegal screech in a rum-and-Coke or in a rum-and-ginger ale, there are numerous cocktails in which screech is the main ingredient. Here are a few for your consideration:


1¼-ounce Screech
1 or 2 teaspoons brown sugar
Whipped cream

Combine screech and brown sugar in a mug or coffee cop. Pour in hot coffee, stir until sugar melts. Top with whipped cream.


2 ounces Newfoundland Screech Rum
2 ounces cranberry juice
½ ounce triple sec or blue curacao
Juice of one lime
Club soda

Mix all ingredients, except the club soda, in a cocktail shaker filled with fresh ice. Pour the mixture into a martini glass. Top it off with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a lime wedge.


1 ounce Newfoundland Screech Rum
1 ounce coconut rum
1 ounce orange juice
1 ounce pineapple juice
1 ounce cranberry juice

Pour all ingredients in the order listed into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

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