Ah, rum. The tantalising taste of Tiki. The perfect spirit for injecting a quick shot of Caribbean sunshine into any glass.
The yin to our booze-loving yang.
But with so many kinds of rum out there (dark, light, spiced, gold, agricole and navy just to name a few) it can be tricky to know how to choose the best rum for cocktails.
To help you out, we’ve created this rum run down to guide you in the right direction!
What is rum?
Some specific kinds of rum, like rhum agricole or Cachaça, are made from untreated cane juice. Most rum, though, is made from molasses.
To get molasses, sugar cane is harvested and pressed in a mill to extract the water and sugar juice hiding inside.
This liquid is boiled down until it begins to crystallise.
It’s then either spun in a centrifuge so that the crystals and syrup can be collected separately, or the crystals are simply skimmed from the top of the mixture.
The crystals are sold as sugar (yum), and the sticky mess leftover forms the foundation of rum (even bigger yum).
Once the molasses is ready, it’s slowly fermented with water and yeast.
This gives a low-alcohol spirit, known as a “wash” (somewhere between 5-10% proof), which is then distilled into the 40%+ rum we all know and love.
Rum’s simple distillation means it’s a spirit whose flavour is drastically altered by small changes in things like the distillation location’s microclimate, the origin of the cane used, and the style and location of the fermentation.
This is why there are so many variations available, and why even two bottles of the same type can taste wildly different!
The best rum to use in cocktails
The best rum to use in a cocktail depends on the direction you want your drink to take.
Are you looking for a subtly clarified alcohol that’ll blend into the background, or do you want to be slapped in the face with delicious warming spices?
Do you need an overproof base for your Tiki masterpiece, or would you like something dark and delicious to bolster your navy-themed daydreams?
We’ve broken down the best rum brands by type, to help you decide what to try.
Dark rum brands for cocktails
Dark rum is rum that has had longer to age in a barrel than its white or golden brothers.
In most dark rums, you can expect to meet a soft vanilla nose and toffee sweetness on your palette.
The best dark rum for cocktails: Goslings
One of our favourite dark rum cocktails to mix up, and a staple of any mixologist’s worth their salt, is a Dark and Stormy.
It champions that classically Caribbean combination of rum, ginger and lime, but it’s a delicious drink wherever you are.
Choose something bold, like a Goslings Black Seal Rum, for a first-rate sipping experience.
Special Mention: Cruzan Black Strap
If you’re here to search for the perfect cold weather rum-based warmer, look no further than a delicious Hot Buttered Rum.
The perfect harmony of a smokey aged booze and silky smooth butter will leave you wonderfully comforted and oh so gently toasted.
For best results, we think you should go as dark as you dare. The Cruzan Black Strap Rum would work particularly well.
Blackstrap rum is traditionally made from the lowest grade of molasses, when almost all the sugar has already been harvested.
Cruzan’s Black Strap gives any cocktail a warming molasses heat and licorice finish, which we love.
White rum brands for cocktails
Sometimes, a cocktail calls for a more subtle background rum, where you don’t want the bold flavour of a well-aged tipple. But that doesn’t mean you should be resorting to a bottom-shelf bargain.
The delicate vanilla sweetness and herby lightness will pair perfectly with the simplicity of the undeniably delicious Daiquiri.
If you’re seeking out an authentically Cuban cocktail, you should get your mitts onto something like Havana’s 3 Años white rum. It’s perfectly balanced, with a fruity sweetness that will add a whole new dimension of deliciousness to your Mojitos.
Spiced rum brands for cocktails
Deliciously balanced aromatics are added towards the end of the fermentation period to make spiced rum.
This often includes things like anise, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom – although it’s impossible to know for sure, as every brand’s spice mix is a closely guarded secret.
One of our absolute favourite drinks to mix up with a spiced rum is an Orange and Ginger Highball – which pairs perfectly with the Lost Years Arribada Cask Aged Rum. Citrusy delicious and summer ready.
If you want to try a cocktail that lies slightly off the shaken path, why not add a splash of spiced rum to a classic espresso martini? We did that for you here and, not to brag, it’s fantastic.
Mix up your own using a bottle of Belgrove Hazelnut Rum and a cup of good, strong coffee.
The best rum for classic Tiki cocktail recipes
If you’re looking to mix up a Tiki masterpiece, we couldn’t be more on board.
Tiki culture is really an American invention – inspired by the various cultures of the Caribbean, the Oceanic and the Pacific islands.
The end result is fiercely boozy, beautifully fruity beverages.
Take the Zombie recipe, for example. The perfect fuel for those nights you’ll probably want to forget, although it was actually invented as a hangover cure!
However you choose to imbibe, pick a rum like this Diplomatico Mantuano for a cheeky Tiki tipple that’s guaranteed to impress.
For an equally tasty Tiki experience, but with a little less ferocity, why not try your hand at a Mai Tai? It was so popular at its conception that, according to legend, rum stores the world over were noticeably depleted.
The Mai Tai recipe is a great place to try one of the lesser-used Rhum Agricole.
This Trois Rivières Cuvée de L’Ocean is a great option. Instead of molasses, it’s made from sugarcane juice, which will give your Mai Tai a wonderfully floral flavour, with a hint of sea salt and a creamy finish.
The best rum bottled cocktails
Still wondering which rum is right for you? We can be indecisive sometimes, too.
Which is why we love having a big selection of pre-mixed bottled cocktails including a Coconut Rum Daiquri!
They let you have a taste of a new rum without the faff of forking out to furnish a full cocktail cabinet!
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