Sugar farmers in the 17th century had a problem: For every two pounds of sugar they would make, they ended up with a full pound worth of molasses that they couldn’t give away. It got so bad for them that they eventually took to just dumping the sticky substance into the ocean, since no one could make that many gingersnaps. Luckily, some enterprising hooch hound came along and realized that with a little work, some fermentation (the cure to all ills), and distillation, they could turn the viscous waste into sweet, sweet rum.
From those humble beginnings, rum has become a staple of the rich and poor, elitist and commoner alike. With a smooth flavor that mixes easily, a widely varying proof range, and a relatively low cost, it is often overlooked by those who think of it as rotgut that is fine for sipping on the beach, but hardly deserves a place in the spirits collection of any person of refinement. Well, it’s time to forget all that and realize that with recipes for the 30 best rum cocktails around, it could easily become your liquor of choice.
1. Classic Mai Tai
The actual invention of the Mai Tai is mostly shrouded in mystery, though we tend to believe the tale of Victor J. Bergeron whipping one up and the name coming from Carrie Guild, who cried “Maita’i roa ae!” (Translation: “Out of this world!”). With more variations than almost any other cocktail, we think this recipe is the one time it’s done right.
2. Blood Orange Mojito
In the early days of rum, it was a foul substance that was barely tolerable, which is why drinks like the Mojito came into being. Invented by poor Cuban farmers who had to use whatever sugar, mint, and lime to cut the taste of the befouled rum, the Mojito is the official rum cocktail of note, and this blood orange variation is a real palette-pleaser.
3. Cold Brew & Tonic
Using cold brew coffee with lower acidity along with white tonic, this is a mixture of flavors that could only be used with demon rum to create a blend that seems at home in the evening, first thing in the morning, or during “sick” days. A little labor intensive, but well worth the time.
4. Guava-Granate Punch
Little more than Kombucha with a pomegranate and mint garnish, this punch easily channels the Caribbean breezes right into your brain no matter what the weather outside. A reasonably healthy and less destructive cocktail, it goes down smooth for a buzz that won’t harsh your mellow.
5. Mai Thai
You read that right, this is a drink with a hint of spicy Thai cuisine that uses Thai bitters along with muddled pineapple and a sugar/chili powder rim for a sweet with heat flavor sensation. It’s sure to warm you body and soul, making it the best tropical winter cocktail around.
6. Old Cuban
Devised by Audrey Saunders at the Pegu Club in New York City, the Old Cuban is a Mojito that backs up the syrupy taste with a bit of the bubbly. Champagne or sparkling wine complements sharp mint, lime, and bitters for a playful cocktail that also kicks. Though it ends up looking like you mixed all the drink flavors at the spigot, the taste more than makes up for it.
7. Hot Buttered Rum
Known colloquially as a hot toddy, there’s nothing that soothes the soul and warms the flesh quite like a Hot Buttered Rum. Coming to us all the way from the mid 1600’s, this was the drink that resulted from the seizing of Jamaica by British forces. Our choice recipe uses a spicy cinnamon butter that will keep your home fires burning.
8. Dark Moon
At once a kind of coke float with coffee or a wicked White Russian, the Dark Moon manages to both wake you up and settle you down. Best made with the real-sugar coke from Mexico, the mild bitterness of cold brew coffee, sticky cola sweetness, and calming cream all served over ice creates a nightcap meant for burning the midnight oil.
9. Pineapple-Basil Rum Fizz
Perhaps in the running for the most refreshing drink of the summer, the natural ingredients and playfulness of a fizz make this into a simple but enjoyable drink that you’ll want to have in large batches. Basil is blended with lime to create a divine slurry that enhances rum and pineapple juice flavors the the Fizz tacks on just enough carbonation to tickle.
10. The Hurricane
In the French Quarter of NOLA during the 1930’s, there was a strangely strong, yet oddly delicious cocktail that was drawing patrons from near and far. It was The Hurricane, and while it may have existed in some form previously, this is the quintessential recipe. A far cry from the buckets that are mixed up at frat parties, you’ll find jubilation in the surprising potency here.
11. Sparkling Pineapple Rum Cocktail
Ordinarily, fizzy drinks are accomplished through adding club soda or champagne, but instead, this uses ginger ale to both create a golden coloration to the drink and offer up its uniquely settling attributes to the dark rum that is generously added to it. It requires no flash, no fanfare, no paper umbrellas, but instead is an understated joy to imbibe.
12. Blue Hawaiian Shark Attack
A spin-off of a spin-off, this uses a Blue Hawiian recipe (which is itself the daughter of the Blue Hawaii invented in 1957 by Harry Yee on Waikiki) to grand effect by adding Crème de Cassis at the last moment for a bloody chumming of the azure fluids in the drink. Tasty and dramatic, this sings on your tongue.
13. Cream Soda Rum Float
The first publication of the Cream Soda occurred in the mid 1800’s, but it took until today that the soda found its purpose. Made to offer a home to rum and ice cream for a simple cocktail that is easy to mix and provides all the comfort foods you could possibly want; all crammed together for a fizzy Friday night or a rollicking Sunday afternoon.
14. Frozen Rum Runners
Rum Runners were the backbone of the drinking industry and elite among tipplers during the bleak prohibition era. Founded in the 1950’s in Florida, this cocktail pays homage to those brave souls who brought their illicit, bootlegged goods to men and women suffering under the yoke of sobriety. Light and fruity, it includes dark and light rum along with lots of liqueurs to set the room spinning.
15. Pineapple Mojito
Sweet and citrusy, this makes the sometimes messy Mojito into something a bit simpler and somehow even more tropical. The key here is to muddle like mad until you have a wholesome mess of lime, mint, and pineapple then douse it with sugar, rum, and club soda. All that is required after that is letting the tradewinds rock you to sleep in your beachside hammock.
16. The Yuletide Fireside Cocktail
A smoked cocktail, the Yuletide Fireside seems like it would call for the sharper whiskey flavor than the smoother, sweeter taste of rum, but once you try it, you may swear off your Kentucky mash for good. Old Fashioned bitters and Clements make it spicy while a chunk of cherry or hickory turns each glass into a rustic wonder just in time for the Holidays (or Friday).
17. Coconut-Lychee Coladas
If you aren’t a devotee of the lychee fruit, then this is the way to introduce your palate to them. Their sweet flavor pairs delightfully with coconut while their lighter coloration gives an ethereal and angelic quality to the look of these Coladas. Arrestingly sweet, these hide a devilish rum backer that sneaks up on you.
18. Peach Tea and Rum
Since rum came to the world by way of the Caribbean, it’s no surprise that many of its best cocktails mixed with some staples of southern living as rum seeped into the U.S. Here we see peach tea sweetened with simple syrup and topped off with a light rum kicker that is just enough to add some drawl to your speech.
19. Smoky Cardamom-Coconut Cuba Libre
Cuba might still not be free, but this holdover from the end of the Spanish American war eternally calls for Cuba Libre! or “free Cuba.” Beginning with rum and cola syrup, there’s many more layers of flavor tacked on here than your average rum and coke. They paint a complicated picture for your tongue that is well worth the extra work to create.
20. Lava Flow Cocktail
Able to lift your spirits as it cools you down, the lava flow might look white hot, but the frozen strawberries, ice, and lightly chilled juices are meant to be refreshing. A festival of fruit, this goes where most Daiquiris only dare to dream. As gorgeous as they are flavorful, pouring them is nearly as much fun as drinking.
21. California Dreamin’
With almost no ties to California at all, you’ll find a unique use of kiwis that is rarely apparent in the mixed drink world. Like seeing a whale breach, this is a once in a lifetime experience that you’ll seek out over and over until you awaken with a splitting headache beneath some palm fronds.
22. Watermelon Mojitos
Celebrating the beginning, middle, or end of summer is as simple as muddling some mint and blending up some watermelon with this lazy take on the Mojito that lets your machines do the work while you sit back and enjoy this airy concoction. Ideal for whipping up to add zest to last minute barbecues and brunches.
23. Hemingway Daiquiri
Named for a beach in Cuba, the Daiquiri was a happy accident that occurred when Cuba resident Jennings Cox ran out of gin while entertaining. He bought some rum and mixed what is essentially a rum sour, but called a Daiquiri. While many variations are light, sweet, and perfect for sorority pillow fights, this one bears the distinction of being a favorite of author Ernest Hemingway, drinker extraordinaire and man among men.
24. Coquito (Puerto Rican Eggnog)
Even if you hate eggnog, the Coquito promises to bring you into the fold. Meaning “little coconut,” the coquito is served around the holidays in Puerto Rico and uses coconut milk and cream, cinnamon, vanilla, and plenty of rum for a potent cocktail you’ll love. Equally good for a happy Hanukkah as a Feliz Navidad.
25. Amaretto-Cranberry Kiss
Vodka, Amaretto, and cranberries are an unlikely and stomach-turning idea, yet when they’re combined you’ll be amazed at how quickly your glass runs dry. Plenty tart with just enough sweetness to keep you interested, the name might feel a little too flirtatious for some, but the taste and effect are serious business that look bloody glorious in a glass.
Born on a white sandy beach in the Virgin Islands, the Painkiller is the signature drink of Pusser’s Rum, with the most modern recipe coming as the result of a contest held at the Soggy Dollar Bar between Daphne Henderson and Charles Tobias. Meant to be paired with pulled pork, swimming, and easy living, this is a sure cure for all suffering.
27. Cranberry Orange Dark ‘N’ Stormy
The official drink of Bermuda, the Dark ‘N’ Stormy was brought to life by ginger beer coming to the British Royal Navy stationed in the Caribbean from the UK and then being mixed with local rum. As simple and easy as a recipe gets, this variation adds a little more flavor and makes the whole thing a touch more festive than the original.
28. Roosevelt Cocktail
Named for rough riding president Theodore Roosevelt, the Roosevelt honors his notorious love of hard living and imbibing fine spirits between battles during the Spanish American War. As straightforward as the man himself, it’s a kindly mixture of vermouth, dark rum, orange juice, and sugar completely free of frills.
29. Cherry Caipirissima
A slight alternative to the Caipirinha, which is a spicy treat, the Caipirissima uses white rum, simple syrup, and cherries for a taste that is equal parts mischief and gentility. Throw in some gin, dark rum, or other flavors to suit your particular tastes and personalize it without worrying about ruining the easy base.
30. Smoky Citrus Rum Old Fashioned
Every drinker and bartender in the world has their take on the Old Fashioned, but if you’re going to make it with rum rather than whiskey, this is the only recipe that we can offer up in good conscience. The name might be long, but it pays delicious homage to its progenitor while bringing a few surprises all its own to the mix.