If Rum Is Your Cocktail Spirit of Choice, Here’s Everything You Need to Know

If Rum Is Your Cocktail Spirit of Choice, Here’s Everything You Need to Know

When it comes to summer-centric tiki cocktails, rum reigns supreme. What’s better than a piña colada by the pool or a mojito made with mint you grew in your own garden?

But other than being the secret sauce in a daiquiri, dark and stormy, or mai tai, there’s a lot we don’t know about rum. For instance, rum is made from sugar cane that’s been distilled into liquor. There are three ways this can happen: by converting sugar cane juice into syrup and fermenting it, by processing the juice into molasses and fermenting that, or by directly fermenting sugar cane juice. This is only the beginning of the story. There are endless distinctions between bottles of rum, from how long each was aged to what they were aged in to where the sugar cane was grown, how it was distilled, and more. The alcohol content in rum can range from 20 percent alcohol by volume to over 75 percent ABV, depending on the style.

If your head is spinning, you’re not alone. To avoid any further confusion, we spoke with three rum experts, each from a different top rum-producing country: Michael Lopez, the food and beverage director at the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico; Paolo Patitucci, the head mixologist at Wymara Resort and Villas in Turks and Caicos; and Shane McClean, the rum ambassador at the Colony Club in Barbados. Their mission? To help us better understand rum by breaking down the four top types of rum. They also (so kindly!) shared three delicious rum cocktail recipes to help everyone celebrate National Rum Day.

White Rum

This light style of rum is defined by its lack of color. “White rum has a much lighter flavor profile since it is filtered multiple times to remove impurities and isn’t aged as long as other rums,” says Patitucci. Worth noting, however, that white rums are often aged a bit (typically three to six months in warm climates and up to a year in cooler climates). White varieties are distilled in steel casks, which make their flavor fairly straightforward. It’s perfect for easy-drinking cocktails. Pair this style with shrimp, prawns, seafood, and raw fish such as ceviche.

Gold Rum

Thanks to aging in oak barrels, this one’s a bit more complex than white rum. “The aging process gives gold rum its signature color along with a sweeter, richer flavor profile,” says Patitucci. It’s still great for cocktails.

Dark Rum

“Dark rum has been aged the longest out of any other type of rum,” Patitucci says. Since it spends the longest time in wooden casks aging, the spirit has a darker color and deeper smoky-sweet flavor. Its full flavor profile is great for sipping solo, rather than mixing into drinks. “Dark rums carry complex flavor that pairs well with herbs, spices, and richer foods, like dark meat and desserts," adds McClean.

Spiced Rum

Spiced rum is typically aged for the same length of time as dark rum but has hints of vanilla and caramel coloring, which results in a sweeter and spicier flavor profile. Spiced rum pairs best with dessert dishes, such as ice creams and cakes.

Rum Day Drink Recipes

Barbados Rum Punch, The Colony Club


  • 1.5 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse
  • 1 oz Simple Syrup
  • 1/2 oz. Lime Juice
  • 4 oz Water
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 dash Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 oz. Velvet Falernum

Method: Mix all ingredients (except Falernum) in a Collins glass over ice. Float Falernum and finish with one dash of Angostura and garnish with a lemon wheel and cherry.

Watermelon & Cucumber Mojito, Wymara Resort & Villas


  • 1 oz. Fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz. Sugar syrup
  • 7 Mint Leaves
  • 2 Fresh Watermelon Slices
  • 2 Slices of Fresh Cucumber
  • 2 oz. of Local Light Rum (Bambarra or Other)
  • Splash of Club Soda

Method: In a shaker, add 1oz. of lime juice, 1 oz. of sugar syrup, two slices of watermelon, and two slices of cucumber. Muddle together and add Bambarra light rum. Shake and fine strain in a tall glass. Add seven mint leaves and ice, and top with club soda. Garnish with slice of watermelon, cucumber, and a mint sprig.

The Original Piña Colada, The Caribe Hilton


  • 2 oz. Rum
  • 1 oz. Lopez Coconut Cream
  • 1 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 6 oz. Pineapple Juice
  • 1/2 cup Crushed Ice

Method: Mix rum, cream of coconut, heavy cream, and pineapple juice in a blender. Add ice and mix for 15 seconds. Serve in a 12-oz. glass and garnish with fresh pineapple and a cherry.

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