Words by: Simon Difford
Rum is the most exciting and diverse of spirits categories, offering clear clean light delicate rums through to dark full-bodied pungent estery rums and everything in between. Consequently, rum based cocktails are equally varied in style, encompassing some of the very best drinks to ever pass across a bar counter.
Presently we categorise rums under 11 different styles with each style treated as a different ingredient on our cocktail database. Follows our recommended rum cocktails grouped according to rum style with a twelfth category being cocktails containing several different styles of run. Each cocktail name links to the recipe.
Great light rum is just that - light-bodied, delicate and fragrant. When used to its full potential in cocktails the resulting drinks are equally light and subtle with complex flavours that complement the rum rather than overwhelming it. Light rums are the slender, delicate beautiful blonds of the rum world.
Damn It Jimmy
El Presidente No.1
Honey Bee Mine
Santa Marta Daiquiri
White Old Fashioned
Golden rums are essentially a bridge between the subtlety of light white rums and the more full-bodied bolder flavours of dark rums. Still slender yet more full-bodied and boisterous. They should be used in place of white rums when a more robust base spirit is required to stand up to bolder ingredients in a cocktail.
As their name suggests, dark rums are dark in colour, full-bodied and generally louder - more in your face, but none the less attractive for their youthful exuberance. I say "youthful" as they tend not to be aged for prolonged periods. Dark rum blends usually include full-flavoured pot still rums and are more intensely flavoured so work well in drinks containing spices and other ingredients that overwhelm light or golden rums.
These rums hark back to the days when the British Navy issued a tot of its own rum blend to its sailors each day. Navy rums are dark with huge personalities thanks to being made with pungent pot still rums and a high proof. In cocktails these rums hold their own against bold flavoured ingredients, yet have a depth of flavour and complexity.
Charles Daiquiri (with light rum)
Gun Club Punch No.1 (with light rum)
Well-matured, the best aged rums age gracefully and naturally, giving cocktails body and character not imparted by more youthful rums. However, beware rums that have had way too much exposure to oak, often with sugar and added flavours - like overly applied make-up, what's beneath is often beyond masking.
Aged Honey Daiquiri
Creamy Vanilla Colada
Harold & Maude (with blended scotch)
Red Rum Cocktail
Rum Old Fashioned
The Right Hand
Massive character with profound beauty and a potentially devastating punch, overproof is the Muhammad Ali of the rum world. "Flies like a butterfly and stings like a bee." Fittingly overproof is most popularly used in a rum punch.
A white rum wearing a freshly cut grass skirt and little else, and in so doing displaying profound innocence, beauty and a fierce temperament.
Like their molasses based counterparts some agricole rums age wonderfully, retaining their youthful beauty while becoming more characterful with age. Others are bitter, twisted old hags. Good aged agricole rums can work wonderfully in cocktails.
Like smelling a fresh sweaty gym kit - pungent with notes you shouldn't like but yet are strangely appealing. Big, well-developed, full-bodied rums that pack a characterful punch, often and at their best with a funky hint of esters and dunder.
Golden rums with added spice, usually smoothed and rounded with generous vanilla and sugar.
Apart from spiced rums (see above), previously the leading flavour added to rum was coconut but "coconut rums" actually tend to be liqueurs (with added sugar) and so we have listed the cocktails made with them on our 'Coconut rum liqueur cocktails page'. Now, especially in the bartending world, it is 'pineapple rum' that is inspiring new cocktails to be made. We have not yet listed any of these cocktails on Difford's Guide - please send recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The world's greatest, most enduring cocktails tend to have just three or four ingredients - unless they are Tiki cocktails, in which case they can include three or four different rums, plus numerous other ingredients. The best Tiki cocktails build layers of flavour and complexity by using a blend of rum styles.