13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year

Advertisement
13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year
Rum drinks are often tropical in flavor and spurred an entire culture of tiki cocktails.Ivan Pantic/Getty Images
  • Rum is a delicious and versatile spirit distilled from sugar — most commonly molasses.
  • Rum has its origins in the Caribbean and is often mixed with citrus juice in tropical cocktails.
  • The simplest rum cocktail, the classic daiquiri, calls for just rum, lime juice, and simple syrup.
Advertisement

When one thinks of rum, images of pristine tropical beaches, drunken pirates, and tall drinks in kitschy ceramic mugs often come to mind. None of those ideas are necessarily wrong, but there's a lot more to rum than meets the eye.

"Rum is a very versatile and complex spirit," says Leandro DiMonriva, host of the mixology tutorial show "The Educated Barfly." "There's so much natural variety and complexity to rum."

Rum is distilled from sugar in various forms, most commonly molasses. "It's one of the oldest modern spirits. We were drinking rum even before we were drinking whiskey in America," says DiMonriva.

Closely entwined with the history of colonization and maritime trade, rum was first produced in the early 1700s in the Caribbean, where sugarcane was grown and land was colonized by the French, Spanish, and English. Initially, molasses was treated like industrial waste as a byproduct of sugar production. "Somebody was able to figure out that molasses would ferment, and if they could ferment it, they could distill it," says DiMonriva.

Rum quickly became extremely popular and affordable. It also became a go-to for many sailors, and, yes, even pirates. Many ships gave their sailors rum rations as part of their payment. In order to lower the proof and stretch the rations, it was often mixed with water to create a mixture known as grog or mixed with citrus juice to help prevent scurvy. These early rum mixes could be considered precursors to the daiquiri, ti' punch, and other classic rum cocktails.

Advertisement

Rum cocktails grew in popularity during prohibition when American tipplers rushed to Cuba and other tropical Caribbean destinations to get their fix.

What type of rum should I use?

"There aren't a lot of laws that govern rum. Unlike bourbon, rum has very loose rules. Any spirit made of sugar or sugarcane is rum," DiMonriva says. Despite there being few overarching rules, most rum-producing regions have local traditions and standards that have led to distinct styles.

Different rums from different regions impart drastically different flavors to the cocktails they're mixed into. "All rums are very specific, and they're all nuanced," says DiMonriva.

One example is rhum agricole, a style of rum made on the island of Martinique. "Rhum agricole is distilled from sugarcane juice that has a much different flavor than rums distilled from molasses," says DiMonriva. "It has a grassier, spicier, almost lemony, citrusy flavor to it."

Another distinct style of rum is Jamaican rum. "Jamaican rum has a lot of funkiness to it," says DiMonriva. "The musty, funky flavor is called 'hogo' and it comes from the fermenting process. It's a very particular flavor with a lot of tropical fruit overtones. When you drink a Jamaican rum, you know it's a Jamaican rum."

Advertisement

This is just the tip of the iceberg. White rum, dark rum, demerara rum, and blackstrap rum are all styles that are equally distinct and have unique applications within mixology.

Because of the wide variety and extreme differences between rums, it's helpful to have a little guidance when diving in. With DiMonriva's help, we compiled 13 recipes mixed with a little history to help you master making some of the most popular rum cocktails.

Quick tip: Many of these recipes call for specific types, and at times, specific brands of rum. Different types of rum can be wildly different and will dramatically change the intended flavor of a cocktail. When possible, try to use the style or specific brand recommended in each recipe in order to ensure a perfect drink.

1. Daiquiri

13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year
This is not a beach resort frozen slushy.Sanny11/Getty Images

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. white rum

  • 1 oz. lime juice

  • 3/4 oz. simple syrup

  • Garnish: lime wheel

The daiquiri is one of the most iconic cocktails of all time and is a blueprint for many rum cocktails, though it's gained a bad reputation as a frozen drink made with artificial syrups and grain alcohol. But the original, shaken version is simple, clean, and an absolute classic.

Advertisement

"Rum, lime, and sugar is a combination that has been around for a very long time," says DiMonriva. Although these basic ingredients have been mixed together for centuries, the first known recipe for the modern Daiquiri was printed in 1914 in Jacques Straub's book, "Drinks."

To make a classic shaken daiquiri, combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake thoroughly to chill and combine. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lime wheel. Feel free to experiment with this one. Try different types of rum or try muddling fruit like strawberry or raspberry in the shaker with the simple syrup before adding the other ingredients.

2. Zombie

13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year
Be careful — the zombie has 4 ounces of liquor in it.bhofack2/Getty Images

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ oz. Puerto Rican rum
  • 1 ½ oz. Jamaican rum
  • 1 oz. overproof or navy strength rum
  • ¾ oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz. falernum
  • ½ oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1 bar spoon absinthe
  • ½ oz. cinnamon syrup
  • ¼ oz. grenadine
  • 2 dashes of angostura bitters
  • Garnish: mint sprig

You can't discuss rum without mentioning tiki cocktails — fruit-forward rum drinks that are often presented in an extravagant fashion. This classic drink was created in 1934 by Donn Beach of Don The Beachcomber fame. "Donn Beach was the father of the tiki movement, which became a huge craze," says DiMonriva.

"Legend has it that a businessman walked into Donn's bar and asked him to mix up something strong to help him get through a business meeting or a long flight," says DiMonriva. "Donn mixed this drink on the fly." The man then returned, saying the drink turned him into a "zombie," and the name stuck.

Advertisement

To make this ultra-boozy cocktail, combine all of the ingredients into a shaker with crushed ice and shake until chilled. Pour the mixture into a large glass or mug and fill the glass with more crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

3. Mojito

13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year
Muddling the lime and mint together introduces more flavor.Andrey Zhuravlev/Getty Images

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. rum
  • ½ lime, cut into chunks
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • 2-4 oz. soda water
  • Garnish: mint sprig

The mojito is a simple and refreshing Cuban drink that was a favorite of author Ernest Hemingway. "It's basically a daiquiri with the addition of mint leaves, lengthened with soda and served in a tall glass," says DiMonriva. The first mojito recipe appears in 1929 in Juan A. Lasa's guide "Libro de Cocktail."

There are many ways to approach a mojito. Some recipes are built in the glass, some are shaken, some even leave out the soda. "I like to muddle lime wedges in my mojitos," says DiMonriva, "When you crush the lime, you're adding a lot of lime flavor by expressing the oils in the peel. It adds so much flavor."

To make this version of the drink, lightly muddle the mint leaves at the bottom of a glass with chunks of lime and simple syrup. Add the rum and stir. Fill the glass with ice, top with soda, and garnish with a bouquet of mint.

Advertisement

4. Mai tai

13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year
A mai tai is a classic tiki drink.bhofack2/Getty Images

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 oz. rhum agricole
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz. orange curaçao
  • ¼ oz. orgeat
  • ¼ oz. simple syrup
  • Garnish: mint sprig

The mai tai was created by legendary bartender Victor "Trader Vic" Bergeron in 1944, one of the key bartenders of the tiki movement. Legend has it the mai tai received its moniker after one of Bergeron's friends visiting from Tahiti called it "Maita'i roe a'e" which means "out of this world" in Tahitian.

"The mai tai was originally made with a 17-year aged Wray & Nephew rum, which became extinct due to the popularity of the mai tai," says DiMonriva. "Now bartenders are experimenting with proprietary rum blends to approximate how that old, aged rum might have tasted."

To make Trader Vic's mai tai, put all of the ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice and garnish with mint.

5. Dark and stormy

Advertisement
13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year
The dark rum often creates a layered effect.bhofack2/Getty Images

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. dark rum (preferably Goslings Black Seal)
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • Ginger beer
  • Garnish: lime wedge

This simple yet tasty cocktail could be considered a cousin to the Moscow mule. The dark and stormy is almost always made with Goslings Black Seal Bermuda rum. Its notes of caramel and molasses add the "darkness" to this drink and pair perfectly with the bright lime juice and spiciness of the ginger beer.

To make a dark and stormy, combine the rum and lime juice in a glass. Fill the glass with ice and then top with ginger beer. Stir gently to combine and garnish with a lime wedge.

6. Ti' punch

13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year
A ti' punch keeps it simple to showcase the flavor of rhum agricole.bhofack2/Getty Images

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. rhum agricole
  • 1 bar spoon cane syrup
  • 1 lime disc

The ti' punch is the official drink of the island of Martinique and first appeared in the historical record in 1890. It's an expression of the classic combination of rum, sugar, and lime that you see in almost every rum cocktail.

"It's gotta be rhum agricole in the ti' punch," says DiMonriva, "Rhum agricole is a product of Martinique and this is the national drink. It's just not the same drink with another rum."

Advertisement

To make a ti' punch, take your lime disc and express the juice from the lime into a rocks glass, then rub the peel around the sides of the glass. Add the rum and cane syrup and stir to combine. Cover the drink with crushed ice and swizzle to mix, then top with more crushed ice.

This drink is sometimes served as a mix-it-yourself cocktail. "If you go to Martinique and order a ti' punch, they give you a glass, a packet of sugar, your rum, a little spoon, and a lime disc and you build it in the glass yourself," says DiMonriva.

7. Jungle bird

13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year
The bitterness of the Campari cuts the sweetness of the sugar.bhofack2/Getty Images

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ oz. dark rum
  • 1 ½ oz. pineapple juice
  • ¾ oz. Campari
  • ½ oz. simple syrup
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • Garnish: pineapple wedge

The jungle bird can trace its origins to the Kuala Lumpur Hilton in Malaysia in the 1970s. "The Jungle Bird is nice because somebody figured out they can cut the sugar in the drink by adding a bitter and decided to put Campari in it," says DiMonriva. "The pineapple juice and Campari combination is just killer."

To make a jungle bird, add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain, pour into a glass over crushed ice, and garnish with a pineapple wedge.

Advertisement

8. Mary Pickford

13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year
Grenadine gives the Mary Pickford its color.bLAZER76/Getty Images

Ingredients

This cocktail was created in the 1920s at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Cuba in honor of the film actress. Mary Pickford. Like many classic cocktails of the prohibition era, the recipe was enshrined in Harry Craddock's 1930 book of recipes, "The Savoy Cocktail Book."

The Mary Pickford is a typical shaken cocktail. To make, combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake until chilled and diluted, about 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and serve.

9. Piña colada

13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year
A piña colada can be served frozen or on the rocks.5PH/Getty Images

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. light rum
  • 1 oz. Jamaican rum
  • 1 ½ oz. pineapple juice
  • ½ oz. coconut cream
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • Garnish: pineapple leaf

The piña colada, much like the daiquiri, is best known as a blended drink served in tropical locales on the beach. There is some debate about the origins of this cocktail, but it is believed to have originated in San Juan, Puerto Rico in the 1950s.

Advertisement

This recipe makes a simplified, yet still delicious piña colada. No blender necessary. Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well until combined. Strain and pour into a glass and then fill with pebble ice. Garnish with an optional pineapple leaf.

10. El Presidente

13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year
Serve El Presidente neat in a coupe glass.bhofack2/Getty Images

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ oz. rum
  • 1 ½ oz. blanc vermouth
  • ¼ oz. dry curaçao
  • 1 dash angostura bitters
  • 1 bar spoon grenadine
  • Garnish: orange twist

El Presidente is a Cuban drink with some similarities to the martini and Manhattan. The first known recipe for El Presidente was printed in 1915, and the creation of the drink is attributed to Constantino Ribalaigua, of Bar La Florida in Cuba.

To make this drink, combine all ingredients into a mixing glass and stir with ice until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a twist of orange peel. It's recommended by both DiMonriva and cocktail historian David Wondrich to use a Chamberey style blanc vermouth which is a bit sweeter than dry vermouths and balances nicely with the other ingredients in this drink.

11. Corn 'n oil

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. blackstrap rum
  • ¾ oz. Jamaican rum
  • ½ falernum
  • 5 dashes angostura bitters
  • 1 lime wedge

The corn 'n oil is a classic Caribbean cocktail. It is believed to hail from Barbados, though its history is a bit murky. "It's a very historic drink and people are very passionate about it," says DiMonriva. The "oil" from the name, refers to the rich, dark color of the blackstrap rum.

Advertisement

With classic cocktails like the corn 'n oil, there are often many ways to prepare it. "My corn 'n oil is based on the specs from [Sasha Petraske's New York bar] Milk and Honey. It's a really great modern variation," says DiMonriva.

To make this drink, add all of the ingredients into a rock glass, including the lime wedge. Muddle the ingredients to juice the lime and express the oils from the rind. Add ice to the glass and stir until fully mixed and chilled.

12. Hotel Nacional

13 classic rum cocktails for a tropical pick-me-up any time of year
The combination of apricot and pineapple give this drink a golden hue.bhofack2/Getty Images

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. white rum
  • ½ oz. apricot liqueur
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice
  • ½ oz. lime juice

This variation on the daiquiri is named after the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Cuba, where it was created. Its first appearance in recipe books dates back to 1931 in Charles H. Baker's "The Gentleman's Companion." There is a little confusion as to which bartender invented the hotel's signature drink, but whoever it was sure knew how to mix a cocktail.

To make a Hotel Nacional, combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds until chilled and diluted. Strain into a chilled glass and serve without a garnish.

Advertisement

13. Blackbird

Ingredients

  • ¾ oz. gold Jamaican rum
  • ¾ oz. Campari
  • 3/3 oz. Mr. Black coffee liqueur
  • 1 ½ oz. pineapple juice
  • ¾ oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz. rich simple syrup (2:1 sugar to water ratio)
  • Garnish: Orange wedge

The blackbird is a modern variation on the jungle bird with the notable twist of coffee liqueur. This recipe is a creation of Mr. Black's Stephen Kurpinsky, who was looking for a way to combine coffee liqueur with tropical flavors.

To make the blackbird, mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake thoroughly until mixed and chilled. Strain and pour into a glass over ice and garnish with an orange wedge.

Insider's takeaway

When you're in the mood for a quick escape to a tropical locale, a rum cocktail like the mai tai or ti' punch is just what you need. Many rum drinks, especially of the tiki cocktail variety, are fruit-forward and easy-drinking.

Though some call for a long list of ingredients, the most classic rum cocktail, the daiquiri, calls for nothing more than your favorite rum, simple syrup, and lime juice. There are many distinct styles of rum, and although they're all distilled from sugar, each contributes different flavors to the drink it's included in.

{{}}