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We Asked 25 Bartenders: What’s the Best Rum for Cocktails? (2024)

If your home bar shows a conspicuous absence of rum despite an affinity for Daiquiris, then you’ve come to the right place. Seeking the best rums for cocktails, we asked bartenders around the world for their go-to bottles behind the bar. And with warmer weather officially around the corner, who isn’t in the mood to add a new rum or two to their liquor cabinet?

Thankfully, our experts’ selections cover a range of styles. So whether you’re pining for a Mai Tai, an Old Fashioned, or a frosty Piña Colada, there’s a rum for any occasion — along with plenty of sippers and blends perfect for elevating any other cocktail. Here, the best rums for mixing into cocktails. (Note: multiple bartenders included expressions from Plantation, which has since rebranded as Planteray. We’ve included our sources’ original language as they shared it.)

The best rums for cocktails, according to bartenders:

Havana Club 86 proof Añejo Blanco
Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black Rum
Rhum J.M. Terroir Volcanique
Probitas Rum
El Dorado 12 Year
Planteray White Rum
Ten to One Caribbean Rum
El Dorado Cask Aged 3 Year Rum
Rhum Clément VSOP
White Haitian Rums
El Dorado 3 Year
Paranubes Rum
Diplomático Rum
Ten to One Five Origin Select
Worthy Park 109 Proof
San Zanj White Rum
Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Rum
Uruapan Charanda Añejo Rum
El Dorado 5 Year
Denizen Aged White Rum
Flor de Caña 7 Year
Copalli Rum
Santa Teresa 1796
The Real McCoy 5 Year
Plantation Original Dark Rum
Smith & Cross
Ten to One Dark Rum
Banks 5 Island
Wray & Nephew
Barbancourt 3 Star
Doctor Bird Pineapple Rum
Papa’s Pilar
Plantation O.F.T.D.
Planteray Isle of Fiji
R.L. Seale 12 Year

“My favorite all-around rum for mixing cocktails is Havana Club 86 proof Añejo Blanco. It’s an extremely smooth and clean-tasting rum, but has enough body and flavor to stand out in tropical cocktails.” —Ruairi Gilles, director of beverage, Crawford’s Social, Westlake Village, Calif.

“Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black Rum is a great rum for mixing cocktails. It’s pretty funky, vegetal, and aromatic. Overall, it has a much bolder flavor compared to other dark rums because of how it’s processed.” —Fionna Gemzon, bar manager, None of the Above, St. Louis

“When it comes to rum, the old adage ‘what one rum can’t do, three rums can’ still rings true. But if I had to pick one, it’s Rhum J.M. Volcanique. It’s great and interesting as a sipper or [in an] Old Fashioned, and so yummy in a Daiquiri.” —Andy May, head bartender, The Golden Swan, NYC

“A rum I absolutely love for cocktails is Probitas, a beautiful blend from Foursquare in Barbados and Hampden Estate in Jamaica. The rum carries a 47 percent ABV and a bit of funk, and will elevate your Daiquiri time after time.” —Marshall Minaya, beverage director, Lolita, Madame George, and Valerie, NYC

“I am a fan of using both light and dark rums in cocktails. I prefer a fiery rhum agricole, like J.M., that is caney and aromatic, and a really aged dark rum like El Dorado 12 Year that brings broader complexity to cocktails. I often use both in one recipe.” —Aviram Turgeman, beverage director, Chef Driven Hospitality Group (Acadia, Barbounia, Monterey, Marseille, Nice Matin, and Dagon), NYC

“Rum is an incredibly diverse spirit with a lot of different styles for mixing a lot of different cocktails. I would keep at least three rums of hand depending on how you’re using it. If you are looking to keep it basic — Daiquiris, Mojitos, etc. — I would stick to a standard white rum. We really like Planteray White Rum because of its neutral flavor and high quality.” —Joey Smith, bar director, Chez Zou, NYC

“The best rum for mixing cocktails would be Ten to One Caribbean rum. A nice-styled spirit that you can enjoy sipping and or [in] cocktails and you don’t have to worry about an overload of sweetness that will take away from the elegance of the spirit. It comes with a nice baking spice, light smokiness from tobacco, and banana flavors. Also, the price is not very expensive, so [it’s] a great rum to purchase and enjoy that is wallet-friendly!” —Mike Ross, bartender, Gravitas, Washington, D.C.

“There’s no better rum for mixing than El Dorado Cask Aged 3 Year Rum. It’s got buttery, raisin, and tropical fruit notes with the right amount of pungent grassiness. And the price is great as well.” —Rob Krueger, bar manager, Smith & Mills Rockefeller Center, NYC

“I love the storied history of rum and can geek out on it, so it’s difficult to pick just one. If I’m making a classic Daiquiri or Cuba Libre, I have to go with Plantation 3 Stars. It’s such an amazing blend from three of the Caribbean’s most noteworthy sugarcane regions: Barbados, Trinidad, and Jamaica. This rum has the perfect balance of a rich mouthfeel, finesse, and brightness. Just a tiny hint of lime really does wonders for the expression. If I’m making a richer and juicier cocktail, I’d probably reach for Clément VSOP, a rhum agricole from Martinique that develops and softens as it ages. It’s perfect for a tangerine shrub or a citrus rum-based bramble. Clément VSOP is really a match made in heaven for orange, almond (such as an orgeat), and other floral flavors.” —Wayne Duprey, food & beverage manager, El Encanto, A Belmond Hotel, Santa Barbara, Calif.

“I usually go with white rums for cocktails, as I find it is most versatile. Classic white rums exude freshness, fruitiness, and a vibrant character, making them perfect for cocktails like Daiquiris or Mojitos. I suggest exploring white Haitian rums, which can be expensive but work beautifully with other ingredients. On the other hand, dark rums are aged longer, which imbues them with the characteristics of their aging barrels and gives them more complexity. I prefer to enjoy them neat, but they can also enhance classic or signature cocktails if mixologists balance the aromatic nuances carefully.” —Pantaleone “Leo” Zoccali, bar manager, Hotel Eden Roc, Ascona, Switzerland

“For a classic Daiquiri, El Dorado 3 Year is great-tasting with a clean finish that is also cost effective. But if you were trying to be wild, I would go with something like Paranubes, which is an Oaxacan agricole rum that has this wild, grassy, vegetal taste that tastes like raw sugar cane. For something darker [and] richer like a Mai Tai or Rum Old Fashioned, I would go with something like Diplomático, a Venezuelan rum with rich, dark notes of spices and fruits that make it great by itself, let alone in a drink. For my wild choice, I would pick Ten to One Five Origin Select, a blend of [rums from] Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad, Dominican Republic, and Barbados. This rum is a journey in all the right ways, like the best parts of each of the islands: notes of agricole and wood-barrel [aging] followed by richness and silky malt sugar.” —Evan Hawkins, co-owner and beverage director, Romeo’s, NYC

“In the spirit of blending rums, as most notably done in the Mai Tai, we’ve been having a lot of luck with an equal-parts blend of Worthy Park 109 with Ak Zanj’s San Zanj white rum. The depth and richness of the aged Jamaican rum brings [out] brighter notes of the unaged Haitian blend of agricole and clairin to create the resonant harmony. They especially shine when paired with dark fruit liqueurs subbed in for simple syrup in a Daiquiri-style cocktail.” —Thomas Máthé, head bartender, L’Avenue at Saks, NYC

“Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Rum is the third collaboration from Alexandre Gabriel and David Wondrich, made specifically with bartenders in mind. The name and blend is an homage to a character in Charles Dickens’ first novel, Reverend Stiggins, whose drink of choice is pineapple rum. This spirit just hits all the right notes when thinking about a rum-based concoction. The subtle pineapple flavor — the result of a Queen Victoria-based pineapple distillate and maceration — blends seamlessly with smoke, warm spice, brown sugar, and banana, resulting in a very versatile rum.” —Dana Lachenmayer, head bartender, The Wesley, NYC

“Rum is growing to be more than just brands like Bacardi; you have more thoughtful producers creating rums that represent terroir and culture. The rum that we currently use at Claro, Uruapan Charanda Añejo Rum, hits home since it comes from the state in Mexico [where] my parents were born. Not only do I have a personal connection to this, it’s also very delicious on its own or mixed in cocktails. With flavor notes of tropical fruits and spice, it takes our cocktails to the next level. We currently use the Charanda Añejo in our take on the Carajillo cocktail, which also includes Oaxacan cold brew, Licor 43, Giffard Banane du Brésil liqueur, and chocolate dust.” —Eric Torres, general manager, Claro, Brooklyn

“El Dorado 5 Year rum is one of my absolute favorite rums for anything ever. Being that it has some age on it, it is very smooth and easy to drink neat or on the rocks. It also mixes incredibly well with citrus. I love it in any form of a Daiquiri, because it adds a little bit of that rounded quality that you may not get with other rums — especially white rum — but it still carries a brightness to it. Lastly, for being a five-year rum, the price is more than enticing. It can definitely be something special, but can also be used as a workhorse behind any bar or at home.” —Alex Cuper, wine and beverage director, El Che and Brasero, Chicago

“In the world of mixing rum into cocktails, most tiki enthusiasts will go on and on about their house rum blends, because it is hard to find one single rum that can provide the complexity desired for a good mixed drink. One of my favorite versatile rums on the market is Denizen Aged White rum because it has beautiful grassy notes that you might expect from an agricole, but it’s not so funky that it will be polarizing. It blends heavier-bodied rum with medium-weight rum to create tropical notes, toasted coconut, and touches of wood and vanilla.” —Collin Griffith, beverage director, Corrida, Boulder, Colo.

“I’ve got this thing for Flor de Caña 7 Year from Nicaragua. It’s just so rich and has this awesome full-bodied vibe with hints of caramel, vanilla, and a bit of spice thrown in. The fun part is it’s aged for seven years, so it’s super smooth and mellow — perfect for sipping neat or mixing into cocktails without taking over the whole flavor. You can play around with it in all sorts of drinks, from a classic Daiquiri to a Rum Old Fashioned. Over at Riverpark, we’ve even got our twist on the Daiquiri using Flor de Caña 7 Year. Oscar, our head bartender, had this genius idea to mix it with dry vermouth and throw in some lemon and vanilla, making it a hit among our guests.” —Greg DeVico, beverage director, Riverpark and Versa, NYC

“Copalli Rum from Belize is one of my favorites, not only for its taste but for its sustainability and community building. Truly a closed-loop spirit through its harvesting and distillation, everything that goes [into it] is reused or repurposed for the next batch. [The brand is] the largest employer in Belize besides the government, [and] they have spent time reinvesting back into the community [by] aiding in raising the minimum wage and working on more robust workers’ rights. A great choice even if I didn’t like the juice, but it happens to make a banger of a Daiquiri as well!” —Max Green, bar director, The Hospitality Department (Press Club Grille and Point Seven), NYC

“I would have to say that it depends on the cocktail that’s being made. In an Old Fashioned, I use either Santa Teresa 1796 or The Real McCoy 5 Year, both of which are on the drier end of the rum spectrum. I would reach for something different when shaking up a cocktail with a fruitier profile. For a Hotel Nacional, I suggest a rum with a slightly sweeter profile like Plantation Dark. Smith & Cross rum makes a great Daiquiri, as well as Foursquare Probitas for a little less funk. If I had to choose one rum for mixing cocktails, I would choose two from the same brand. Depending on the cocktail, I would use Ten to One White rum or Ten to One Dark rum. Ten to One White is an amazing blend of unaged rum from the Dominican Republic and funkier rum from Jamaica. This makes it perfect for a classic Daiquiri, a Mojito, a Hemingway Daiquiri, or even a Piña Colada. Ten to One Dark makes great cocktails like a Rum Old Fashioned, Hotel Nacional, Old Cuban, or a Rum Manhattan-style drink.” —Nick Jackson, head bartender, The Rum House, NYC

“I love to work with my own rum blends. Rum itself has so much depth, so blending them can highlight the different flavors. When I come up with a new rum blend that works, it’s almost as fun as coming up with a new cocktail altogether. One of my current favorites right now is Banks 5 [blended] with a splash of Wray and Nephew, especially for Daiquiris. Barbancourt 3 Star with Doctor Bird Pineapple has this incredible toffee and bananas Foster flavor that’s great for any cocktail with ginger. For any cocktail that calls for a darker blend, I love Papa’s Pilar with Plantation O.F.T.D.; the combination of vanilla, cocoa, and raisin flavors spirals deeper and deeper.” —Daniel King, Bar Manager, Evelyn’s at Hutton Hotel, Nashville, Tenn.

“El Dorado 12 Year is my favorite rum to mix into cocktails. At cost, it’s friendly for well prices and possesses strong tropical fruit flavors, and the sweetness of this sugar cane distillate is almost like charred honey. It works as a sipping rum which is useful in spirit-forward cocktails, but also cocktails with citrus, fresh fruits, and baking spices.” —Steve Martin, head bartender, Figure Eight, NYC

“Imagine a Venn diagram with three circles representing English-, Spanish-, and French-style rum profiles. For a versatile workhorse rum, I’d recommend something at the intersection of hogo and esters, rich and juicy, and grassy and dank. Planteray Isle of Fiji is that ultimate center ring. It encapsulates the entire rum spectrum with esters, age, tropical fruit, and spices. Perfect for anything from Old Cubans to El Presidentes, it serves as a gateway for introducing guests to the diverse world of rums. ” —Mark Mentzel, bar manager, Order of the Ace, Baltimore

“R.L. Seale 12 Year Old. This blend of pot and column still rum from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados could be the measuring stick for the category. It is well-matured at 12 years old and with a full-bodied balance of spice and oak. This rum tastes incredible right out of the bottle and, therefore, makes great cocktails. It makes killer sour drinks like Daiquiris and is a star in stirred drinks. If you make a bad cocktail with R.L. Seale 12 it may be time to reconsider your cocktail skills, because I can assure you it wasn’t the fault of this gem of a rum.” —Kevin Beary, beverage director, Three Dots & A Dash, Chicago

“My current favorite mixing rum is Uruapan’s Charanda Blanco. This is a great showcase of all the different facets of rum distillation. It is 50 percent pot still and 50 percent column still, fermented with 50 percent sugar cane and 50 percent molasses. Coming from the state of Michoacán in Mexico, it lends a fantastic tropical fruit note without too much of the aggressive edge you can get in some rums. The ABV is 46 percent, so not aggressively high, but will give some oomph in a rum blend. It is also a great substitute for Cachaça, which can be hard to find in Pennsylvania.” —Tom Brander, beverage manager, Wilder, Philadelphia

“Rum is one of the most flexible and exciting categories, and so many people think of it as sweet due to its source material of sugar cane and or molasses. If you want a brown sugar-forward example, you can look to Demerara options from Guyana. If you want grassier and brighter, look to agricole from Martinique, Haiti, or Marie-Galante. And if you want something more banana-y and ester-y, Jamaica has you covered. In terms of the most flexible in this already wide-reaching spirit family for cocktails, I usually opt for a white blend called Probitas, with juice from the legendary producers Foursquare in Barbados and Hampden Estate in Jamaica. It has a little bit of everything you look for in a mixing rum, without succumbing to the one-note flavors of the bigger producers and single-region products that might work well in some uses and awfully in others. The sign of a great cocktail rum is a classic Daiquiri, a drink where Probitas shines, but it can also hold up against other spirits in split-base uses. Try it with Calvados in a Mai Tai riff!” —Cody Pruitt, manager + beverage director, Libertine, NYC

The article We Asked 25 Bartenders: What’s the Best Rum for Cocktails? (2024) appeared first on VinePair.

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