How to drink rum
Learn how to drink rum, plus different ways to enjoy this colourful spirit. Read our advice on buying the best bottles for serving neat or in a vibrant cocktail.
Rum is an incredibly versatile drink. In fact, some might feel slightly overwhelmed when first facing its many flavour options – there are white, dark, gold and spiced rums available, alongside many more – but with our help, you’ll see that there’s no need. Rum can be the perfect drink for any occasion, from a beautiful summer’s day picnicking with friends and family, to a cold winter evening when you need some extra warmth by the fire.
Read our review of the best rum taste-tested to see which bottles are suitable for your drinks collection.
What defines rum?
Rum is made by fermenting then distilling sugarcane molasses syrup or juice. All rums must be made from sugarcane, but not all sugarcane spirits are rum.
What's the difference between white, gold, dark and spiced rums?
White rums are generally unaged, though some are aged then filtered to remove any colouring. Gold rums tend to be aged in wooden barrels that colour the liquid after prolonged contact. However, a few cheaper brands add caramel to white rum to give it a golden hue. Dark rums are more of a marketing term – this can mean a white or gold rum that has had a darker caramel colour added to it. Spiced rums are a subcategory and generally sweetened and flavoured by infusion or maceration. Recently, there's been a trend for re-distilling rums with spices, and some call these 'botanical rums'.
How interchangeable are rums in cocktails?
It depends on the drink. We recommend using light rums in cocktails like daiquiris or other sours, and full-bodied rums in drinks like old fashioneds and rum manhattans. There's a rum for every drinker and cocktail.
How to drink rum?
There's no right or wrong way to enjoy rum. Years of marketing campaigns have sought to sell rum as an exclusively summery drink that's best enjoyed by the beach in the sun. While this is true, it does not do justice to the beautiful and versatile flavours that can be packed into rum. It's a year-round drink that you can pair with various ingredients beyond the standard brown sugar, pineapple and coconut.
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Moreover, there are only subtle differences between white and dark rum, as stated above. White and dark rum are identical in most aspects, so we recommend choosing which flavours you prefer for yourself.
Suppose you plan on enjoying your rum neat. The recommendations for consumption follow similarly to those of whisky drinking: start by looking at the rum, give it a swirl and, if you notice any cloudiness in the liquid, take that as a bad sign. Quality dark rum should have a clear amber tint, while white rum should be completely clear, like vodka.
The next step is to smell the rum. This helps you pick up on the initial aroma and may offer a reference point when you get around to that long-awaited first sip.
Finally, when the rum passes your lips, it is not the first sip that should decide your opinion. Take a small first sip to acclimatise your tastebuds, then a more generous mouthful.
Learn more helpful information and tips and how best to cook with rum from our glossary page.
Rum cocktails to try
This classic cocktail consists of only five simple ingredients: white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water and mint. The sweetness, citrus notes and herbaceous mint flavours complement the rum and it's incredibly refreshing – perfect for a lovely summer’s day. Why not try our grapefruit version to elevate this classic cocktail further with some extra tang?
Check out our collection of white rum cocktails for further inspiration.
You’ll know the party has started when you see the appearance of this vibrant rum punch. This easy to make jug can be prepared in less than 5 mins with a medley of sweet-and-sour flavours. Chill for 1 hr before garnishing with two thick orange slices, a pinch of nutmeg and some maraschino cherries. If you’re feeling especially celebratory, why not chuck in a couple of cocktail umbrellas?
Check out our two-step sugar syrup recipe to avoid spending extra cash on a shop-bought bottle.
Try using rum in place of whisky in an old fashioned for a twist on the traditional cocktail. Add a few dashes of herbal Angostura bitters, soda water and a slice of orange.
Check out more of our dark rum cocktails and recommendations for the best dark rums.
Warm yourself up in the colder months with this fabulously decadent cinnamon butter rum. Gently heat the butter, golden caster sugar and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolves. Then, add spiced rum and serve it in heatproof glasses or mugs.