Congress may have declared bourbon “America’s Native Spirit” in 1964, but another spirit ruled the Americas for over a hundred years before bottling fermented corn mash was even a sparkle in Kentuckian eyes.
In the 17th century, New World colonizers discovered that instead of discarding molasses, the after product of sugar cane production, they could distill it. Originally called “rumbullion” (derived from rum bouse — “good liquor”) and “kill devil” for its high alcohol content and less than savory taste, few products had more of an effect on the early history of this country. As fermenting molasses became more sophisticated, the spirit grew more refined and eminently more enjoyable.
To celebrate this invention and evolution, National Rum Day (observed on August 16) now extends to the entire month. August, National Rum Month, is an appropriately hot and sticky time to enjoy rum libations. Here to help us mix some of the Earth’s best rum cocktails are some of the best New World rum makers. Get your shakers ready, knives sharp, and cocktail glasses chilled. It’s time to learn the coolest rum drinks to allay the hottest days (or warm up any time of year).
Bridgetown Sour, Mount Gay
Barbados was the likely originator of the spiced grog. It’s therefore proper to begin an article on rum month with a rum from the Caribbean island. Bottled since 1703, Mount Gay’s Black Barrel is an intense, aromatic choice aged in “deeply-charred” bourbon casks.
Contrast this bold juice with citrus and you’ve got a potent cocktail worthy to be dubbed after Barbados’ capital.
- 1.5oz Black Barrel
- 0.75oz fresh lime juice
- 0.5oz vanilla syrup
- 0.5oz almond syrup
- 1 dash Angostura Bitters
Method: Pour all ingredients into a shaker. Add ice, and shake. Fine strain into a chilled coupette glass.
White, silky, and smooth with delicate notes of citrus and vanilla, SelvaRey Rum is the perfect mixer to make tropical drinks sing — Mai Tai’s, daiquiris, and the classic Piña Colada.
- 1.5 oz. SelvaRey Coconut Rum
- 3 oz. pineapple juice
- 1 oz. cream of coconut
- squeeze of lime
Method: Pour over ice in a rocks glass and stir.
Sailor Jerry gets rum cocktail fans in on the classic Caribbean drinks with a twist on the mai tai. A true Caribbean rum, the spirit’s bold and rich spiced character offers notes of cinnamon and nutmeg with a subdued, sweet dry finish. It’s perfect for watching brilliant sunsets on the bright blue sea in the West Indies.
- 1 oz. Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
- 0.5 oz. lime juice
- 0.25 oz. Orgeat (almond syrup)
- 0.5 oz. dry Curacao
Method: Add all ingredients into a tin with a small scoop of crushed ice. Whip shake and dump into glass. Top with crushed ice. Garnish with an orange wheel.
Bacardí Reserva Ocho is a higher-end version of its white rum made for both sipping and mixed cocktail. Based on the original recipe from the Bacardí family rum reserves from 1862, Bacardí Reserva Ocho has warming notes of butterscotch, nutmeg, and dried apricots. Barrel-aged for a minimum of eight years, the rum turns gold in the process. The end product’s rich, velvety body in the simple yet classic Bacardí Ocho Old Fashioned.
- 2 oz. Bacardí Reserva Ocho
- 0.25 ounces simple syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Method: Add all ingredients into a rocks glass, fill with ice and stir until well mixed and very cold. Garnish with orange peel.
Old Havana, Papa’s Pilar Rum
It wouldn’t be an article about American rum without mention of its most famous aficionado, great American writer Ernest Hemingway.
In honor of the man who spent much of his adult life in the American tropics, Papa’s Pilar rum mixes hand-selected rums from North, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean to marry them together with a proprietary solera (barreling) process. Try a sip with a nod to early 20th-century life in Cuba.
- 1.5 oz Papa’s Pilar Dark Rum
- 0.5 oz Sweet Vermouth
- Ginger beer
Method: Add rum and vermouth over rocks in an Old Fashioned glass. Fill with ginger beer. Garnish with grapefruit.
A counterpoint to balsamic vinegar drinks, the distiller Bianca has introduced a sweet wine vinegar. Its bright and versatile flavor profile elevates original drink recipes from master mixologist Jillian Vose. In this case, the smooth, spicy flavor of Bacardí Ocho Rum entwines with sweet liqueurs to deliver a distinct twist on maybe the classic drink: the martini.
- 0.5 tspn. passionfruit syrup
- 0.5 oz Carandini Bianca Sweet White Vinegar
- 0.75 oz Martini & Rossi Ambruata Vermouth
- 0.5 oz Pierre Ferrand Pineau des Charentes
- 1 oz. Bacardí Ocho Rum
Method: In a mixing glass, add liquids and fill with ice. Stir well and strain ice with a julep strainer into a Nick and Nora Glass. Express lemon oils over the top of the finished drink and discard the peel.
Produced in the Dominican Republic for the last five generations, Brugal 1888 Doblemente Añejado premium rum offers balanced depth and smooth complexity. Aged in bourbon and sherry casks for six to eight years, the rum’s woody dryness combines with caramel, vanilla, coffee, and toffee notes.
These flavors fold in wonderfully mixed with the fruity, tart Caribbean flavors in the Daiquiri No. 88, “A daiquiri for the people.”
- 1.5 oz. Brugal 1888
- 0.75 oz. Chinola Passionfruit Liqueur
- 0.5 oz. simple syrup
- 0.5 oz. lemon juice
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Garnish with lemon and lime twists
Pour ingredients over ice in a shaker. Pop the top on and give it a good jiggle. Serve in a cocktail glass.
Now that you’ve got the keys, make sure to get the paper umbrellas, the tiki torches, and the lawn chairs ready for a relaxing, humid day over sweating classic rum mixers.