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Best rums for cocktails

There’s a delicious selection of classic rum cocktail recipes – made using both light and dark rum. But which bottles are best for mixing? Laura Foster recommends top rums for your home bar. 

Of all the spirits categories in all the world, rum is the most diverse and expressive. From light, bright rums, through to darker, full-flavoured aged options. Right up to the higher-strength navy and overproof rums.

There is a seemingly endless amount of products to explore. It goes to follow, therefore, that  list of classic cocktails that can be made with this wonderful spirit is just as varied.

There are citrusy, lifted and refreshing drinks, such as Daiquiris and Mojitos, that some would argue are perfect for any time or occasion. Fresh and fruity Piña Coladas and Rum Punches are ideal for hot summer days and holidays.

Not forgetting simple-to-make yet delicious highballs such as Dark N Stormys and Cuba Libres. As well as more tropical drinks such as Mai Tais and Rum Swizzles.

When it comes to choosing rums for mixing, a basic home bar needs both a decent light rum and a dark rum. These two will cover most of the bases for any budding home bartender.

If you’re selecting light rums for cocktails, then clean, approachable yet complex flavours are best. Meanwhile, for dark rums, rich, aged spirits hailing from Barbados or Jamaica are a good place to start.

Best rums for cocktails

Appleton Estate 12 Year Old

If you want a decadent dark rum to mix with, look no further than Appleton Estate’s 12 Year Old. An orange peel character – classically found in all Appleton’s rums – sits with juicy red fruits, dark stone fruits and cereal notes of oats and wheat. This is one for stirred-down rum cocktails – Rum Negronis and Old Fashioneds, and El Presidente, to name a few. Alc 43%

Banks 5 Island Rum

You’d expect a rum co-founded by world-class bartender Jim Meehan to have good mixability – and this doesn’t disappoint. It’s a blend of rums from Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana, plus some Batavia arrack (otherwise known as the forebear of rum). from Java. Plenty of character in this light rum, with notes of lime, passion fruit, brown sugar and green tea. Alc 43%

Doorly’s 5 Year Old

Doorly’s rums are made at the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. Aged in ex-bourbon barrels, this golden rum has notes of passion fruit and orange that mingle with dulce de leche, brown sugar and some desiccated coconut. A versatile option for cocktails requiring an aged rum, it works especially well in a Corn n Oil. Alc 40%

Mount Gay Black Barrel

While Mount Gay pushes its Eclipse expression as the go-to mixing rum in its portfolio, Black Barrel boasts more pot still spirit in its blend and is also finished in heavily charred ex-bourbon barrels. The result is a punchier dark spirit, with sweet Christmas spices, a big dose of vanilla and orange zest. Try it in a Rum Old Fashioned. Alc 43%

Plantation Original Dark

A blend of Bajan and Jamaican rum that is then aged in wooden vats in France. Aromas of cola cubes, lime zest, maraschino cherry and treacle lead to a gentle palate of plum clafoutis, more cherry, cinnamon, clove and black tea. Particularly good in highballs such as a Dark N Stormy or Cuba Libre. Alc 40%

Renegade Rum Old Bacolet Pot Still

Much pricier than the rest of the list, this terroir-driven light rum is a decadent offering. It’s produced in Grenada in the style of rhum agricole – meaning it’s made from sugarcane juice as opposed to molasses – but geographically it can’t be labelled agricole. Light and citrussy up front, with lime and pear notes that give way to mellow caramel, nutmeg and star anise. Try in a Ti’ Punch. Alc 50%

That Boutique-y Rum Company Signature Blend #1

A blended light rum developed by Peter Holland of the Floating Rum Shack and the team at That Boutique-y…, this liquid was created with Daiquiris in mind. A combination of dark rum from Jamaica and unaged rum from Martinique. Funky tropical fruit – bananas, mangoes, pineapple – and caramel is tempered with drying tea tannins and grassy sugarcane. Alc 42%


A collaboration between two of the most respected rum brands in the world, Veritas is a blend of rums from Foursquare Distillery in Barbados and Hampden Estate in Jamaica. Pineapple leaf and vanilla aromas lead onto a restrained palate of pineapple, banana, pear, macadamia nuts and a sprinkling of demerara sugar. A versatile light mixing rum. Alc 47%

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