Typically associated with tropical drinks or summertime, rum comes in an impressive array of flavors and complexities.
The Making of Rum
Like other spirits, rum is made by fermentation, specifically by distilling sugarcane molasses. Following the distillation, the resulting liquid is then typically aged in oak barrels. Rums are generally produced in the Caribbean, as well as North and South America.
Rums are differentiated by their grades, such as light rums, dark rums, golden rums, spiced rums, coconut rums, and navy rums. It's actually quite an extensive list!
Which Rum Is Which?
There are roughly eight different grades of rum, but it's best to focus on the ones that most frequently populate cocktail recipes.
Commonly known as silver or white rums, light rums have the most neutral palette of all the rums. They're a bit milder than other rums, but with a strong yet pleasant flavor of sweetness. Their smooth and subdued flavors mean they're popular in mixed drinks. Because of this, light rums are most often seen in a mojito, daiquiri, and between the sheet -- all cocktails that would otherwise be overpowered by other spirits.
Gold and Dark Rums
Sometimes known as amber rums, gold and dark rums have a bold flavor and an amber or golden hue. Unlike light rums, they aren't filtered after aging, giving them that hue, along with the wooden barrels. The same is true for brown rums. These rums will have a bit more flavor than light rums, but their bold profiles make for great cocktails. These rums make up rum punches, hurricanes, and rum runners. Dark rum, specifically, is found in a dark and stormy, as well as a garnish float in the mai tai, should a more traditional recipe be followed.
One of the most popular rums, these rums are loved for their spiced yet sweet characteristic flavor. The spice and caramel flavors are a result of cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom, among other ingredients, that are mixed in during the distilling process. Its sweetly bold profile makes for unique cocktails, including a spiced mojito, spiced rum punch, or a simple cola and spiced rum. Captain Morgan drinks are another delicious example.
Overproof and Navy Rums
These grades of rum have a much higher alcohol by volume than other rums. These aren't consumed straight, but are mixed into cocktails, often with other rums, punches, hurricanes, zombies, and grog.
Coconut and other flavored rums are commonly infused with sweet or fruit flavors. Think bananas, coconuts, and pineapple. These rums don't pack a punch the way navy or overproof rums might, and they can often be mixed with just club soda, as well. They work well in tropical drinks or add a new element to a typically light rum-based cocktail, such as a pineapple mojito or banana daiquiri.
Daiquiris and Other Rum Drinks
A few misconceptions about rum is that it's only for complicated cocktails or tropical drinks, although all are delicious. Rum also doesn't exclusively belong to cold, frozen cocktails. In fact, the classic daiquiri was never served frozen. The recipe was nothing other than rum, lime juice, and simple syrup, shaken up, and served straight up with a lime wheel.
Tropical rum cocktails do often have a longer list of ingredients, but it's often comprised of juices and different grades of rums, very few of which are difficult to find or tricky to find alternate uses for. However, the mojitos, dark and stormy, rum collins, and hot buttered rum are all easily and quickly constructed rum cocktails that can be tropical or just an enjoyable cocktail that happens to include rum, be it warm, such as a mulled cider, or chilled, as in the classic rum and cola. Rum can be mixed with just about anything to make a remarkable cocktail. The Miami Vice drink recipe is an amazing testiment to that fact.
Rum For It
Rum is an exceptionally broad spirit, with so many hues and varying flavors, bold profiles, and sweetness, there's no reason to not play with rum in both classic and modern cocktails. Rum is also super food-friendly, so you can pair it with your favorite meals and snacks. Consider swapping spirits in your old-fashioned for a spiced rum or incorporating a flavored rum into your mojito. Rum can also be used to make a fun spin on a flavored martini, or try it out in that decadently garnished tropical cocktail. Either way, stir up some rum.