Are We Enjoying a Rum Renaissance?

Today is National Rum Day, so what better time to explore a spirit often fraught with varied associations, misperceptions, and confusion. And a spirit that – despite all those things – is clearly having a resurgence in the cocktail world.  

To dig into the world of rum, I turned to cocktail genius Lukas Smith of Cotton & Reed (among other fun projects).  I first met Lukas at Dram & Grain speakeasy many years ago and was excited to pick his brain about where fits rum fits into the culture of cocktails today.

Rum across the world: a delicious rum-based cocktail at   Hotel Grande Bretagne   in Athens.

Rum across the world: a delicious rum-based cocktail at Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens.

Lukas rightly pointed out that most people have strong associations – sometimes positive and sometimes negative – with rum. Bacardi’s marketing machine created a “party, party” feel around their rum labels, Malibu made you feel like you were on a beach even if you were in a basement dive bar, and Captain Morgan…. well… who hasn’t had their fair share of college Captain & Cokes?

A tiki cocktail I fell in love with at   Eleven Madison Park.

A tiki cocktail I fell in love with at Eleven Madison Park.

And while we may harbor those associations, we should not let that stop us from enjoying a spirit that is actually incredibly versatile. And, as Lukas noted, “almost every classic vodka drink can be improved by using rum.”

So where to start in the world of rum? A spectacular rum cocktail, according to Lukas (and I would agree), is the daiquiri, whose traditional formula is

2 oz white rum
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz lime juice
In cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Shake vigorously, then strain into cocktail glass. Serve up.

I also agreed with Lukas when he said, “rum and lime is a match made in heaven,” and so who can deny that a classic mojito isn’t a shining example of how good a rum cocktail can be?

8-12 mint leaves
2 oz rum
3/4 oz lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz club soda
Add the simple syrup and mint leaves to a shaker and muddle.  Add rum and lime juice, then shake and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with mint sprig.

For those who lean toward more bitter cocktails, Lukas suggests:

The Italian Daiquiri
1 ½ oz white rum
½ oz Campari
½ oz simple syrup
¾ lemon juice
Combine, shake (or you can even use a blender), serve up.

And a Lukas-Smith-creation served at Cotton & Reed – appropriately named The Redbeard Cocktail (if you know Lukas that makes perfect sense!) is another delicious example of a rum-based cocktail.

Redbeard Cocktail
1 oz white rum
¼ oz Campari
½ oz lemon juice
Ginger beer

Straight build in a Collins glass, top with ginger beer.

If you are hosting an event and want to serve rum, consider frozen cocktail machines that feature rum-based frozen goodness. Lukas has created recipes for frozen cocktails that defy the notion that all frozen rum drinks are sweet. So worth trying! And pre-batched rum cocktails are delicious, as well.  The added benefit of the machines and the pre-batching? No lines at the bar!

Now, if you will excuse me, I am off to make a daiquiri…