Rum is delicious and by far my favorite spirit. Not just because I have a sweet tooth, but because it is such a versatile category. It is made in so many different countries, which means depending on where it’s from will dictate what it tastes like. For National Rum Day I wanted to go over a brief history of the spirit, characteristics, and of course how it can be used in cocktails.
Rum is a spirit distilled from the fermented juice of sugarcane, sugarcane syrup, sugarcane molasses, or other sugarcane by-products. Sugarcane was introduced to the New World by European explorers starting with Christopher Columbus, and the invention of rum — or at least the fermented “wash” it’s distilled from — is thought to have occurred by accident. Basically, the molasses, which had been considered a useless waste product of the sugar refining process, was observed expelling bubbles when left to mingle with the warm, humid tropical air. Sugar manufacturers rightly identified this phenomenon as fermentation: wild, airborne yeasts were getting at the sugar content left in the molasses and releasing carbon dioxide. They knew that with those bubbles came alcohol, too, and it wasn’t long before fermented molasses became the basis for a distilled spirit, which we now know as rum.
Rum is distilled at less than 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof) and bottled at no less than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof), maybe except for some flavored ones which are less. The legal definition of rum tends to vary from country to country, so establishing a strict definition that applies to all rum from everywhere is impossible. What’s consistent, though, is that rum is always made from molasses, sugarcane juice, or other cane by-products. Factors that influence rum style is source of sugar, yeast type, length of fermantation, type of still, type of barrel, time in barrel, and strength of rum at distillation or bottling.
- White/Light/Silver: Light bodied, crisp, and subtle in flavor, these rums are highly mixable. They marry very well with fruit flavors, so they’re excellent for daiquiris and piña coladas. A common misconception about white rum is that it’s unaged. White rum is aged in oak barrels for a short period of time to smooth out the flavors; it’s then charcoal filtered to remove color.
- Gold: Medium bodied and a little stronger in flavor than light rums, gold rums are aged in oak barrels. Like light rums, they mix well into fruity cocktails.
- Dark/Black: Full-bodied, with rich caramel flavors, these rums are usually pot-stilled and aged for long periods. Used in tiki preparations such as the Mai Tai, the best of these rums are also sippable on their own, neat or on ice.
- Rhum agricole: Full-bodied rums, made from sugarcane juice instead of molasses. As with molasses-based rum, agricoles range the color spectrum, from white to gold to dark. Agricoles are often funky and have floral and vegetal aromas and flavors.
- Cachaça: This is called the rum of Brazil. The major difference between cachaça and common rum is in the juice. Most rum is distilled from sugarcane juice that has been processed into molasses, which has a higher sugar content. This makes cachaça have a more grassy, herbaceous flavor than its relative.
Other types are Navy Rum which is the kind formerly given to members of the British Navy. It’s usually proofed at 50% ABV or higher. Overproof rums refer to those with an ABV over standard value, usually 60% ABV (120 proof) or higher.
I’ve rounded up some of my favorite cocktails that I have created to get you inspired to drink rum on this most special holiday! 😉
Pineapple Old Fashioned– Plantation pineapple rum, campari, allspice, and macadamia nut orgeat.
Frozen Passionfruit Daiquiri– White rum, Jamaican rum, lime juice, honey, passionfruit syrup, and tiki bitters.
Frozen Caribbean Coffee– Jamaican Rum, coffee liqueur, coconut, cold brew, and coffee gelato.
Piña Colada Popsicles– Coconut milk, coconut cream, dark rum, pineapple juice, and lime zest.
Coconut Guava Daiquiri– Dark rum, lime juice, coconut milk, simple syrup, and fresh guava.
Boozy Matcha Latte– White Rum, almond milk, matcha, orgeat, and coconut whipped cream.
Dark ‘N Stormy Popsicles– Gosling’s rum, ginger beer, fresh ginger syrup, lime juice, and lime wheels.
Mango Mai Tai– Jamaican Rum, curaçao, orgeat, lime juice, and fresh mango.
I hope you all get to enjoy your National Rum Day. What will you be doing today to celebrate? Is there a rum cocktail that’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments below. Happy sipping! xo