Here are the best classic rum cocktails to make, with either white or dark rum! These popular fruity mixed drinks will please everyone.
We’re not going to lie. Rum cocktails are some of the most delightfully refreshing mixed drinks there are! Rum is often paired with sweet and tangy fruity flavors, making cocktails that are very easy to drink (sometimes too easy). This liquor made from sugar cane became popular in the US as early as the 1700’s, and we’ve been drinking it ever since. (Here’s more on rum history, if you want to geek out.)
Rum stars in some of the most classic cocktails, like the Classic Daiquiri and the Mojito. It’s perfect for spiking frozen drinks like a 1990’s-style frozen daiquiri, and even great in hot drinks like Buttered Rum. Whatever the occasion or season…there’s a rum drink for that.
The most classic of all rum cocktails: the daiquiri! This perfectly balanced cocktail stars lime juice, rum, and simple syrup. A classic daiquiri is not frozen at all. It's served straight up in a cocktail glass and thought to have been invented in the 1800’s in Cuba.
Tied for the other most classic of rum cocktails: the Mojito! The origins of this drink are murky: some say it was invented in the 1500s, others in the 1800's with the birth of the Bacardi rum company. In any case, its place as an iconic Cuban cocktail was solidified by the 1930's when Ernest Hemingway helped to popularize the drink. It's perfectly. balanced with lime, rum and fresh mint and equally as popular today (if not more so).
Ingredients: White rum, simple syrup, lime, mint, soda water
Another popular rum cocktail: the piña colada! This drink originated in Puerto Rico; the name means “strained pineapple” in Spanish. It’s a drink of pineapple juice, rum, and coconut, served either blended or with crushed ice. The original drink was invented in San Juan in 1954 by a bartender named Ramón “Monchito” Marrero. It became an instant favorite and was declared the official drink of Puerto Rico in 1978.
Just 3 ingredients make up this classic cocktail: the Dark and Stormy! This refreshing highball drink has quite the reputation…because it’s just that good. Each ingredient has lots of personality: the rich, earthy dark rum, with vanilla and brown sugar notes. Add to that spicy ginger beer, fruity and filled with effervescent bubbles. Top it off with a squeeze of tangy lime, and there’s not much better for sipping...any time and any season.
Here’s a Cuban cocktail that’s made all over the world…because it’s just that simple. Meet the Cuba Libre! This drink recipe has just 3 ingredients: lime, cola and rum. Perhaps it looks and sounds similar to a drink you know? Yes, this famous Cuban drink is nearly a Rum and Coke…but there are a few subtle differences that make it a distinct drink. This classic cocktail has over 100 years of history and a refreshing, nuanced flavor.
Love fruit drinks but want something more complex? Here’s the drink for you: the Jungle Bird! It’s one of the few rum cocktails to pair tropical flavors with an Italian bitter: Campari. You might know Campari from the ubiquitous Negroni: an ultra dry and bitter drink. But add it to a tropical drink and the effect is surprising. Campari perfectly balances the drink and gives the finish an intriguing complexity. It hits all the right notes: sweet, tart, fruity, and bitter.
Ingredients: Dark rum, pineapple juice, Campari, lime juice, simple syrup
It’s fruity and extra boozy: meet the Hurricane! The Hurricane is a classic New Orleans cocktail made with light and dark rum and passion fruit syrup. The passion fruit gives it a tropical nuance, and a hint of grenadine gives it extra sweetness and a rosy-golden color. It’s a unique rum cocktail that’s festive and fun!
Want a Mojito topped off with champagne? (Yes, please.) Enter the Old Cuban cocktail: one part Mojito, one part French 75. This mashup cocktail is a modern classic created by a famous bartender in the early 2000’s. And it’s truly an incredible drink. It’s minty fresh, with complexity from the bitters and vanilla and coconut notes from the aged rum. Combine it with a splash of bubbles, and it’s a cocktail masterpiece if you ask us!
Frozen daiquiris rose to fame in the 1990's, a popular frozen spinoff on the classic. The flavor of this lime daiquiri is SO tangy and refreshing, just like the original. White rum adds a subtle fruitiness that’s irresistible. It takes just minutes to make.
Ingredients: White rum, lime juice, simple syrup, water
The Mai Tai might sound like a fruity resort drink from the 1990’s, but it’s anything but! No, this drink is a classic cocktail from the 1940’s that’s been (cough) ruined by saccharine sweet versions intended for tourists. How to make a real Mai Tai? It's breathtakingly complex, featuring rum, orange liqueur, and fancy orgeat syrup. It’s just sweet enough, with nutty and vanilla notes against the sharp citrus. Float a little dark rum on top, and you get to the core of a Mai Tai: it’s sophisticated, nuanced, and extraordinarily special.
Ingredients: Aged rum, dark rum, orange liqueur (curaçao, Cointreau or Grand Marnier), lime, orgeat syrup
Here’s a 1920’s slow sipper that’s begging to be part of your cocktail repertoire: the El Presidente cocktail! This Cuban rum cocktail never soared quite as high as the daiquiri or the mojito, but it’s something special in its own right. It’s sleek and sophisticated, like a Cuban spin on a Manhattan but using rum instead. It’s got some special ingredients and comes out boozy, subtly bitter with a sweet and citrus nuance.
Ingredients: Aged rum, vermouth blanc, orange liqueur (Curaçao or Grand Marnier), and grenadine
Here’s a rum drink that’s ideal for sipping by the fire on a chilly evening: Hot Buttered Rum! It's a historic drink made with dark rum that's been around for centuries. This version is subtly sweet, cozy-spiced with cinnamon and allspice, and spirit-forward with boozy dark rum. Oh: and there’s just enough butter to make it lightly creamy.
All hail the strawberry daiquiri! This rum cocktail also has a distinct 1990's resort vibe, but pleasantly so. Our version has pure berry flavor and is just sweet enough. One taste, and you’ll be singing its praises! If you'd like, whip up a little lime daiquiri as a festive topping: and it adds even more lime-y flavor as it mixes in.
Ingredients: White rum, frozen strawberries, maple syrup, lime juice, ice
Here’s a bright and tangy rum cocktail that’s a little sassy: Between the Sheets! A spin on the classic Sidecar, it features rum and Cognac together: something that in Prohibition times was thought to be a little naughty. The rum adds nuance to this citrusy drink, and it’s a great sour cocktail that goes down easy. Of course, if you’ve never had a Sidecar: go make one of those first. Then you’ll appreciate this drink in all its glory.
Last up in our rum cocktails: a tart, complex and refreshing classic cocktail for the adventurous drinker: the Hemingway daiquiri! This spin on the Classic Daiquiri was invented in the 1920's in honor of the famous writer himself, Ernest Hemingway. It’s got tart, almost bitter grapefruit to balance the acidity of the lime, and maraschino liqueur, a cherry liqueur with notes of sour cherry and almond. There’s a lot going on flavor-wise, but it’s very easy to make.
Ingredients: White rum, grapefruit juice, lime juice, Maraschino liqueur
Two more unique rum cocktails
Looking for a few unique rum cocktails outside of the classic ideas? Here are a few creative spins on a rum drink:
Rum and Cranberry Juice Crisp, tart and perfectly balanced! This easy-to-drink cocktail takes just a few minutes to whip up: like a rum spin on a Cosmo!
Dark rum vs light rum vs aged rum: what’s the difference?
A few of the rum cocktails above use dark rum: something altogether different than the light rum you get for daiquiris and piña coladas! Here’s a breakdown of the differences:
Aged rum Also referred to as golden rum, amber rum, or añejo rum (meaning “aged”). Aging gives it a complex flavor, more like a Cognac. It has undertones of vanilla, coconut, almond, citrus, or caramel.
Dark rum is also aged; it has a dark color and a rich, developed flavor with caramel, brown sugar, and vanilla notes.
Light rum or white rum is clear and has a smoother, more straightforward flavor than dark rum.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.