Celebrating Rum: Perfect Pairings & Super Easy Cocktails
At Shady Lady, we're always looking for reasons to celebrate. Today is National Rum Day and we'd love take you on an adventure through the spirited and fabulously-garnished world of rum!
A Brief History of Rum
Picture it: The Caribbean islands in the 17th century, awash with sun-kissed sugar cane fields. The clever and curious islanders discovered something extraordinary – molasses left behind after making sugar could be distilled and transformed into a magical elixir. And so, rum was born.
As time passed, rum proved its worth to sailors and pirates, becoming the drink of choice on the high seas where clean water was scarce. With sails unfurled, rum set out on daring voyages, enchanting hearts across distant lands.
Over time, rum's reputation grew and thirsty people demanded new ways to enjoy it. In the 20th century, bartenders around the world experimented with rum, often pairing it with tropical fruit and citrus juices to honor its island heritage.
Rum for the People
Fruity island flavors paired perfectly with the sugar cane-based spirit and rum became the lifeblood of tropical cocktails and over-the-top tiki drinks. Invented by imaginative bartenders, rum cocktails like the Mai Tai, Daiquiri, Piña Colada, and Dark & Stormy became instant classics.
Today, rum is as popular as ever, delighting beachgoers and sweettooths around the world. From exotic islands to bustling city bars, this storied spirit continues to inspire joy and camaraderie wherever it flows.
White Rum vs. Dark Rum
There are two basic types of rum produced around the world - white rum (also called "silver") and dark rum. While both are made using similar raw ingredients and distilling methods, the aging process is what sets them apart. Once rum is aged, the differences in appearance and taste are night and day.
White rum is clear and versatile - perfect for mixing in cocktails. In contrast, dark rum has a deep amber hue and a more complex taste with hints of caramel and vanilla that comes from aging in oak barrels (similar to a good whiskey). Dark rum is often enjoyed neat or on the rocks.
This doesn't mean that you shouldn't make cocktails with dark rum. On the contrary! The darker color and robust flavor profile can add richness to a well-balanced cocktail.
Plenty of classic cocktails incorporate dark rum - the Mai Tai, Hurricane, Dark & Stormy to name a few. Dark rum is also great in winter warmers - Hot Buttered Rum, anyone?
When deciding whether to use white rum or dark rum in your cocktail, consider these questions:
- Do I want a dark hue in this drink? Will it clash with colors of the other ingredients? Use dark rum as a floater on top to avoid brown, muddy-looking drinks.
- Do I want the flavor of the rum to take center stage? Or, should other ingredients like fruit and citrus juices be the main attraction? White rum allows space for other flavors to shine. Good dark rum is best used as a floater on top of cocktails or enjoyed on its own.
- Is cost a factor? White rum is generally the budget choice. While it would be wise to avoid the absolute cheapest option, there's no need to splurge on an expensive bottle when making rum cocktails.
Flavors to Pair with Rum
If it grows on an island, chances are good that it will pair well with rum. Think tropical fruits, citrus, and warm botanicals. Here are some flavors that pair perfectly with rum:
Citrus Fruits (Lime, Lemon, Orange): The bright and zesty flavors of citrus fruits balance well with the sweetness of rum. Classic cocktails like the Mojito (lime), Daiquiri (lime), and Mai Tai (orange and lime) are excellent examples of how rum and citrus fruits can harmonize perfectly. There is no end to the variety of citrus flavors that pair well with rum!
Pineapple: The sweet and tangy flavor of pineapple adds a refreshing twist to rum cocktails. Combine rum with pineapple juice and a touch of grenadine to create a tantalizing Pineapple Rum Punch. Or, mix rum with Pineapple Jalapeño syrup for something fresh and spicy.
Coconut: The sweetness of coconut beautifully enhances the tropical vibes of rum. The Piña Colada, made with rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice, is a quintessential rum cocktail. Using natural coconut syrup or cream is best - the fake stuff is what makes things taste like suntan lotion. Try this single-serve Piña Colada mix on your next flight to the tropics (or anywhere)!
Ginger: The spiciness of ginger pairs wonderfully with the smoothness of rum. The classic Dark & Stormy cocktail features rum mixed with ginger beer, creating a satisfying and warming concoction. Syrups made with fresh ginger are an easy way to incorporate this flavor into your drinks.
Berries (Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries): The natural sweetness of berries pairs well with rum. Muddle fresh berries with rum, lime juice, and simple syrup to create a Berry Rum Smash. Or, just shake up rum with some berry simple syrup for a quick and easy patio cocktail.
Mint: The cool and refreshing taste of mint complements the richness of rum. Mojitos are a popular choice, combining rum with mint leaves, lime juice, sugar, and soda water.
Almond: Orgeat syrup is an essential component of many tiki drinks. The warm almond flavor pairs beautifully with rum!
Vanilla: The sweet and aromatic notes of vanilla enhance the complexity of rum. Try a Vanilla Rum Old Fashioned as a delightful twist on the classic cocktail, infusing vanilla syrup with rum and bitters.
Cinnamon: The warm and comforting flavor of cinnamon complements the sweetness of rum. Try a Rum Horchata cocktail, combining rum with rice milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Or, mix rum with maple cinnamon syrup and a splash of milk. Try these in a blender with ice for a frozen treat!
Coffee: The rich and robust flavor of coffee adds depth to rum cocktails. A classic Coffee Rum Martini, blending rum with coffee liqueur, espresso, or coffee syrup is a delightful after-dinner treat.
Super Easy Rum Cocktails
Ready to shake up rum cocktails at home? The magic of craft simple syrup makes this incredibly easy. You don't need lots of ingredients on hand. Just grab a bottle (or tankard) of rum, simple syrup, fresh citrus fruit, and shake things up! Kick back and enjoy island vibes from the comfort of your living room.
Here are a few rum cocktails you can easily make using craft simple syrup:
Recipe: Mai Tai Cocktail
- 1 oz white rum
- 1 oz dark rum (floater)
- 1/2 oz orange liqueur (like triple sec or Cointreau)
- 1/2 oz orgeat syrup
- 1 oz lime juice
- Fresh pineapple wedge, lime wheel and cocktail cherry for garnish
- In a shaker filled with ice, combine the white rum, lime juice, orgeat syrup, and orange liqueur.
- Shake well and strain into a glass filled with crushed ice.
- Float the dark rum on top by gently pouring it over the back of a spoon.
- Garnish with a pineapple wedge, lime wheel, cocktail cherry, or any combination of fresh fruit. The bigger, the better for this drink.
Recipe: Easy Dark & Stormy Cocktail
- 2 oz dark rum
- 2 oz ginger syrup (or this syrup for something different)
- 1 oz lime juice
- OR just mix dark rum with this ginger beer!
- Lime wedge for garnish
- Fill a tumbler or highball glass with ice and pour in the dark rum.
- Add the ginger syrup and lime juice and stir to combine.
- Garnish with a fresh lime wedge or dried lime wheel
Recipe: Island Hibiscus Cocktail
- 2 oz white rum
- 3/4 oz hibiscus + lemon + mint syrup
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- 6-8 fresh mint leaves (optional)
- Mint sprig for garnish
- In a shaker tin filled with ice, add the rum, syrup, lemon juice and mint leaves.
- Shake well and strain into a tall glass over-filled with crushed ice.
- Garnish with the mint sprig.
Fast and Easy Rum Drinks To-Go
Take these on your next flight to the tropics or anywhere (it's always fun asking the flight attendant for liquor and ice without any mixer). Or, whip up a quick drink at home after a long workday to get your mind on island time.
Celebrating National Rum Day
To properly celebrate National Rum Day, cocktails are certainly in order! Browse our shop for cocktail mixers and other goodies that pair perfectly with rum.