Rum isn’t just for pirates hiding away on a desert island. It’s also for bartenders… hiding away on a desert island and only allowed to bring one rum to drink for the rest of their lives. Okay — it’s silly, but that’s the game. You’re stranded on a tropical island, but you get one comfort — all the rum you can drink. The only catch is that you only get to pick one kind.
Which is hard, because rum is a fantastic summer spirit. White rum is the base for many summery cocktails, including the classic daiquiri. Dark rum is nuanced, rich, and the perfect summer replacement for bourbon or other whiskeys. It can be used as an alternative in your Old Fashioned, as a sipper around a campfire, or as a way to drown your sorrows when thinking about living on this island forever. You know, all that normal summer stuff.
Bartenders know all about the summer appeal of rum. It’s a go-to for most Tiki-style drinks and other fruit-filled, sweet, summer cocktails. So we turned to their expertise and asked them to pick the one rum they’d drink for the rest of their lives. They brought up some well-known brands, but they also mentioned some lesser known bottles. Hopefully, should you ever find yourself stranded at sea, you’ll be able to use their recommendations to pick the perfect rum to keep you company.
Mitch Barela, bartender at Old Vine Kitchen + Bar in Costa Mesa, California
If I could only drink one rum, which one would I pick? Diplomatico Reserva. It’s clean, aged to perfection, and offers irresistible aromas that make for one of my personal favorites, the classic Mai Tai.
Josh Cameron, Head Bartender of Boulton & Watt in New York City
Appleton Single Barrel reserve inspires. Its barrel notes call upon the creative mind and inspire cocktails and literature. Write your novel. Sip it straight or throw it in the mix.
Plantation Original Dark Rum
Shane Anglin, bar manager of The Waterfront in Venice, California
If I could only drink one rum, which one would I pick and why? Plantation. Hands down. Perfect for cocktails, amazing on its own. Best in class. It doesn’t get better than this double aged rum.
Mount Gay Black Barrel
Spencer Elliott, head bartender of The Boogie Room in New York City
The sailor in me always comes out in my rum choices. My first and only pick is Mount Gay Rum. Born in the Sailing Era in Barbados, I can almost taste the islands when in a daiquiri or just as a highball. It truly is a bottle that keeps me saying, “where has all the rum gone?”.
Chase Voight, lead bartender at Saint Stephen in Nashville
If I could only drink one rum for the rest of my life, which one would I pick? I prefer dark rum, so I would have to say Papa’s Pilar. It’s smooth, highly-drinkable, and great on its own or in tiki cocktails.
Appleton Estates 12 Year
Paul Walker, mixologist at The Dawson in Chicago
I don’t know if I could live without Appleton Estates 12-year rum. Rich toffee, gold raisin, and tobacco notes that are so smooth on its own without ice, but playful and charming in a classic daiquiri.
Patricio Rio, head bartender at Ave in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
If I could only drink one rum ever, which one would I pick and why? Zacapa Ámbar. I tried it recently and I really liked it — I think it would go well in cocktails as well as over ice. It’s very smooth and rich and perfect for sipping.
Maggie’s Farm Queen’s Share Rum
Cassandra Zuger, lead bartender at The Twisted Frenchman in Pittsburgh
My rum of choice oddly enough does not come from Jamaica, but actually in Pittsburgh where I’m based. Maggie’s Farm Queen’s Share Rum is well-crafted and mastered perfectly. This rum, in particular, would be best enjoyed served neat with no additive to enjoy.
El Dorado 12
Cristian Petrosino, bartender at Ave in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
If I could only drink one rum for the rest of my life? El Dorado, great to enjoy neat or in classic drinks like an Old Fashioned or Dry Manhattan. It’s full of rich caramel and molasses flavors that you won’t soon forget.
Sarah Turbett, head bartender at Oak Steakhouse in Nashville
I would probably have to go with Plantation 3 Star’s O.F.T.D rum. It’s a blend of Guyana, Jamaica, and Barbados rum with huge notes of molasses, dark chocolate, and raisin. It has a funky sort of flavor that makes it stand out to me amongst other rums, and pop in cocktails. It makes a really fun classic daiquiri.
Banks 5 Island Rum
Tim Prendergast of The Outsider in Milwaukee
If I could only drink one rum for the rest of my life. which one would I pick and why? Banks 5 Island Rum is my daiquiri go-to. I could drink a daiquiri at any time, even in the dead of winter, and this rum is perfectly balanced to work in unison with citrus flavors.