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These Bang-For-Your-Buck Rums Will Leave You Dreaming Of Summer In February


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When the words “budget” or “cheap” or even “inexpensive” are used to describe spirits, our minds tend to envision plastic handles of bottom-shelf, low-quality, hangover-inducing potent potables. Fair enough, but not always the case. In fact, there are exceptions to this stereotype across the board. Especially in the world of rum.

Though the popularity of booze culture and mixology has increased in recent years, the rum marketplace is still littered with superb value buys. You don’t even need to use the terms “budget” or “cheap” because there are myriad bottles of low-cost, high-quality rum to be found.

But just because we know there’s value bottles in the rum world doesn’t mean we automatically know where to find it. For that, we turned to some of our favorite bartenders, whole shared their picks for the best bang-for-your-buck rums. These slow sippers will turn your apartment into a tiki lounge in a hurry and make it feel like summer no matter what the thermometer says.

Brugal Anejo Rum

Ryan Andrews, beverage director at Prohibition in San Diego

“What’s my favorite budget rum and why? Brugal Añejo rum. The Solera-style aging makes this rum incredibly smooth as a sipper and in cocktails.”

Flor de Cana Grand Reserve 7 Year

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SWAM raid … KFC and Flor de Caña

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Young Kim, beverage director at The Flatiron Room in New York City

“I go with Flor de Cana Grand Reserve 7 Year which is priced around $20 and is not as sweet as many of the rums in the same price range. You can taste the vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch from the ex-bourbon barrel. That’s followed with a hint of leather, pencil shavings, and tobacco notes. It’s smooth and full bodied enough to sip or enjoy with ice. It also pairs perfectly in cocktails such as an Old Fashioned, Dark and Stormy, or Rum-groni (Rum Negroni).”

Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Rum

Casey Lyons, lead bartender at Pacific Hideaway in Huntington Beach, California

“Plantation has changed the game. Between the 3 Star and Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple they not only make me look like a wizard with the budget, but they also make delicious crowd pleasers for guests.

Ron del Barrilito Tres Estrellas

Spencer Elliott, head bartender at The Boogie Room in New York City

“My favorite budget rum is a one-way JetBlue flight to Puerto Rico and a shot of Three Star (Ron De Barrilito Tres Estrellas). You can find this rum stateside, but, for a few bucks a shot, it’s well worth the flight and the inevitable sunburn.”

Plantation 3 Stars

Jason O’Bryan, Spirits Director, The Florence in San Diego

“What’s my go-to budget rum? Probably Plantation 3-Star, if I had to choose just one. Plantation is owned by Pierre Ferrand Cognac, and as such are both master blenders and less bound to national identity than their competitors: the 3 Star is their version of a well-balanced, slightly punchier-than-normal blend of rums from Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad. But honestly, any Spanish-style white rum is going to be great and inexpensive. Diplomatico, Flor de Cana, Ron Matusalem…budget rum is an embarrassment of riches.”

Bacardi Gold Rum

Nikki McCutcheon, beverage manager at Moxy Times Square in New York City

“My go-to would have to be Bacardi. They have such a wide selection of Rums for all occasions, whether you’re making Daiquiris in the summer or Coquito in the winter. Their moderate prices allow you purchase a quality product and spend a little extra on fresh decadent mixers to make the perfect cocktail without breaking the bank.”

Mount Gay Rum

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Big Jon Conkin, Bartender at Wonderland Ocean Pub in San Diego

“What’s my favorite budget rum and why? I’ve always been a fan of Mount Gay. Mixing or just sipping on, you can’t go wrong.”

Pampero Aniversario Rum

Andrew Holmes, director of food and beverage at Hotel LeVeque in Columbus

“What’s my go-to budget rum and why? Pampero Aniversario Rum, maybe not the absolute cheapest, but it never feels like the wrong pick.”

Denizen 3 Year Aged White Rum

Andrew Meltzer, bartender at Noosh in San Francisco

“Denizen Rum, either their 3-year white or Merchant’s Reserve. They are made with a blend of rums from Trinidad and Jamaica, so it’s smooth and fruity with a hint of funk. The price is equal to or less than a bottle of Bacardi, but there is much more flavor to be had. It’s the perfect companion to a hand-shaken Daiquiri or a bowl of punch for your next party.”

Appleton Estate Signature

Hope Ewing, beverage director at Rappahannock Oyster Bar in Los Angeles

“Go-to budget rum? My favorite flavor-for-the-money rum is Appleton Estate. It’s a terrific workhorse for tiki drinks and holds its own amidst those wild tiki flavors.”

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