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Bartenders Tell Us Their Favorite Rums For Mixing Summertime Cocktails

Around these parts, we enjoy light, boozy cocktails all year long. But it’s hard to dispute their special appeal during the summer months. Sun-filled, humid late-July days are well-suited to drinks made with vodka, tequila, gin, mezcal, and rum. And it’s the final spirit listed in that rogue’s gallery that we’re focused on here.

When mixing with rum, Chaz Gallo, Director of food and beverage at The Bristol Hotel in Bristol, Virginia, isn’t looking for anything too neutral.

“The most common issue with using a white rum is that guests can’t taste the rum,” he says. “Using a nice, spiced rum balances the cocktail perfectly.”

Matt Nicholas, bar manager at The Kennedy Bar in Pensacola, Florida tends to agree with the idea of cranking up the rum notes in mixed drinks.

“While traditionally an unaged white rum is used in the daiquiri and most cocktails, I prefer to use a rhum agricole which is made from sugar cane juice rather than molasses,” he says. “This gives the cocktail a fruity, vegetal flavor which adds a unique complexity to the drink.”

So what brands, in particular, do bartenders think are a good fit for summer mixing? To find that answer, we once again went to the source — asking a handful of well-known bar professionals to tell us their picks. Check them all out below.

Papa’s Pilar Blonde Rum

Papa

Inga Tantisalidchai, bartender at OLEA Cellar Craft Cook in Irvine, California

ABV: 42%
Average Price: $30

Why This Bottle?

If you like a lighter take on the daiquiri, one of my favorite rums to use is Papa’s Pilar Blonde Rum. Its smooth velvety texture along with its soft vanilla notes complement and balance out the acidic components of the cocktail. In addition, Papa’s Pilar is associated with the Hemingway family, which is known for their twist on the traditional daiquiri — adding a little grapefruit and Luxardo cherry liqueur.

Kirk and Sweeney 23 Reserva Rum

Kirk And Sweeney

Tara Gillum, bartender at Steiner’s Speakeasy in Chillicothe, Ohio

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $54

Why This Bottle?

I think the type of daiquiri you are making is an important part of this question. For me, I’m a purist when it comes to rum-based cocktails like the daiquiri. Rum, simple syrup, lime. I really like making a traditional daiquiri with Kirk and Sweeney 23-year rum. This rum has a bold, almost whiskey-like aroma and flavor of caramel and vanilla. I like to use Kirk and Sweeney because the rum doesn’t get lost in the cocktail.

Tattersall Blackstrap Rum

Tattersall

Cassidy Flannery, bartender at Sonder Shaker in Minneapolis

ABV: 45%
Average Price: $29.99

Why This Bottle?

All summer I’ve been using Tattersall Distilling’s Blackstrap Rum in my rum-based cocktails. My watermelon daiquiri has been a huge hit. The mellow notes of smoky molasses and tobacco pair well with the freshness of the watermelon and lime juices.

Diplomatico Planas Rum

Diplomatico

Chandra Richter, beverage development and chief mixologist at Drinkworks

ABV: 47%
Average Price: $30

Why This Bottle?

If I’m mixing a rum cocktail in summer, it’s going to be a daiquiri. And a daiquiri is a very simple and beautiful drink, especially during the hot summer months but the key is to find the right balance of rum and fruit flavors. I like to use a light rum in my daiquiris, like Diplomatico Planas. The tropical and fruity notes of the rum work perfectly with the lime flavors to create a nice balance of strong, sweet, and sour — exactly how I like my cocktails.

Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum

Wray & Nephew

Stephen Lasaten, food and beverage manager at The Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas

ABV: 63%
Average Price: $25

Why This Bottle?

Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum is my pick. With its fruity scent and a high alcohol content — to remind you that there’s alcohol in your frozen drink — I find that this blends well with the sweet mixes that are used for daiquiris and various other rum-based cocktails.

Smith & Cross Rum

Smith & Cross

Ilan Chartor, head bartender of MILA in Miami

ABV: 57%
Average Price: $30

Why This Bottle?

The best rum for a cocktail for me is Smith & Cross Pot Still Jamaican Rum. If you’re a true rum lover, you love Jamaican pot still rums for their unique funk and flavor profile. Smith & Cross has notes of caramelized banana and pineapple, tropical fruits, and molasses.

This flavor profile makes for an extremely fun and refreshing cocktail.

Ron Zacapa 23 Centenario Rum

Ron Zacapa

Darron Foy, bar manager at The Flatiron Room in New York City

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $49.99

Why This Bottle?

I was given a bottle of Ron Zacapa 23 Centenario by a friend of mine when I moved to New York in 2016. I was very intrigued by the velvet texture and the honey, apricot, and oak notes. But I remember drinking it mostly neat. The same friend told me to try it in some classics — pina colada, dark ‘n’ stormy — to see how it worked and the first attempt was a daiquiri.

In my opinion, it creates a richer, fuller-bodied daiquiri due to the aged rum — between six and 23 years of age. It exaggerates the lime and sugar with hints of stewed fruit and ginger while reigning in the sweeter notes due to its robust backbone of leather and tobacco.

Foursquare Probitas Rum

Foursquare

Jacob Mata, bar manager at Garden & Grain in Pensacola, Florida

ABV: 47%
Average Price: $29.99

Why This Bottle?

When making rum-based cocktails I prefer to use a blend of rums. Doing this adds depth and complexity to a cocktail. In a Daiquiri I prefer to use an island blended rum called Probitas with just a small measure of an Avua Cachaca. Probitas is a blend of three different rums from two of the most iconic and respected distilleries in the rum world, Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados & Hampden Estate in Jamaica.

Probitas is rich in tropical flavors including banana, guava, vanilla, and more. With the addition of Avua Cachaca with its bright flavors of wildflower, Lemongrass, and dried herbs you’ve got yourself a perfect daiquiri for a hot summer day.

Real McCoy 5-Year-Old Rum

Real McCoy

Liam Odien, beverage director at Playa Provisions in Playa Del Rey, California

ABV: 46%
Average Price: $29.99

Why This Bottle?

Real McCoy 5 Year, for me. It’s delicious, affordable, and it has enough age and body on it to hold its own in the cocktail without overwhelming the other ingredients. Daiquiris, in particular, I think, are at the mercy of their base spirit, which can be something of a pitfall. The benefit, though, is that if you love a particular rum, it will probably shine.

As always, the best drink is the one you want.

Neisson Rhum Agricole

Neisson

Ryan Anderson, complex director of beverage at Ace Hotel in New Orleans

ABV: 50%
Average Price: $50 for a liter

Why This Bottle?

Always and forever, I will prefer a Rhum Agricole to any other mixing rum. Rhum Agricole, specifically from Martinique, adds a complexity of flavor that is so unmistakably earthy and floral. Rhum production in Martinique utilizes fresh sugar cane to make their spirit as opposed to using molasses, which is how most of rum is made.

Coconut Cartel Rum

Coconut Cartel

Kyle Jones, owner of Bon Vivants in Nassau, Bahamas

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $36

Why This Bottle?

My go-to rum is without a doubt Coconut Cartel Rum. It is a delicious Guatemalan añejo rum that is cut with coconut water which makes it so unique and tasty. That little hint of salinity and real coconut adds a delicious layer to your cocktail.

It’s also amazing to enjoy on the rocks with fresh coconut water ice cubes.

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum

Sailor Jerry

Sebastien Derbomez, William Grant & Sons manager of brand advocacy

ABV: 46%
Average Price: $20

Why This Bottle?

I think Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum is a perfect choice. It’s a blend of Caribbean rums that are infused with spices including vanilla and cinnamon, so it brings a ton of extra flavors to your favorite cocktail. The addition of ginger syrup in your cocktail ties up wonderfully with the spices from Sailor Jerry, I highly recommend it. Enjoy responsibly.


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.

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