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Bartenders Tell Us The Best Spiced Rums For Mixing Summer Cocktails

In the world of rum, spiced rum doesn’t always get a fair shake. We love to mix with white (un-aged) rums and we love to sip dark (aged) rums, but sometimes we aren’t sure what to do with spiced rum. Usually made with a gold rum base (or white rum with caramel coloring added), spiced rums are dark amber in color and flavored with various spices including vanilla bean, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg.

As long as you purchase a bottle that isn’t full of artificial flavors and colors, spiced rums are perfectly suited as a base for Summer 2020 drinks like the dark ‘n’ stormy, the rum old fashioned, or the spiced rum punch. They’re also ubiquitous in the resurgent tiki culture. Thomas Nesselhauf, bartender at Datz in Tampa, Florida has a specific bottle he always uses to make cocktails this time of year.

“Hands down, Sailor Jerry,” he says. “This rum is sweet with notes of vanilla, dry buttery toffee, and subtle cinnamon, but it packs a real punch, coming in at 92 proof. I’m not one to mix dark liquor with anything but this would pair perfectly with some Coke and a couple of slices of lime.”

Sailor Jerry has a high profile, but there are plenty of other brands that deserve equal love. To figure out which bottles you should mix with as August gets rolling, we asked some high-profile bartenders to name their favorites. Here are their picks:

Chairman’s Reserve

Nazar Hrab, beverage director at The Pineapple Club in New York City

I really like Chairman’s Reserve spiced rum. Usually, I use it in flips, cocktails with a full egg in them. It has a nice flavor from the spiced rum and a great texture from the egg.

Pusser’s

Kurt Bellon, general manager and beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis

Pusser’s for a ready spiced rum, but a homemade spiced rum is always fun to experiment with and a good reason to use those cinnamon sticks and star anise lying lonely on the spice rack.

Bacardi

Melissa Reigle, beverage manager and head bartender at Byblos in Miami

All great rum is spiced. But if you are looking for the bar rail definition, Bacardi Spiced Rum is the way to go. Not too sweet and all the spices that go with ice-cold Coke or ginger beer. You can’t go wrong.

Gosling’s

Leo Morjakov, bartender at The Ebbitt Room at The Virginia Hotel in Cape May, New Jersey

The Ebbitt Room’s choice is a traditional spiced rum — Gosling’s dark rum. Great to enjoy when it’s sunny in Cape May, but if the weather gets a little stormy, guests enjoy a Dark and Stormy cocktail made with this rum. The cocktail is prepared with Gosling’s dark rum, fresh lime, and topped with spicy ginger beer.

Bumbu

Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami

My go-to spiced rum for summer mixing is Bumbu. Bumbu makes for a great daiquiri rum or sipper with its subtle flavors of spice and banana.

Sailor Jerry

Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at The Dorsey inside The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas

Sailor Jerry — because its taste holds best in mixed summer cocktails. It’s not too sweet so blending other ingredients is easier and adjustable to taste. The “Aries Cocktail” on our specialty zodiac menu uses rum, mezcal, Campari, fresh lime and pineapple, and ginger. Although rum isn’t the main ingredient in this cocktail, without it, the cocktail would taste unbalanced.

Havana Club Anejo Especial

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Jorge Centeno, chief spirits officer at the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Illinois

Havana Club Anejo Especial is a great summertime spiced rum. You can drink it neat or on the rocks. It has a clean finish and tastes like the Caribbean.

Captain Morgan

Frantjasko Laonora, head mixologist at Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort in Curaçao

Captain Morgan spiced rum. This is a good rum to make tiki drinks since it has that vanilla-y taste to it. For sure a go-to spiced rum for an exotic cocktail or just simply with a cold Coke.

Writer’s Picks:

Foursquare Spiced Rum

If you need a super cheap, well-made spiced rum to add to your liquor cabinet, make it Foursquare. This award-winning spiced rum from Barbados is surprisingly smooth (even though it’s less than $15) with hints of vanilla, caramel, and subtle cinnamon spice.

Don Q Oak Barrel

If the Caribbean is the home of rum, Puerto Rico is likely its heart. And Don Q is the best-selling rum on the island for a reason. Aged in Americana oak barrels, it’s rich, velvety, and full of cinnamon, honey, and vanilla flavors.

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