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17 Classic Rum Cocktails Everyone Should Know

Try these essential rum mixed drinks at the bar or at home

Are you dreaming of a tropical beach vacation? Just picture yourself lying in the sand, looking out over the waves, with a cool, refreshing drink in your hand.

bartender serving orange rum cocktail

I’m sorry to say that I can’t guarantee you can have that entire fantasy right now, but there is one thing that can transport you to a tropical beach without having to leave your city: a rum cocktail.

When I’m feeling like I need a little vacation but just can’t get away, a rum cocktail can be a great mini-vacation!

Rum originated in tropical climates, so many of the best rum cocktails include fruity, tropical flavors.

Not a big fan of fruity drinks? No problem. My list includes rum cocktails to suit anyone’s tastes–simple and classy or complex and extravagant.

Head to your local bar and try one out, or mix it up in the comfort of your own home. Happy mini-vacation to you!

Best Rum Cocktails

  1. Mojito
  2. Pina Colada
  3. Hot Buttered Rum
  4. Hurricane
  5. Daquiri
  6. Mai Tai
  7. Dark and Stormy
  8. Strawberry Daquiri
  9. Planter’s Punch
  10. Hemingway
  11. Jungle Bird
  12. Rum Runner
  13. Cuba Libre
  14. Rum Punch
  15. Cable Car
  16. Rum & Coke
  17. El Presidente

Read on to learn what’s in these rum mixed drinks so that you can find your new favorite!

Mojito

For a summer cocktail that’s not too strong but not too sweet, I love a good mojito. This Cuban cocktail is light and refreshing.

The classic mojito contains only five ingredients–white rum, lime juice, mint, sugar, and soda water.

The lime juice, sugar, and mint are combined in a highball glass and muddled just enough to release the essential oils of the mint.

Rum is then stirred in, and then the drink is topped with crushed ice and soda water. The drink is usually garnished with a lime wedge and a mint sprig.

The mojito is a versatile cocktail that appeals to people with a wide range of tastes. It is simple enough for those who enjoy strong cocktails, yet the other ingredients make the mojito very drinkable even for those who usually prefer sweeter drinks.


Pina Colada

If I’m looking for a happy hour drink reminiscent of a tropical vacation, the pina colada is my go-to.

The pina colada originated in Puerto Rico using fresh local ingredients, pineapple, and coconut, combined with rum.

Fresh pineapple juice, coconut cream, and white rum are blended with ice.

The pina colada is served in a hurricane glass and garnished with a pineapple wedge, a maraschino cherry, or both.

I might not have a beach trip planned anytime soon, but a pina colada always gives me a little taste of paradise.


Hot Buttered Rum

On a chilly day, nothing warms me up from the inside out quite like a hot buttered rum.

In colonial times people drank hot buttered rum because they believed that rum was nutritious and strengthened the body.

While we may no longer believe it’s healthy, hot buttered rum is a delicious way to take off the chill.

In a coffee mug, butter is mixed with brown sugar, vanilla, and spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Dark rum is added, and the drink is topped off with hot water or hot apple cider and garnished with a cinnamon stick.

When I want an even creamier drink, I replace the butter with vanilla ice cream!


Hurricane

For a refreshing and simple alternative to a daiquiri, I love the tropical flavors of the hurricane.

The hurricane originated at a speakeasy in New Orleans when the owner created the drink to get rid of unpopular rum.

The drink gained popularity and has been popular in New Orleans and elsewhere ever since.

Although it looks fancy in its curvy glass, the drink is quite simple.

Dark rum, light rum, lemon juice, and passionfruit syrup are shaken with ice and then poured into a hurricane glass over ice.

Some versions of the hurricane include other ingredients like orange juice, pineapple juice, or grenadine.


Daiquiri

If I’m in the mood for a classic cocktail but want something a little bit tamer than a martini, I will go for the classic daiquiri.

The recipe for an original daiquiri is just white rum, lime juice, and sugar. The ingredients are stirred to dissolve the sugar, then shaken with ice and strained into a martini glass.

Just holding a martini glass makes me feel classy, and the daiquiri sure doesn’t disappoint either!

The daiquiri has endless variations by just adding different types of fruit juice, but you can’t go wrong with the simple original.


Mai Tai

When I want my drink to transport me to a beach somewhere, another go-to is the mai tai.

The mai tai was first created in the original tiki bars in California in the 1940s and has become the signature drink of Tiki culture.

The name “mai tai” comes from the Tahitian word maita’i, which means “excellent”!

White rum, curacao, lime juice, and orgeat are shaken with ice and poured into a double rocks glass. Dark rum is then floated on top, and the drink is garnished with mint, a lime peel, or a pineapple spear.

The original recipe for a mai tai includes amber Jamaican rum and Martinique molasses rum. Although many variations of the mai tai exist, the drink is meant to showcase the flavors of the rum.


Dark and Stormy

If you enjoy Moscow Mules but want to switch things up with a different type of liquor, I recommend the Dark and Stormy.

Its ingredients are identical to the mule, just swapping the vodka for dark rum.

To make the dark and stormy, dark rum and lime juice are mixed in a tall glass with ice. It is topped with ginger beer and then garnished with a lime wheel.

Some bartenders will even omit the lime juice, serving a drink of only dark rum and ginger beer with a lime wheel so the drinker can add the lime if they please.

While ginger ale and ginger beer are similar, ginger beer is more flavorful and its spices complement the dark rum, making one delicious drink.


Strawberry Daiquiri

If I want a sweeter drink to enjoy on a hot summer day, one of my favorites is a strawberry daiquiri.

The strawberry daiquiri is the most popular variation of the classic daiquiri, and no wonder–it’s delicious!

The ingredients–light rum, sweetener, lime juice, fresh strawberries, and ice–are thrown in a blender to create a delicious smoothie-like cocktail.

The drink is served in a collins glass garnished with sliced strawberry.

While the blended strawberry daiquiri is the most popular, there is a shaken version of the cocktail as well. Both are refreshing drinks perfect for a hot day.


Planter’s Punch

Sometimes I get in a bit of a rut and order the same thing every time I go out.

There’s nothing wrong with knowing what you like and sticking to it, but sometimes I just need to try something different. 

If you are ready to try something different, why not a forgotten cocktail of the late 1800s–the Planter’s Punch!

The drink has its origins in Jamaica and was popular through the Tiki craze, but lost its popularity in the 1960s. The Planter’s Punch had a resurgence in the 2000s when tiki culture gained popularity again.

This fruity drink is made by combining Jamaican rum, lime juice, and sugar cane juice in a tumbler glass over ice.


Hemingway

The Hemingway–also known as the Hemingway Daiquiri, Hemingway Special, or Papa Doble–is a variation of the daiquiri popularized by Ernest Hemingway.

The story is that Ernest Hemingway tried a daiquiri at El Floridita in Havana, Cuba.

He told the bartender that it was not bad, but he preferred no sugar and double the rum.

And so the bartender made a daiquiri to Hemingway’s specifications and the drink later came to be named after him.

The Hemingway is made by shaking rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and maraschino liqueur with ice and then straining the drink into a cocktail glass.


Jungle Bird

For another Tiki-style drink with a great story, I love the Jungle Bird. The name itself makes it fun to order!

The Jungle Bird originated in Malaysia in the 1970s when guests at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton were served the Jungle Bird as a welcome drink.

The drink got its name because the hotel’s Aviary Bar originally served the cocktail, supposedly in a bird-shaped vessel.

To make the cocktail, dark rum, Campari, pineapple juice, lime juice, and demerara syrup are shaken with ice and strained into a rocks glass (or bird-shaped glass if you have one!) over fresh ice. It is garnished with a pineapple wedge.

The fresh tropical fruit flavors with the dark rum and Campari give this drink complex flavors that make for an exotic drink.


Rum Runner

When I first heard of banana liqueur, I thought it sounded bizarre. Fast forward to when I had my first rum runner, and it all made sense!

In my opinion, the banana liqueur is what sets this tropical rum cocktail apart from the rest.

The rum runner recipe has been modified time and again since the cocktail’s creation in the 1950s, but a few key ingredients usually remain the same: rum, banana liqueur, blackberry liqueur, and grenadine. Some recipes use pineapple juice, while others use orange juice, and some even contain both.

The types of rum and additional ingredients vary as well, but what never changes is that this is a fruity, tropical paradise in a glass.


Cuba Libre

Shortly after Coca-Cola began being imported into Cuba in the early 1900s, the Cuba Libre was created.

If you love Coke, you will likely love the Cuba Libre.

The recipe includes lime juice, but if the lime juice is omitted, you are left with another favorite rum cocktail: the Rum and Coke.

While recipes usually call for light rum and Coca-Cola, any rum and any cola brand can be used, meaning the simple drink may not be the same every time you order one.


Rum Punch

I can’t get enough of fruity rum drinks. The rum lends itself so well to the flavors of the tropical fruit, and the fruit makes the drink amazingly refreshing without diminishing the flavor of the rum.

One of my favorite fruity rum drinks is rum punch. Rum punch is another cocktail that can vary endlessly by substituting different fruit juices and liqueurs.

Rum punch is made by combining light rum, dark rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, lime juice, and grenadine and shaking them with ice.

The drink is then strained into a hurricane glass over fresh ice and garnished with a maraschino cherry.

Take a sip and enjoy a little piece of paradise!


Cable Car

For a fancy drink that features Captain Morgan spiced rum, I enjoy a Cable Car.

The Cable Car originated in San Francisco, where it got its name from the well-known San Francisco cable cars.

Although the drink looks fancy, it is simple to make. Spiced rum, orange curacao, and lemon sour mix are shaken with ice.

The drink is then strained into a cocktail glass rimmed with sugar and garnished with an orange peel spiral.

I love the elegant look of the Cable Car and the flavor of the spiced rum that shines through.


Rum & Coke

While the Cuba Libre cocktail is sometimes simply referred to as “Rum and Coke,” the omission of lime juice is the difference between the Cuba Libre and a true Rum and Coke.

One of the simplest cocktails of all time, and easily customizable depending on how strong you prefer your drink, the Rum and Coke is a forever favorite at bars.

The Rum and Coke is just made of the two ingredients in its name–rum and Coca-Cola–mixed in a highball glass.

If you are a Coke drinker looking for a cocktail you are sure to love, the Rum and Coke is a no-brainer.


El Presidente

The El Presidente is a classy and sophisticated cocktail that offers a drier, more bitter alternative to the many fruity rum drinks.

With origins in Cuba, the El Presidente was popular with tourists from the United States who visited Cuba during prohibition.

When prohibition ended, the El Presidente began showing up in bars all over the U.S.

The cocktail went out of style around the middle of the century, but it has regained popularity as bartenders go back to classics.

The El Presidente is made from white rum, dry vermouth, orange curacao, and grenadine. The ingredients are stirred and strained into a chilled cocktail glass.


Final Thoughts

I hope you found something on my list that caught your attention. No matter what type of drink you enjoy, there is a rum cocktail for everyone.

Rum lends itself well to being mixed with flavorful tropical juices, but it is a delicious and complex liquor that does just as well in a simple drink without the bells and whistles.

Which rum cocktail are you going to try first? This list is a great jumping-off point. Try them all and find your favorite!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.