Rum 101: Everything You Need To Know

Say hello to rum, the featured spirit for the month of June. 

One of the first cocktails I ever tried (and loved) was the mojito and rum is also the basis for my all-time favorite cocktail, the Dark + Stormy. I think it’s fair to say that rum and I get along just fine!

This sugarcane-based spirit from the Caribbean is definitely worth a second look at your home bar this summer, and I am sharing a rum guide today to help.

Also, I can’t believe this is the sixth spirit in the series! So far, I’ve covered bourbon, tequila, champagne, ginvodka and now rum!

For each, I tell you how to mix drinks with it and cook with it, plus a few recipes to help you use up that bottle as you learn to love it. // susannah

Is there a spirit you’d like to see covered in July? Let me know in the comments!

What is rum?

Rum is distilled from the fermented juices of pure sugarcane, sugarcane syrup, sugarcane molasses and other sugarcane byproducts.

Though distilling processes vary from country to country, most rum-producing countries mandate that it must be aged. (Brazilian cachaça is unaged, so it’s not really a form of rum.)

Most rum is produced in the Caribbean countries, where sugarcane is a big-money crop. It’s made primarily with sugarcane molasses, which is a byproduct of the creation of sugar.

Producers used to toss the molasses, but now they can make both sugar and rum with their crops.

Sugarcane grows best in tropical climates because of the high heat and moisture. It can grow up to 19 feet tall and 1.5 inches in diameter, but its size makes it laborious to harvest.

To make rum, the cane is hand- or machine-harvested, then stripped of its leaves, and crushed or mashed to extract the juices. The juice is boiled several times to concentrate and crystallize the sugar.

The fermentation process generally takes place in large metal tanks or oak barrels, lasting from 24 hours to several weeks, depending on what type of rum is produced.

Types of rum

There are several types of rum you can find at the liquor store:

  • White/light/silver — Light and crisp and great for mixing. They go well with fruit flavors for daiquiris and mojitos.
  • Gold/oro/ambre — Medium-bodied and slightly stronger, aged in oak barrels. Also great for fruity cocktails.
  • Dark/black — Rich with a caramel flavor. Goes well in the Mai Tai or on their own, served neat or over ice.
  • Rhum agricole — Very full-bodied, made from sugarcane juice not molasses. Like the molasses-based ones above, agricoles range in color from white to gold to dark. They also have floral and vegetal aromas and flavors.
  • Spiced rum — Flavored with cinnamon, vanilla and other spices, spiced rum is something you can find on the shelf or make at home. It’s delicious in drinks like this Spiced Apple Cider Rum Punch.
  • Flavored rum — Rum gets a new flavor with artificial flavorings like coconut or pineapple. You can also make these yourself.

What it tastes like: Light, crisp, subtle, strong, caramel, sweet

Rum Brands

Popular brands: Bacardi, Gosling’s Black Seal, Don Q, Ron Rico, Captain Morgan, Appleton, Cruzan, Angostura, Barbancourt, El Dorado, Plantation

Feast + West favorites: Bacardi, Cruzan, Gosling’s Black Seal

Rum recipes

Starring roles: Mai Tai, Daiquiri, Cuba Libre, Mojito, Dark + Stormy

Feast + West drinks: Dark + Stormy // Lemon-Lime Mojitos // Red, White + Blue Mojitos // Apple Pie Mojito // Blueberry Rum Smash // Frozen Mango Daiquiris // Drunken Gummy Bears

International Rum Day: August 16, 2015

Further reading

(Sources // Serious Eats )

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The Golden Ratio Guide:

Mix the perfect cocktail, every time

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