Rum’s link to pirates and sailors hasn’t given the spirit a particularly refined history or reputation. Still, all of this seems to be changing. Rum can now be seen in many cocktails, ranging from the simple to the complex, the fun to the refined. At the same time, there are many rum mixers to choose from.
Rum mixers allow you to enjoy all the delicious flavors that rum has to offer, without creating complex cocktails. Instead, you’ll just need the rum itself and one other ingredient. A squeeze of lemon juice or lime juice often helps too, but even this isn’t essential.
As with other spirits, the best mixer is going to partly depend on the rum that you choose. This choice is especially important for rum, as there can be major differences between different rums.
The variation is partly because rum is just defined as a spirit created from sugar. Most rum is made from molasses, but cane sugar can be used instead and is in some cases.
There are three main types of rum – light, dark, and spiced. Dark rum has been aged, which gives it a more complex flavor profile, while light rum hasn’t been through much aging. Spiced rum, as the name suggests, has spices added in.
You’ll also find variations in other areas. For example, Jamaican rum is likely to be dark or golden, with fairly intense flavors, while Cuban rum is often lighter. There isn’t a single best type of rum, but the rum that you choose will influence the taste of your drink.
Top Rum Mixers
- Coconut Water
- Pineapple Juice
- Orange Juice
- Grapefruit Juice
- Cranberry Juice
- Soda Water
- Tonic Water
- Flavored Seltzer
- Ginger Beer
- Ginger Ale
- Apple Cider
- Iced Tea
- Sweet Vermouth
- Lemon Or Lime Juice
- Fruit Punch
- Hot Chocolate
- Ice Cream
Tradition dictates that rum is enjoyed with Coke, rather than Pepsi or off-brand soda, but really the highball drink has a similar flavor regardless of the cola that you use. Rum and Coke is a classic combination if you’re drinking low-quality rum or are looking for a simple drink while you are out.
But, a rum and Coke doesn’t need to be low-quality. Try combining a craft cola with white rum or spiced rum and see the flavor differences. Even just using cola with real sugar can make a world of difference.
Pay attention to the ingredient ratio too. Using too much cola buries the flavor of the rum almost entirely. Doing so might be fine for making bottom-of-the-shelf rum palatable, but that’s about it. For any other type of rum, consider a ratio like three parts cola to one part rum or even two to one.
Coconut water and rum is an interesting choice. The combination has a distinctly tropical flavor, without the overwhelming heaviness and sweetness that is present in many tropical rum cocktails.
The combination may be particularly good for avoiding a hangover, as coconut water is hydrating and offers some extra electrolytes that you don’t get with water alone.
While we’re talking about tropical flavors, here’s another example – pineapple juice. The juice is a bright and vibrant mixer for rum, one that also helps to balance the characteristics of the rum.
The catch is that you really should be using fresh pineapple juice, which means juicing the pineapple yourself. I know, doing so is a pain, and pineapples aren’t as easy to juice as citrus fruit.
However, mixing rum and canned pineapple juice just isn’t the same. The flavor profile of the canned stuff is all wrong. You’ll end up with a drink that is far too sweet.
If canned pineapple juice is your only option, consider making a cocktail instead, such as a pina colada. Using more ingredients in your drink means that the quality of any single component will matter less.
Orange juice is a popular mixer, especially with vodka and sparkling white wine, but it isn’t often combined with rum. The oversight is a shame, really, as orange juice and rum do combine well. The citrus has a similar balancing effect to pineapple juice, while still allowing you to enjoy the complexity of the rum.
This combination is much better if you rely on freshly squeezed orange juice, rather than a bottle from a store. Besides, juicing oranges isn’t too tricky. The end result is well worth the extra effort.
Grapefruit juice can combine well with rum, with the sweetness of the rum helping to balance out the harshness of the juice. However, while some people will enjoy grapefruit juice as a mixer on its own, others may find that the juice is too intense.
Adding a little sugar and club soda is a good way to enjoy the flavors of grapefruit juice and rum, without too much intensity. A little lemon juice can be helpful also.
Before we move away from juices, cranberry juice deserves mention. Cranberry juice has a distinct tartness that makes it less sweet than most other types of fruit juice (aside from grapefruit juice, of course).
The sweet and sour tones of cranberry juice are ideal with rum, giving you a tasty drink, especially for the warmer months. Using ice and a splash of lime elevates this drink so that it is akin to a more complex cocktail.
It’s easy to overlook soda water as a rum mixer, but doing so is a shame. Soda water combines well with any spirit, as the bubbles help to bring the drink up to a new level, without compromising the flavor of your spirit at all.
Dark rums are especially good with soda water, as you get the chance to enjoy their complex flavors and spices. Plus, mixing soda water and rum gives you a drink that is easy to sip slowly.
Doing so is a fantastic chance to enjoy all the nuances of your rum, something that is harder to do when you are drinking it straight.
Tonic water is mostly paired with gin, as the bitterness of the tonic combines well with gin’s floral notes. That same bitterness is a good choice with rum too, helping to balance out the sweetness of rum.
You may also find other flavors coming to the fore, such as woody notes, especially if you’re using aged rum.
You can also play around with the type of tonic water that you use. There are many craft tonics out there now. Some of them are simply higher quality versions of tonic water, where the manufacturers avoid artificial ingredients to create a mixer that tastes much better.
Other craft tonics add subtle flavors, like lemon or grapefruit. Such additions can tone down some of the harshness of tonic water, while also adding more complexity to your drink.
Flavored seltzer or soda water is an easy choice that makes your drink a little more interesting. You still get the same advantages as regular soda water in that the flavor of the rum remains dominant and you get a drink that is easy to sip.
The addition of flavoring takes your drink to a whole new level. Lemon juice and lime juice both work well in rum cocktails, so seltzer that uses one or both of these flavors is a good starting point.
This is one situation where you need to be very careful about which brand you choose. Some brands rely on artificial flavors or other additives. Not only can these additions make your drink taste less appealing, but they may not be great for your health either.
Look for brands that rely on natural ingredients and be sure to check the ingredients label. As a general rule, the fewer ingredients that are added in, the better.
Like cola, ginger beer is a classic soda mixer that pairs well with countless different spirits. In fact, the mix of ginger beer and rum has its own name – the trademarked cocktail Dark ‘n’ Stormy.
Technically speaking, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy is only made using Goslings Black Seal Rum, but in practice, any type of dark rum works well. Some versions of the cocktail add in a squeeze of lime as an extra ingredient. While the lime isn’t necessary, it does provide appealing complexity to the drink.
Ginger ale isn’t combined with rum nearly as often as ginger beer, but both types of soda do have some similar flavors. In general, ginger ale tends to be drier and uses less sugar.
The differences between ginger ale and ginger beer influence the type of rum that you use. Ginger beer is best with dark rum, while ginger ale pairs perfectly with white rum, creating a lighter and more refreshing drink.
While rum mixers often rely on tropical flavors, apple cider is a surprisingly good mixer too. The fruitiness of apple cider is one reason for combining it with rum and the sweetness helps too. Plus, many types of apple cider have some tanginess, which offers a nice contrast.
Most importantly, apple cider highlights the sweet aspects of rum. This makes it perfect for anyone who is new to mixing rum. The combination works exceptionally well with dark rum, due to the spirit’s complex flavor notes.
Iced tea tends to work well with the flavors of bourbon and rum is effective for the same reasons. If you’re using sweet iced tea, then any type of rum is going to work well. White rum will have a subtle effect on the flavor of the drink, while dark or spiced rum will have a more notable effect.
Why stop there? Dark rum or spiced rum is a perfect addition to unsweetened iced tea. The decrease in sweetness allows the flavors of the rum to shine more powerfully, giving you a smooth drink that you won’t soon forget.
While the pairing of rum and vermouth isn’t as popular as other spirit and vermouth combinations, the combination shouldn’t be overlooked. Sweet vermouth offers fruit and floral flavors, which combine well with the somewhat spicy notes that you find in rum.
Because the two ingredients both contain alcohol, your drink ends up with higher alcohol content than most of the others on this list.
Try adding some bitters in for increased complexity, but don’t stress if you don’t have bitters at home. Even without additions, sweet vermouth and rum make a great combination.
Lemon Or Lime Juice
Lemon juice and lime juice are common ingredients in cocktails, but they’re generally not considered a mixer. After all, you’re normally adding in other ingredients too and you’re not going to be using a large amount of these tart juices at a time.
Still, you can simply mix rum with lemon juice or lime juice. Lemon juice is a good choice for dark rum, while lime is ideal for light rum. The juice is enough to make your drink more complex. Even just a few dashes should do the trick.
You could take the process a step further by using a little soda water as well. The soda water helps to dilute your drink and stops it from being too intense.
We’ve mentioned various fruit juices as mixers already, but you’re not limited to a single type of juice. You can use fruit punch instead or a store-purchased fruit juice that combines multiple juice types. Tropical fruit juices are common examples of this pattern and these area ideal mixers for rum.
Using a fruit punch or a mixed fruit juice also gives your drink more complexity than you’d find otherwise.
Just be wary when combining the ingredients. The fruit flavors can easily overpower the rum entirely. This isn’t always bad, especially if you’re using cheap rum, but it can be easy to drink much more rum than you intended to.
Hot chocolate mightn’t be a common mixer, but this doesn’t stop it from being an amazing one. Rum tends to have molasses undertones and these perfectly complement the sweetness and creaminess of a hot chocolate.
There is no single way to make this drink. You might choose to rely on a hot cocoa mix and water or milk, then add the rum in. Or, you might make a more complex hot chocolate, such as one that relies on cocoa powder and sugar, or even on chocolate and cream.
Regardless of how you prepare your hot chocolate, the rum will elevate it to an entirely new level.
Ice cream makes a very decadent mixer. You’ll need to use a blender to combine the ice cream and rum, but the end result is well worth the effort. You might enjoy the finished mixture as-is or put it back in the freezer to harden up again.
Ice cream is fun as a mixer as there are so many different types to choose from. The flavor of your ice cream will determine what your finished drink/dessert tastes like, so experiment with different options until you find one that you love.