Serious Eats: Drinks
Stocking Your Home Bar: More Rum Advice from the Experts
Last week, we asked a few experts to help us choose a white rum to buy for the home bar. But of course, there's much more to rum than that, and the pros were pretty unanimous in the opinion that you need a few other types of rum for sipping and making cocktails.
Here are their top picks in gold, overproof, and dark sipping rums. Time to break open the piggy bank and get out your shopping lists!
Michael Neff, The Rum House
Once you have a white rum, you'll want an aged rum for sipping or experimenting with cocktails. The Santa Teresa 1796 is one of my favorites, as it is complex enough to drink on its own (which I do), and adds vanilla and spice elements to classic cocktails that call for a white. In essence, swap the two and see if you can note the differences. Also, many tiki cocktails call for both light and dark rum, so it pays to have both on hand.
If I were to get one more bottle, I would probably pick something more expensive, like Mount Gay XO. Really old rums are some of the best spirits in the world, and rival cognacs for sipping and savoring."—Michael Neff, The Rum House, NYC
Matt Robold, RumDood.com
Assuming I already have white rum, and I can have 2 more bottles of rum, I'd go with Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum and Rhum J.M. VSOP (Rhum Agricole). Smith & Cross is a rum that really embodies what the old British Navy Style and Jamaican style rums used to be. It's strong and full of hogo (a deep set of "funky" flavors like overripe banana and copper). S&C isn't the greatest sipper, but from Old Fashioneds to Mai Tais it is one of the most incredible and interesting rums for use in cocktails that you will ever find.
The Rhum JM VSOP is a rhum agricole vieux—meaning a French style rum made from sugar cane juice rather than molasses. It's dry, smoky, and complex and is a phenomenal sipper as well as a great mixer (if a bit pricey for cocktails). Use it in a simple Ti Punch (the national drink of Martinique), an El Presidente, or in a Tiki drink.
In fact, the main reason I'd choose these two rums is because they'd allow me to make one of the greatest cocktails ever created, and probably the shiniest star in the Tiki universe: the Mai Tai. Use an ounce of each along with your lime juice, curacao, orgeat, and rock candy syrup and you will be blown away."—Matt Robold, rumdood.com
Blair Reynolds, Trader Tiki
With a gold rum and a white one, you'll be able to make a diverse selection of cocktails, and still be able to switch out rums in recipes to try something a little different. Not every Daiquiri has to be made with just white rum! For your gold rum, you can't go wrong with Jamaican. Aged, molasses-based, and good enough for sipping but works wonders in cocktails. Appleton is still the undisputed king here, and their VX product has been my go to standard, but the Reserve is quickly becoming a "by-the-case" product in my home bar.
If you want to go completely hog wild, and have the liver to stand it, Smith & Cross is a wonderful expression of old-style Jamaican rum, though extremely potent and not for the faint of heart.
If you're still finding a bit of change tinkling in your pocket after these though, the next must-have ingredient has to be Lemon Hart 151. Aged, overproof demerara rum that is called on plenty in classic tropical drinks, a dash can add dimension and 1/2 ounce can take a drink from lifeless to the living dead. It's not a great sipper on its own, but brings a lot of smoke and spice to any drink it touches."—Blair Reynolds, Trader Tiki
Yael Vengroff, Painkiller
El Dorado 15 makes a unique and more complex Old Fashioned which I like to garnish with grated nutmeg and an orange twist.
Beyond that, Lemon Hart 151. Because I love to set things on fire. But in all seriousness, 151 is a crucial ingredient in many tiki cocktails. Its high proof is necessary to create the right balance between citrus and sweet. What I especially like about Lemonhart 151 is it is a Demerara rum so it is extremely full-bodied and asserts itself well amongst the numerous other ingredients in tiki cocktails."—Yael Vengroff, Painkiller, NYC
Stephanie Moreno, Astor Wines & Spirits
El Dorado Special Reserve 15 year Rum—A blend of select aged rums, each at least 15 years old in an ideal climate for natural aging. Brown sugar, banana, pineapple, and spices from the oak aging make this the perfect sipping rum. I need this for my swizzles.
If I could get one more bottle, I'd get a Rhum Agricole. Rhum JM Blanc, distilled from sugarcane juice and tank conditioned for 6 months in stainless steel before bottling. Notes of banana, grass, white pepper and cinnamon are present. This is NOT your ordinary white rum, folks.
But I need a 151 as well: Lemon Hart 151 is the stuff. This Guyana overproof rum is back after popular demand! It has a bit of a caramel, coffee, vanilla'd profile that is best used in small quantities as a float on rum cocktails such as the classic Mai Tai."—Stephanie Moreno, Astor Wines & Spirits
What rum do you like to keep around the house?