So, you've got a bottle of rum. Maybe you realized it was summertime and you noticed that bottle collecting dust on your bar cart. Perhaps someone gave you a bottle and you haven't done much with it since. But now you're asking yourself, "What the hell am I gonna do with this?" Sure, rum comes with a shaky reputation, due in large part to overly sweet swimming pool-sized tropical drinks or mistakes made in your younger years (often involving a handle of Bacardi and a 2-liter of soda). Fear not. Roguish, rascally and surprisingly complex, rum is a fantastic spirit that can be sipped, mixed and dumped into a punch bowl.
In his preeminent book, And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, Wayne Curtis sums up the spirit's carefree approach: "Rum embodies America's laissez-faire attitude. It is whatever it wants to be." Simply, if it's made from sugarcane or a byproduct like molasses, it's called rum. As for the origins, it's believed to have first been distilled somewhere in the Caribbean (most likely Barbados). Of course, today it's produced in a range of regions with just as many variations. So whether you've got a bottle of the light stuff, the good aged rums or some spiced variety, there are easy cocktails you can whip up for yourself or company. Herewith, a few ideas.
If you've got light or gold rum ...
The Hemingway Daiquiri
Like any traditional sour, when mixed correctly, a daiquiri is sublime. Not the sickeningly sweet, blended variety you're served at all-inclusive resorts, either. We mean the kind Hemingway enjoyed. The boozy, straightforward kind. They're actually incredibly hard to mess up, which makes it a simple go-to cocktail to impress your guests at home.
Hands down the quickest and most effective way to achieve tropical vacation vibes, the creamy blend of tangy pineapple juice, sweet coconut and rum makes everything better. Easy to whip up, this should be a go-to no matter the season. It's ideal for celebrating the warm weather, and for pretending it's balmy during the sad, chilly days of fall and winter.
If you've got dark rum ...
Rum Old Fashioned
The right rum can mimic the steadfast appeal of nearly any classic whiskey cocktail while adding a bright under-layer of tropical notes. This take on the old fashioned is perfect for easygoing summer days and comforting on a cool fall evening. And opt for orange bitters if you have them, for an extra punch of flavor.
A simple mixture of rum and sweet citrus with a splash of effervescent soda water, the Planter's Punch has been gracing cocktail books and bar menus for well over a century. This is also one of those drinks that has many recipe variations. And while you can follow this or any other recipe, the key to this punch is to give it your personal spin with whatever fruit you have on hand.
If you've got spiced rum ...
The Cable Car
This cocktail, created by Tony Abou-Ganim, of San Francisco's Starlight Room, is an excolumnsent rum sour that's become something of a modern classic. The spiced rum is balanced out with a tart shot of fresh lemon and simple syrup, then accented with a touch of cinnamon.
You can simply swap the grainy spice of rye for the warm, caramelized spices of a good spiced rum in this old school New Orleans cocktail. But if you can get your hands on Red Absinthe (infused with dried hibiscus flowers) from Brooklyn's Doc Hersons spirits, you boost it with even more tropical island flavors.
Although the origin of the word rum is widely disputed, some etymologists argue that it was taken from the last syllable for the Latin word for sugar saccharum.