A report by Nikita Richardson for Bon Appetit.
When it comes to rum, Americans tend to prefer either Captain Morgan spiced rum or Bacardi for their cocktails. That’s left black rum, a way more interesting (and tastier) genre of rum, gathering dust on the shelf. The reason? We Americans just haven’t been exposed to enough of the stuff. But, after a little introduction, we have a feeling you’re going to want to take one of the Caribbean’s best liquors for a spin.
So, what separates black rum from its lighter counterparts? For one, it’s aged for much longer than white rums. The aging process takes place inside a well-charred barrel, where the molasses-based spirit takes on the smoky characteristics of its environment. The result is that black rum shares taste characteristics with your favorite whiskeys, but with a touch more sweetness.
Accordingly, black rum has a way of sneaking into tiki drinks, where it lends its subtle flavor to otherwise fruity concoctions.
“In the world of tiki, black rum is royalty,” says Anthony Schmidt, the beverage director at San Diego tiki bar False Idol. “The viscosity addition is what makes black rums altogether unique.” With its body and complexity, the spirit can stand up to fruit-focused cocktail ingredients in a way that lighter rums can’t.
At False Idol, nearly half of the menu’s 38 drinks incorporate black rum in some way, from the Tradewinds (black rum, apricot liqueur, coconut cordial, and fresh lemon) to the Sidewinder’s Fang (aged black rum, passion fruit, lime, orange, and seltzer water). The bar’s signature punch, Akala The Fierce, demonstrates black rum’s versatility beyond typical tiki flavors, blending it with chai-infused bourbon, vanilla, pimento dram, and orgeat.
“It’s that indispensable,” says Schmidt. “None [of the cocktails] could be as tempting without a black rum.”
Outside the tiki bar, drinkers can add a dash of black rum to a cup of tea for a more tropical hot toddy or to your favorite crockpot hot cider. Brand-wise, we suggest hunting down Hamilton Rum’s Pot Still Black, which the folks at famed Chicago bar Moneygun swear by, or the more readily available versions by Gosling’s and Mount Gay. Whatever you choose, we have a feeling you won’t regret it.