Rum doesn't get the most love in the cocktail world—too many people have been put off by sickly-sweet tiki drinks made with bottom-shelf versions of the sugarcane-based spirit. And that's a shame, because quality rums, whether a crisp white, a caramelly dark, or a near-dangerously strong naval variety, offer a world of flavors. To show off what this spirit can do, we've rounded up 15 of our favorite rum cocktail recipes, from a complex sipper made with Scotch and Cynar to a refreshing beer cocktail that starts with a tangy pineapple shrub. And don't worry—we've got a few tiki drinks done right, too.
100-Year-Old Cigar (Rum, Scotch, and Cynar Cocktail)
Not a fan of tropical rum drinks? This brooding stirred cocktail is a perfect introduction to the spirit for whiskey die-hards. It's based on a good aged rum, to which we add an intensely peaty Scotch, plus herbal liqueurs: bitter Cynar and sweeter Bénédictine. Rinsing the glass with absinthe, as you would for a Sazerac, lends the drink an anise note without overpowering the other flavors.
Suns 'n Roses (Rum and Stone Fruit Punch)
If you want more of a party-appropriate crowd-pleaser, try this bright, fruit-forward punch. We make it with aged rum, white tea, and lemon juice, and sweeten it with a syrup flavored with fresh peach or nectarine, dried apricots, and vanilla bean. Conveniently, you can make the punch six hours before serving it.
The classic daiquiri—made with just rum, lime juice, and sugar—is a far cry from hyper-sweet frozen versions. Light rum is the best choice, and gold rum is okay, but dark rum will be too heavy. The key is carefully measuring your ingredients to get the balance of flavors just right.
Mr. Howell (Daiquiri With Scotch and Maple)
This complex daiquiri variation uses rich maple syrup instead of plain old sugar and adds a touch of smoky Scotch to the mix. Feel free to experiment with different kinds of rum—a white variety will yield a cleaner-tasting drink, while something dark, like Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva, will give it a funky edge.
Smoked-Rosemary Rum Punch
If you like playing with fire in the kitchen (safely, of course), this make-ahead big-batch punch is for you. Made with both rich gold rum and earthy overproof rum, the cocktail gets its citrusy, piney character from a lemon-lime syrup that's infused with the scent of rosemary smoked over the flame of a gas stove.
This easy-drinking cocktail's sophisticated taste comes from long-aged oloroso sherry and tart cranberry juice. A half-ounce pour of gold rum serves as a supporting player here, giving the drink a little spicy depth without upstaging the sherry's nutty flavors.
Get the recipe for the Cranberry Especial »
Silver Daisy (Sparkling Rum Cocktail)
In this tiki-inspired twist on the French 75, a classic Champagne cocktail, we replace the gin with a lightly aged rum, giving the drink a hint of vanilla. The original cocktail traditionally calls for just lemon juice in addition to the gin and bubbly. For this one, we find that a combination of lime juice, a little orange curaçao, and Angostura bitters is a better match for the rum.
Isla Bonita Punch (Sparkling Pineapple-Rum Punch)
Another sparkling rum cocktail, this white rum punch gets its festive island vibe from pineapple juice, lime juice, and a whole lot of muddled mint. A vanilla-infused simple syrup gives it an elegant sweetness.
The Pineapple Hop
The winning combination of rum and pineapple lies at the heart of this pitcher-sized beer cocktail, too. But, in place of fresh pineapple juice, a homemade pineapple shrub lends its tart, vinegary notes to a mixture of white rum, orgeat, and piney, bitter IPA. The shrub needs to sit for two weeks in the fridge before you use it, but it'll keep for months, so consider whipping up a big batch to have on hand.
Everything Nice (Spiced-Rum Coffee With Butterscotch Whipped Cream)
In this riff on Irish coffee, we swap out the traditional whiskey for spiced rum, which balances the coffee's bitterness with its caramel sweetness. The best part, though, is the finishing touch: We top the drink with a quick butterscotch whipped cream, made with malted milk powder and dark brown sugar, plus a grating of fresh nutmeg to bring out the rum's spicy notes.
Made with the bracingly bitter herbal liqueur Cynar and an extra-funky navy-strength rum, this bold drink packs a serious punch. A little lime juice and honey-cinnamon syrup lighten things up and lend the cocktail a tropical nose.
Hazy Sunset (Pineapple-Rum Cocktail With Smoked Ice)
This fun pineapple-rum drink changes dramatically as you sip it, thanks to a surprise ingredient: mesquite-smoked ice. A mix of light and overproof rums plus pineapple and lime juices, it starts out light, but becomes richer and more savory as the ice melts.
Sparkling Jungle Bird
Sparkling wine and an infused rum brighten up this bubbly remake of an old tiki standby, the Jungle Bird (typically a mix of dark rum, Campari, lime, and pineapple). Infusing roasted pineapple and lime in aged rum produces a rich, tangy spirit, while a skewered garnish of a pineapple slice and leaf, lime wheel, and Luxardo cherry lends an extra-festive touch.
Cherry Sumac Swizzle
A standard swizzle features rum, lime, sugar, and a heaping addition of crushed ice. Here, we heighten the fruity and spicy flavors with a cherry-sumac syrup and Velvet Falernum, a low-proof liqueur infused with lime zest, ginger, almonds, and cloves. To mix the cocktail in the traditional fashion, once it's over ice, place a swizzle stick in the glass and spin the stick between your palms until frost appears on the sides. If you don't want to fuss with specialty tools, no one will know the difference if you just use a barspoon instead.
The Varnish's Milk Punch
A creamy relic from the 18th century, milk punch employs a curious technique: curdling the milk with an acid to remove the solids. The resulting clarified liquid retains the silkiness of the dairy, but appears magically clear. This cognac-rum milk punch, from Los Angeles cocktail bar The Varnish, also highlights another delightfully old-timey ingredient: oleo-saccharum, a fragrant syrup flavored with the oils from muddled lemon peels.