Rum 101

Last Updated: December 8, 2023

From tiki bars to pool-side sipping, nothing quite transports you to the tropics like rum. But not all rum is created equal. In the simplest terms, rum is a distilled spirit made from a fermented sugar or refined-sugar base. Depending on the style, its alcohol content can range from 20 percent ABV all the way up to 75.5 percent ABV. There are light rums, dark rums, aged rums, and spiced rums. Some utilize pot stills while others are produced in column stills. Occasionally, producers base their product on a blend of the two. Simply put, rum is one of the most diverse categories of alcohol on the planet.

What Is Rum Made From?

Much like vodka, there are no universal production regulations when it comes to making rum. The one common denominator for all producers and rum-making nations is that it must be made from sugar-based products — usually either sugarcane or molasses. Rum is therefore generally produced in sugarcane-growing countries in the Caribbean, like Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Venezuela.

White vs Dark Rum

There are two main types of rum: white rum and dark rum. White rum is the most common style and is aged in stainless steel tanks for up to one year. It has a light, vibrant flavor and is used to make classic cocktails like the Daiquiri, Mojito, and Piña Colada.

Dark rums include rich aged rums and those that  include added coloring and occasionally spices. Aged rums take on color from time spent in charred oak casks. Dark or aged rums often provide a heavier-body and color to cocktails like the Dark ‘N’ Stormy or Hurricane. The rich, sweet flavor of dark rum makes it ideal for sipping straight as well.

Follow our rum guide for all of the best original and classic cocktails, as well as the best rums to buy.

Rum Essential Info

  • Color: Clear, light amber, Dark amber
  • Region: Rum can legally be distilled anywhere in the world, but it’s most commonly associated with places like Trinidad, Jamaica, Cuba, Guyana, Barbados, Mexico, etc.
  • ABV: 40% ABV minimum
  • Aging: Many, but not all, rums are aged
  • Commercial Examples: Ron Zacapa, Appleton, Foursquare, Bacardi, Barbancourt, Brugal, Mount Gay
  • Popular Cocktails: Piña Colada, Daiquiri, Planter’s Punch, Dark ‘N Stormy, Mai Tai, Cuba Libre

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