A spirit highly expressive of terroir, rum’s flavors can vary from musky and sultry to herbaceous and citric. It’s well renowned for its sippability and how easily different styles can morph a simple cocktail into a multi-dimensional experience.
Rum can do it all, but it remains underappreciated among consumers for its long association with frozen concoctions and potent punches. However, the sugar cane spirit can be incredibly nuanced, with different expressions hailing from the Caribbean, South America, and beyond.
When we asked bartenders which rums on the market they think are most underappreciated, their responses reflect the same sorts of stories — spirits that represent the people who make them and the terroir of unique corners of the world. Here are eight rums that bartenders across the country think deserve a bit more love.
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THE MOST UNDERRATED RUMS ACCORDING TO BARTENDERS:
- Flor de Caña— Nicaragua
- Smith and Cross— Jamaica
- The Funk Jamaican Rum— Jamaica
- Afrohead Rum— Trinidad
- Charanda Rum— Mexico
- Clarin Sajous— Haiti
- Clarin Vaval — Haiti
- Yaguara Branca Cachaça— Brazil
“One rum that I really enjoy, and find somewhat underrated, is Flor De Caña, a delicious Nicaraguan rum that dates back to 1890. It’s light, smooth, and crisp. It’s also very versatile and inexpensive for the price point. We use it as our well rum in Superfrico and our speakeasy-style cocktail bar, the Ski Lodge. I recommend incorporating it into any bar program as it’s delicious in an array of cocktails but also very enjoyable over ice.” —Mauro Villalobos, bar manager, Superfrico, Las Vegas
“Smith and Cross is so incredibly versatile and at a great price! The profile is a beautiful combination of tropical, spice, and vegetal funk. My favorite application is using this as a split base for an Old Fashioned with a sweeter rum, or even bourbon. It also plays nice with lime and sweetener to make a killer Daiquiri!” —Lindsay Baker, assistant general manager, Bullard Tavern, Portland, Ore.
“My favorite underrated rum is The Funk Jamaican Rum. This rum is one that I’ve been recently working with and gravitating towards. It’s 100 proof so not quite ‘overproof,’ and I love it for that reason. The Funk provides the power of being high in proof but still has a ton of flavor to the rum. Whereas some overproof rums can be a little too intense on the palate, The Funk is more mellow, has great fruit notes, and — as the name suggests — a funky aroma. Notes of banana and pineapple rind dominate this rum. It’s a very approachable rum, and our restaurant, The Bristol, currently utilizes this rum in our clarified milk punch that we call ‘The Pugilist.’”—Chuckiy Bement, beverage director, B. Hospitality Co., Chicago.
“I’d have to name Afrohead Rum as the most underrated rum. This rum is distilled in Trinidad after being made with molasses, predominantly from the Dominican Republic. Before being bottled, it’s blended with other aged rums and matured for seven years. It’s a bartender’s dream in that it is approachable enough to sip on neat, yet dynamic enough to hold up and complement other robust flavors in thoughtful cocktails. Aged in once-used barrels, it gives a nice bourbon-like finish. Its beautiful label is attractive to the eye and a beautiful addition to any back bar. On the palate, you get notes of honey, apricot, spice vanilla, and banana, while on the nose, some sweet oak, spice, and a hint of flowers. Toast, silky, estery; delightful and interesting; pleasant and provocative.” —Ellie St. Clair, beverage director & principal bartender, Metropolitan Bar and Kitchen, Detroit.
“The most underrated rum in my humble opinion is Charanda Rum from Michoacan. When the average cocktail enthusiast thinks of Mexican spirits, what comes to mind is delicious tequila and mezcal. What we may not think of is rum, but Mexico has seriously delicious rum. Charanda has super-funky and almost grassy notes like a cachaça or rhum agricole would. This juice only comes from the state of Michoacan. An agave lover and fellow TikToker, Lucas Assis, makes a video on what he calls a Daiquiri Michoacano where he simply replaces a more common rum with Charanda — and for good reason: It’s very versatile and can elevate many classic rum cocktails. Charanda isn’t something I have ever seen on a menu or even mentioned apart from Lucas Assis. As soon as a guest reads “Mexican rum” on a menu, I guarantee their interest would be piqued. More people should boycott celebrity tequila and start drinking more Mexican rum.” — Justin Sadja, bartender and TikTok content creator, @ThirstyWhale.
“Clairin is an agricole rhum that is specific to Haiti and doesn’t get nearly the love it deserves. This cane juice distillate has such a strong sense of place, with a range of bottlings that are named after the distiller and highlight the region where it is grown and produced. My favorite is Clairin Sajous: bright, fresh, fruity, and bursting with terroir-driven flavor. Sip it neat or in a classic Daiquiri to showcase its nuance and versatility.” —Mark Phelan, beverage director, 16 On Center, Chicago.
“Clarin is the local rum of Haiti’s villages. Fritz Vaval grows a variety of sugar cane called Madame Meuze, and the distilled result is delicious and impossible to describe. It’s a full expression of what a sugar cane spirit can be.” —Troy Sidle, director of cocktails, new business development for The Dinex Group by Daniel Boulud
“Is it cheating if I pick a cachaça? I think a lot of people have skewed visions of this category of rum, but the Yaguara Cachaça Branca is an exceptionally delicious example. I quite like their other expressions, but if I had to pick one, the Branca stands out because of its unique flavor and versatility. Distilled once in an artisanal pot still, it tastes refined on the palate, with bright salinity and fruit notes complementing the grassy center. Obviously fantastic in a Caipirinha, it also stands out in stirred classics like an El Presidente and makes a fun, funky Hemingway Daiquiri.” —Jack Tillman, bar lead, Young Joni, Minneapolis.