Rum Cocktails – With a Little Bit of Rum History

Rum cocktails are amazing. We can’t wait to tell you why rum is so good for cocktails. But before we share popular rum-based cocktail recipes, you might be interested in the history of rum cocktails.

We closely link the creation of rum to the discovery of America and trade between the continents. The systematic cultivation and trade in sugar and sugar cane began with the colonization of the Caribbean islands, which represented important supply stations for European merchant ships.

It was soon discovered that the by-product of sugar cane, which thrives in the tropical climate of the Caribbean, was suitable for making a distillate. While sugar lost importance as an export product over the centuries, rum became one of the most popular spirits worldwide. Each island in the Caribbean now has its own style of rum.

The history of rum cocktails is more than 500 years old. But where exactly does rum come from? Why is rum good for cocktails? What are some of the most popular rum-based cocktail recipes? Learn all about the history of rum and more right here!

Table of Contents

A Brief History of Rum Cocktails

Hold on to your butts because we are flying through this brief review of the history of rum cocktails.

In 1493, an Italian explorer delivered cane saplings to the Caribbean. A little over a century later, in 1598, Spanish settlers in Guayacán, Cuba, produced a distillate from sugar cane juice and called it “Aguardiente de Cana” (sugar cane liquor).

The Royal British Navy made rum an official part of the daily diet for seafarers in 1687. Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum, soldier? But in 1740, British Vice-Admiral Edward “Old Grog” Vernon issued orders to dilute the daily ration of rum with water by a specified ratio. Seafarers who were careful with their rations received extra lime juice and sugar to make the drink tastier.

George Washington poured two casks of Barbados rum at his inauguration ceremony in 1789.

Moving into the 1800s now when the “Pina de Plata” restaurant and bar opened in Havana in 1820. Havana’s bars became the cradle of Caribbean cocktail culture.

Did you know the Hurricane rum cocktail was invented to sell off rum overstock during prohibition? In 1942, restaurateurs were required to purchase a minimum quantity of rum from retailers for each bottle of whiskey they bought. The Pat O’Brien’s bar in New Orleans wanted to sell off its bloated rum stocks and invented the “Hurricane” cocktail.

And finally, the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico developed the pina colada in 1954, a drink we all know and love, consisting of light rum, fresh pineapple, and cream of coconut.

Now that you know some of the most interesting pieces of the history of rum, let’s talk about what rum is.

Rum 101: Sugar Cane (The Sweet Reason Why Rum is Good for Cocktails)

In part, rum is good for cocktails because it’s made from sugar cane. In cane sugar production, there is inevitably a by-product that cannot be used any further: molasses. Molasses still contains 50% of the plant’s original sugar content and has the delightful ability to ferment when combined with yeast and water.

Although many of the most well-known and popular rum-based cocktails are mixed with white rum (like the Mojito or Daiquiri), cocktails made with brown rum are no less delicious.

Popular Rum-Based Cocktails Using Dark Rum

Cocktails made with brown rum have an intense flavor and color, like the Dark and Stormy.

Dark and Stormy Recipe

A Dark and Stormy is a great beginner’s rum cocktail because it has only a few ingredients, and it’s easy to mix it yourself.


  • 5 ml dark rum (any brand)
  • 20 ml fresh lime juice
  • 1 can ginger beer


This popular rum-based cocktail is a three(ish) step process. First, pour the rum and lime juice into a highball glass filled with ice. Then top up the drink with the ginger beer. Mix well and carefully with a bar spoon. Garnish with lime wedges and serve with a drinking straw.

Popular Rum-Based Cocktails Using White Rum

Usually, the main reason for choosing between dark or white rum is aesthetic purposes. Some bartenders use white rum because it doesn’t add color to the cocktail.


This popular rum-based cocktail is an absolute classic that doesn’t need many ingredients. The Mojito makes great summery cocktails. The rum, cane sugar, lime, and mint mixture has a wonderfully fresh taste and will probably never go out of style.


  • 60 ml white rum
  • 15 ml fresh lime juice
  • 1 bar spoon of cane sugar
  • Fresh mint
  • Soda water


First, crush and throw a handful of fresh mint into a tall glass so the aromas can develop better. Pour lime juice over the mint, add the raw sugar, and dissolve it with a little soda water. Pour the rum, add ice cubes, and mix well. Finally, top up with soda water. Cheers!

Popular Rum-Based Cocktails Using Dark Rum and White Rum

You don’t have to use only white or only brown rum for any of these recipes. Feel free to use what you have on hand and experiment. Use one type or both.


The Zombie rum cocktail is only scary because of the five different spirits in the drink, but we have confidence that you can pull it off. Here’s how to resurrect your own Zombie:


  • 20 ml dark rum
  • 20 ml white rum
  • 10 ml overproof rum (Any rum that’s over 50% alcohol by volume)
  • 10 ml apricot brandy
  • 20 ml cherry liqueur
  • 30 ml orange juice
  • 40 ml pineapple juice
  • 30 ml fresh lime juice


Combine the rum, apricot brandy, cherry liqueur, orange juice, pineapple juice, and lime juice in a shaker and shake well with enough ice. Fill a tall cup with ice cubes and slowly strain the drink into it. Garnish the Zombie with slivers of fruit.

Why is rum good for cocktails? Well, we just gave you three awesome reasons. Enjoy our favorite rum cocktails, and don’t forget to share your newfound facts on the history of rum the next time you’re at a party.

What is Rum? Learn the Dark and Stormy History of Rum

What is Rum? Well, rum is delicious. Sweet and versatile, rum is a spirit that can be sipped on its own or made into tropical tiki or old-school classic ...

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