Mixing up rum-based cocktails at home doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a lot of mixers that go well with both light and dark rums, making it possible to have a great drink with as little as two or three ingredients!
Types of rum cocktails
There are several different categories of rum cocktails to choose from. You can opt for simple highballs, three-ingredient, sweet and sour drinks like the Daiquiri, or more complex tropical or tiki drinks like the classic Mai Tai.
Rum also makes an excellent choice in place of the standard liquor in many classic cocktail recipes! Think Rum Manhattan, Rum Old Fashioned, or Rum Negroni. All of these drinks have only a few ingredients but pack plenty of flavor and complexity. Let’s dive into the drink categories:
These are your most basic mixed drinks and always a crowd-pleaser. Fill a tall glass with ice, pour in a couple ounces of rum, then top with your mixer of choice. This type of drink usually benefits from a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. Think Rum & Coke (Cuba Libre) or the Dark ‘n Stormy.
A pared-down sour-style cocktail is made with three simple ingredients: the spirit (white or dark rum), citrus juice (lemon or lime), and a sweetener, like simple syrup.
You can make really fun variations here just by making or buying flavored syrups. An easy way to mix it up is to use honey syrup in place of regular simple syrup, but you could also get fancy and use coconut syrup or passion fruit syrup, or any number of other flavored syrups! More on that in the next section.
Many classic cocktails are fairly simple, they just require you to have some more specific ingredients on hand. This includes ingredients like sweet or dry vermouth or various liqueurs, such as Campari or Aperol. An example of a simple rum classic is the El Presidente.
More modern riffs on classics include the Rum Negroni or Rum Manhattan. Love a Cosmopolitan? Make it with white rum for a more flavorful and interesting variation!
Simple tiki drinks
The world of tropical rum drinks can be overwhelming, even for a seasoned home bartender. But not all tiki drinks require long ingredient lists or hyper-specific bottles of rum.
The Shark’s Tooth, Hurricane, Mary Pickford, Corn ‘n Oil, and Pina Colada are great examples of simple tiki-style drinks. The classic Mai Tai is not that much more involved than these, and it’s well worth the extra effort!
The best mixers for easy rum drinks
Now that we’ve covered some different types of drinks you can make, it’s time to check out the huge range of mixers that go great with rum. We’ll start with the mixers used in the simplest drinks, then move up in complexity from there.
Cola is a classic mixer for rum, known for its combination of sweetness and a hint of spice. It’s the key ingredient in the famous Rum and Coke (or Cuba Libre) cocktail.
TRY IT: Fill a highball glass with ice, add 2 ounces of rum, then fill the glass with cola. Squeeze a lime wedge over the drink and drop it in the glass. For a slight variation, try it with a squeeze of lemon or a flavored cola. I prefer Fever-Tree’s Distiller’s Cola for the best possible flavor and carbonation.
Ginger beer or ginger ale
Ginger beer pairs exceptionally well with rum, creating refreshing and slightly spicy cocktails. It’s a crucial component in popular drinks like the Dark ‘n’ Stormy. Like cachaca? Try my Brazilian Buck.
TRY IT: Fill a highball glass with ice, add 2 ounces of rum, then fill the glass with ginger beer. Squeeze a lime wedge over the drink and drop it in the glass.
Soda water or club soda
Sparkling water and white rum are a perfect pair. The naturally mild flavor and sweetness of the rum is highlighted by a quality, clean-tasting club soda. It’s also a great way to add flavor without sugar or calories.
Try fun flavors like La Croix Coconut or Beach Plum. Just like a Rum & Coke or Dark ‘n Stormy, squeezing a wedge of lime or lemon over the drink will help balance and enhance the flavors of the drink.
TRY IT: Fill a highball glass with ice, add 2 ounces of rum, then fill the glass with sparkling water. Squeeze a lemon or lime wedge over the drink and drop it in the glass.
Tonic water’s bitterness contrasts with the mild sweetness of rum and create a balanced and complex cocktail. Try using it in a Rum & Tonic (again, with a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon!)
TRY IT: Fill a highball glass with ice, add 2 ounces of white or aged rum, then fill the glass with tonic water. Squeeze a lemon or lime wedge over the drink and drop it in the glass.
TRY IT: Combine 2 ounces of white rum with 1 oz of lime or lemon juice and 1 oz of simple syrup or honey syrup. Shake the ingredients in a cocktail shaker (or even a mason jar!) with plenty of ice. Strain the liquid from the ice and into a cocktail glass or a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of citrus and enjoy.
Various fruit juices, such as orange, passion fruit, or cranberry, can be excellent mixers for rum. They add sweetness, tanginess, and depth to tropical-inspired cocktails. It’s just important to create balance by combining both sweet and sour flavors – otherwise, you’ll end with a drink that’s just too sugary. Drinks using mixers like this include the Sea Breeze or the Salty Dog. Just swap out the vodka in those drinks for white rum!
TRY IT: Combine 2 ounces of white or dark rum with 2 ounces of cranberry juice and 1 ounce of grapefruit juice in a glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling water and garnish with a slice of grapefruit or lime.
DIY simple syrups made with fruits or spices (or both!) are the perfect foil for the nuanced flavor of varying rums. This type of ingredient is commonly used in classic tropical tiki drink recipes like the Mai Tai or Hurricane.
Don’t be intimidated by making your own syrups – it’s so easy! Many syrups don’t even require heating, simply mix everything together and you’re done. Some of my favorite cocktail syrups to use with rum include:
- Spiced simple syrup
- Passion fruit simple syrup
- Vanilla simple syrup
- Honey syrup
- Raspberry simple syrup
- Dragonfruit simple syrup
The Easiest 3 Ingredient Rum Cocktail
- 2 oz white or aged rum
- 6 oz mixer of choice see notes below
- 1/2 oz lime or lemon juice
- Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour the vodka over the ice, add a squeeze of fresh citrus juice, then top with your mixer of choice.
- Stir gently, garnish as desired, and enjoy!
The best mixers for rum:
- Ginger beer
- Grapefruit juice
- Cranberry juice
- Tonic water
- Sparkling water / seltzer / club soda
- Ginger ale
- Citrus sodas
- Grapefruit soda
- Root beer