10 Best Rums for a Mojito, According to Bar Pros

Give the summertime classic drink a serious upgrade with one of these industry favorites.

<p>Food & Wine / Photo by Guillermo Riveros / Food Styling by Oset Babur-Winter / Uruapan Azul / Empirical / Ten To One</p>

Food & Wine / Photo by Guillermo Riveros / Food Styling by Oset Babur-Winter / Uruapan Azul / Empirical / Ten To One

The backbone of classic drinks like the Daiquiri, Mai Tai, and iconic  Mojito, rum is a sugarcane-based spirit that is shifting its perception as a simple mixer thanks to terroir-driven takes on the centuries-old liquor.

The classic Cuban Mojito is the perfect example of how a quality rum can impact a relatively straightforward drink. Mixed with mint leaves, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup before being strained into an ice-filled highball and topped with chilled soda water, the Mojito doesn’t have to rely on theatrics — a simple stir and it’s ready to sip.

“For a classic Mojito, I look for white rums, usually aged and then color-stripped with charcoal,” says Mike Ryan, corporate beverage director of Jarana, a Peruvian restaurant in East Rutherford, NJ. “Whether I’m making a fast, shaken, brash style of Mojito or a slower, gently muddled and contemplative Mojito, I tend to reach for a few brands over and over again.”

With rums so unique in profile that they could be sipped and savored in the same style as Scotch or whiskey, these bartender-approved bottles are the missing ingredient you need to perfect your Mojito.

Havana Club 3 Year

<p>Food & Wine / Havana Club</p>

Food & Wine / Havana Club

Cuba-produced Havana Club’s legal status remains in limbo in the United States, where the rum has been unavailable due to ongoing trade embargoes. A competing Havana Rum brand is available in the U.S., produced by Puerto Rico-based Bacardi and is said to be made from the recipe created by the Arechabala family who founded the original Cuban distillery. However, for some who can still source the Cuban version, it remains a Mojito essential.

“Although the history of the Mojito is long, there's no denying that its fame is synonymous with Cuba,” says Liana Oster, bar director at the NoMad London. “Using a Cuban rum adds to keeping the history alive and, in general, it tastes delicious with Havana Club, which is so well suited to bright and refreshing cocktails like the Mojito.”

Using a classic like Havana Club helps pay tribute to the island’s traditional methods of rum-making. Crafted and aged in Cuba from local sugarcane molasses, Havana Club 3 is a bar staple for Mojitos and Daiquiris.

“Its character adds depth to these cocktails as well as body,” says Oster. “The palate itself is quite citrusy with little nuances of oak from its time in bourbon barrels, creating a complex and delicious Mojito.”

Don Q Cristal White Rum

<p>Food & Wine / Don Q Rum</p>

Food & Wine / Don Q Rum

This Puerto Rican rum is the result of six generations of the Serrallés family perfecting their recipe, which is light, crisp, and smooth thanks to time spent aging in American white oak barrels.

Don Q Cristal works wonderfully in a Mojito, allowing the refreshing mint and zesty lime flavors to shine,” says Waél Deek, beverage director at One More Hospitality Group in New York City, whose portfolio includes Alice, Travelers, Poets & Friends, Alaluna, Osteria57, and Pamina Dolci e Gelato. “Mojitos are about fresh ingredients and the right amount of sweetness, and the smoothness of this rum makes it easy to mix to create a well-balanced drink.”

Puerto Rico-born-and-raised bartender Alberto Miranda, beverage director and partner at Nobody Told Me in New York City, agrees.

“It’s smooth and crisp due to its multiple distillations, and the five-year-old, barrel-aged rum in the blend gives it character, making a Mojito refreshing while still keeping it interesting,” he says. “It’s what I grew up drinking, and it’s the rum I expect when ordering a Mojito on the island.”

Hampden Estate Rum Fire

<p>Food & Wine / Hampden Estate Rum</p>

Food & Wine / Hampden Estate Rum

Produced in Trelawny Parish and dubbed the “grand cru” of Jamaican rum, this overproof rum has been crafted the same way since the 18th century.

The bold flavors and higher alcohol levels (this one clocks in at 63% ABV) gives bartenders flexibility. “The extra kick from Rum Fire’s higher ABV allows us to reduce the rum content and leaves us extra room for soda water,  resulting in a crisper Mojito,” says Alex Francis, founder of De Vie in Paris. “The extra carbonation even further enhances the bright banana and papaya top notes, and  the dilution completely changes your perception of the rum.”

Francis even goes a step further, flash-infusing the rum with mint and cold-distilling it, so the resulting Mojito flavor “feels like it’s turned up to 110%.”

Uruapan Charanda Blanco

<p>Food & Wine / Uruapan Azul</p>

Food & Wine / Uruapan Azul

The house rum at Mexican-American cocktail bar Superbueno in New York, single-blended Uruapan Charanda Blanco hails from the Mexican state of Michoacán, where a denominación de origen (D.O.) has existed for nearly 20 years.

“The sugarcane is grown in volcanic red soil, which contributes to some very rich flavors and structured mineral characteristics in the rum,” says Superbueno head bartender Kip Moffitt.

A family tradition started by the Pachecos in 1907, Charanda was a more profitable alternative to the not-as-popular mezcal — and with the creation of the denomination of origin, the local tradition of sugarcane distillation (and the producers) is protected.

“Distilled from 50% pressed sugarcane and 50% molasses, it has a beautiful marriage of flavors,” says Kyle Bobkowski, beverage manager at Crossroads Hotel in Kansas City. “It meets the sweetness and brightness of lighter and white rums (think Havana Club Blanco, Bacardi Superior, and Plantation 3 Stars) and merges that with the punchy, grassy, and incredibly interesting character of clairin or agricole rums.”

Saison Pale

<p>Food & Wine / Rum Saison</p>

Food & Wine / Rum Saison

“Some complain about making Mojitos — muddling can be bothersome — but I love escapism in a glass,” says Max Green, bar director of New York-based Hospitality Department (the group behind The Press Club Grill and soon-to-open Bronze Owl).

“When whipping one up, I often grab a bottle of Saison Pale, subtly sweet and grassy, without any dosage, it lends perfectly to the light and refreshing classic. It’s quality juice that doesn’t break the bank, which helps when everything feels just a little more expensive these days.”

Cognac cellar master Jérôme Tessendier borrows the methods behind the classic French brandy when blending rums from Barbados, Trinidad, and Jamaica in French oak barrels on the banks of the Charente River in Cognac. It results in a rum that’s fresh, fruity, and floral, while balancing the distinct characteristics of the three Caribbean islands.

Empirical Soka

<p>Food & Wine / Empirical</p>

Food & Wine / Empirical

“For a funkier Mojito, I really like Empirical’s Soka,” says Sasha Wijidessa, co-owner of Fura in Singapore. “It isn’t actually a rum — Soka is made from fresh sorghum cane that's fermented with a Thai rice Chong yeast and then vacuum-distilled to create a spirit akin to rhum agricole.”

Incorporating fermentation methods inspired by Jamaican distilleries, the made-from-scratch spirit is “grassy, slightly earthy, but at the same time very bright, fresh, and has intense green apple notes on the palate, all of which complement the ingredients in a Mojito while adding a layer of complexity,” says Wijidessa.

Bounty Premium White

<p>Food & Wine / Spiribam Fine Spirits Family</p>

Food & Wine / Spiribam Fine Spirits Family

“A column still rum from Saint Lucia is quickly becoming one of our favorite rums to make Mojitos,” says Andy Cabrera, cantinero at Miami’s Cafe La Trova and co-owner of bar consulting company The Garnish, referring to Bounty Premium White rum.

Aged two years in used bourbon casks and filtered to remove any color extracted from the oak, this super-smooth rum — crafted with molasses from the Dominican Republic — lends light, tropical citrus notes like lemon zest to the classic cocktail. “Its medium body and fruity notes pair especially well with the refreshing flavors of mint without adding too much complexity,” says Cabrera.

Ten to One White Rum

<p>Food & Wine / Ten To One</p>

Food & Wine / Ten To One

Marc Farrell’s blend from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic is part of the Black founder’s goal to redefine rum as a premium spirit — a liquor that’s versatile enough to blend beautifully in a craft cocktail.

“A lot of people like Ten to One White Rum for its flavors and aromas of orange zest and tropical fruit, namely bananas,” says Darryl Chan, bar director and head bartender of The Portrait Bar at The Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York. “But I also love it because it is super layered and interesting with savory, vegetal notes that you can appreciate as a sipping rum, but this definitely doesn’t get lost in rum drinks.”

Probitas White Blended Rum

<p>Food & Wine / Probitas</p>

Food & Wine / Probitas

“For something more adventurous, Probitas is my favorite,” says Nick Jackson, head bartender at cocktail bar The Rum House in Times Square. “The tropical rum notes pair nicely with the fresh mint — don’t overdo it on the muddling — lime, and the effervescence of the soda water.”

A blend from two dynamic distilleries, Probitas is a mix of three rums from Foursquare in Barbados and Hampden Estate in Jamaica. “It’s a combination of the best rums the Caribbean has to offer, and its expressive profile makes for a well-rounded Mojito,” says Rocco DiLillo, bar manager of Albert’s Bar in New York City.

“At 47% ABV, it stands up to the lime and mint flavors in the cocktail with ease and allows for the rum to be the star focus of this classic cocktail.”

Rhum J.M Agricole Blanc

<p>Food & Wine / Spiribam Fine Spirits Family</p>

Food & Wine / Spiribam Fine Spirits Family

“The best rum for a Mojito is a white rhum agricole, which is made from fresh sugarcane juice rather than fermented molasses,” says Jose R Rodriguez, general manager at Coa at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico. His go-to is Rhum J.M Blanc from the island of Martinique.

“Rhum agricole brings unique notes to the Mojito without being overpowering, keeping it light and refreshing,” he says.

An easy bottle to find at most liquor stores, Rhum J.M Agricole Blanc provides “depth and a layer of herbaceous notes that complement the citrus and mint really well,” adds Betty Woodward, director of food and beverage at Hotel Heron in Old Town Alexandria, VA. 

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