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A beginner's guide to spiced rum

Sweet and accessible, spiced rum is ideal for tentative spirit-sippers, as well as being a killer cocktail ingredient.

By Zane Henry
Published 25 Nov 2020, 13:30 GMT
Spiced rum has always had wide appeal, apart from among the most curmudgeonly of purists.

Spiced rum has always had wide appeal, apart from among the most curmudgeonly of purists.

Photograph by Getty Images

What it is

Spiced rum has always had wide appeal, apart from among the most curmudgeonly of purists. Its gentle sweetness and spiciness draws in drinkers who might find regular rum a bit too challenging, as well as connoisseurs who appreciate a bit of added intrigue in their tipple. Rum is distilled from sugarcane, then aged in oak barrels, with the colour — light, gold, dark — dependent on how long it’s aged for and whether the sugarcane is caramelised. Spiced rum is just that: rum — usually gold or dark varieties — with spices added to it. The most common spices used are cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom and cloves, but some versions also use aniseed, nutmeg or pepper. Many brands also add some caramel for extra sweetness. 

How to have it

Spiced rum and cola is a popular option. An alternative is to mix it with a strong ginger beer, such as Dalston’s or Fever-Tree, which creates a flavour bomb for robust palates. Spiced rum also works well in cocktails, either as an accent to another spirit — as with the vodka-based warsaw cooler (vodka, spiced rum, lemon juice, apple juice, triple sec and honey) — or as the backbone of drinks like the cable car (spiced rum, triple sec, lemon, sugar and egg white). Brands like Captain Morgan and Sailor Jerry are solid additions to any bar cabinet, Kraken is an affordable choice with bags of vanilla and cinnamon, and Sadler’s Peaky Blinder black spiced rum is ideal neat or over ice. 

Do it yourself

Spiced rum is easy to make. Use a bottle of your favourite light or dark rum — something affordable, as you don’t want to compete against the complex oakiness of a premium bottle. Pour it out into an airtight container, then add your favoured blend of herbs and whole spices (we recommend cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, allspice berries and orange peel). Let it sit for two to three days in a cool, dark place before tasting. Once it’s acquired a potency that works for you, kick back and enjoy your grog.

How to mix a spiced rum negroni cocktail at home

30ml Black Tears spiced rum
20ml Americano Bianco
20ml Tempus Fugit Gran Classico Bitter
1 dash Angostura bitters

Tip all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into an ice-filled old fashioned glass.

Athens's Baba au Rum bar offers a large range of spiced rums and rum cocktails.

Photograph by Athens Bar Show Magazine

Three bars to try spiced rum around the world

1. Baba au Rum, Athens
This bar offers a large range of spiced rums and rum cocktails. The most popular is the Spicy Baba: Trinidadian rum with ginger, berries and lime.

2. Rum & Sugar, London
Set within the 19th-century warehouses that make up the Museum of London Docklands, this bar has over 200 rums, many of them spiced.

3. The Rum House, New York
Among the numerous cocktails served at this Midtown bar are four daiquiris made with different rums. Try the Plantation Pineapple.

Published in Issue 10 (winter 2020) of National Geographic Traveller Food

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