Bartenders Share The Best Ingredients For a Top Shelf Rum and Coke

Although rum may not be the most fashionable option in a cocktail menu, it is still a popular choice. Rum was the third-most sold spirit in America in 2020, behind whiskey and vodka.

Misconceptions about rum—that it’s only a summer drink or that its cocktails are too fruity and sweet—are part of the reason that the spirit may not be a cocktail list’s most popular choice, says Parker Boase, co-founder of Brooklyn-based cocktail catering and mixology class company Liquid Lab NYC 

“I think people always think a rum cocktail is going to be sweet, fruity or too rich for their tastes, so they tend to go for a safer bet, such as vodka or tequila.”

But that’s not the case behind the bar for Boase, who says rum is actually one of Liquid Lab’s favorite spirits to use.

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“It can actually be quite versatile,” Boase explains, noting that Liquid Lab makes a rum-based Corsairs’ Old Fashioned made with Ron Zacapa 23 dark rum, grapefruit and Angostura bitters, as well as a fruitier Black Magnolia cocktail made with white rum, grapefruit, lime, blackberries and rosemary. 

“You can use a spiced or anejo rum like you would use a whiskey, and do a more spirit-forward approach, or you can utilize a white rum as more of a neutral spirit by mixing it with fresh herbs and refreshing mixers.”

Instead, go back to the basics

Our team sought the expertise of behind-the-bar experts to create the best Rum and Coke

Chris Perrupato is the beverage director at Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum BarA Cuban restaurant, located in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Orlando, and Washington, D.C., called. The Rum and Coke, known as Cuba Libre, remains a popular cocktail. 

“It has stood the test of time due to its refreshing, easy-drinking characteristics and historical significance,” he says. “It is an ‘inclusion cocktail,’ approachable to both men and women and every socioeconomic background. Trendy drinks will come and go but the Cuba Libre will continue to be passed down from generation to generation.”

Whether it’s the rum, the cola or another ingredient, the secret to a killer classic Rum and Coke depends on who you ask.


What’s rum?

Rum is an alcohol made from sugarcane that’s aged in oak barrels. Rum can be either made from the sugarcane juice, through fermentation and distillation, or from its byproducts such as honey or molasses. Alcohol will get darker the longer it is stored in barrels.


What is the best way to locate a unique rum?

Mexican-born Antonio Brodziak from Mexico City is executive chef for the Mexican restaurant chain located in Florida Cabo FlatsLa Gloria Rum and Izapa Rum are the two most popular choices when making his own coke.

“Izapa is infused with chocolate,” he says “combined with Mexican Coke and a twist of lime—delicious.”


Use quality cola

Perrupato points out that although the type and color of the rum can be used to transport the drink to fine dining restaurants, it is not possible to change the type of the cola. 

“One thing that cannot be substituted is the pop, Coca-Cola,” Perrupato says, sharing that the restaurant’s house mix consists of 2 oz. 

Dozen Q Gran Anejo Rum served over ice with Coca-Cola, garnished by a lime wedge and topped off with Coca-Cola “It’s a must.No matter what rum is used, true Cuba Libre enthusiasts will be able to spot Pepsi and other brands from a mile. Coke gives the Cuba Libre its swagger.”

Tad Carlucci (Bartender) is one half of New York’s award-winning Bartender. Tippling BrosThe consulting team would be in agreement. Carlucci swears by Mexican Coca-Cola (in the glass bottle) for his Rum and Coke, a drink he calls “rummy, zingy and super refreshing.”

He makes his drink using a 13-ounce glass. Collins glass filled with ice and 2 oz. Diplomático Mantuano, 0.5 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice with three drops of Bittermens hellfire habanero shrub and an ice-cold Coca Cola. Then he stirs it until the glass is frosty and garnishes with a limewheel.


Add more ingredients

Mixologist Jorge Chunga of Washington, DC’s Station Kitchen and CocktailsFour secrets are needed to make the best Rum and Coke 

  • Fresh lime juice
  • Spiced Rum
  • Coca-Cola Mexican glass-bottled 
  • Fernet-Branca

Fernet Branca, a mint-based cordial that he claims is often paired with Coke Latinos, is Fernet Branca. “It refreshes the entire palate all the way down the throat,” he says.

Chunga’s go-to recipe? 

Fill a Collins glass half-full with ice. Add 1 oz. Captain Morgan spiced Rum, 1 oz. Bayou spiced liquor, 1 oz. Fernet Branca. To finish, add more ice to your glass. Mix Mexican Coca-Cola with the ice and stir. Garnish with a lime wedge.


Don’t forget the fruit

Cuba Libres were traditionally garnished by a lime wedge. But David Tyler used to be a bartender and swears by the orange twist garnish. His drink is made with Appleton Estate Rum Rare Mix, Coke and a squeeze lime. It’s served in highball glasses. “Top off the glass with Coke and an orange twist,” he says. “Give it a quick turn with a spoon so the rum comes up and the orange peel goes down.”

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Cyndy Lane

Cyndy is business journalist with a focus on entrepreneurship and small business. With over a decade of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Cyndy has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, insightful and approachable journalist. She has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners and is able to explain them in a way that is relatable and actionable for her readers.