By Carey Jones and John D. McCarthy
Updated August 22, 2016
jamaican rum, Carey Jones
Credit: © Carey Jones

We’ve sipped excellent rum from many countries — Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, even the good old US of A. But Jamaican rum is its own beast. And if you want to get started, the widely available Appleton Estate rums are a great introduction. The oldest Jamaican distillery in continuous operation, their rums have a gentle but noticeable fruity funk to them, with aromas of vanilla and spice, such that they’re complex by themselves, and tons of fun to make into cocktails. Give these three a try before summer is out.

Easy: Jamaican Highball

Perhaps our all-time favorite highball, right up there with a G&T. Jamaican rum doesn’t need much adornment to create an awesome cocktail. It does need its best friend, Angostura bitters, and a big squeeze of lime. This drink takes less than 30 seconds to make, and is pretty much the most refreshing thing we know.

Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces of Appleton Estate Reserve Blend, 10 dashes of Angostura bitters, and 4 ounces of club soda. Give a quick stir and squeeze in a lime wedge.

Intermediate: Rum & Coconut

We love coconut in our cocktails, but dealing with raw coconut can get pretty intense, and coconut-flavored spirits are usually suspect. That’s where coconut water comes in. If you get good 100% coconut water (no added sugar, please) and shake it together with rum and lemon, you’ll find that the coconut gently lightens up the rum while subtly kicking up the tropical flavor. We’re using Appleton’s bangin’ 12-year rum here, but the Reserve will work just fine, too.

Instructions: Optional but very recommended: Chop up some shredded coconut, moisten the edge of a cocktail glass, and roll the edge in the coconut to rim. In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces of Appleton 12 Year, 1 1/2 ounces of 100 percent coconut water, 1/2 an ounce of fresh lemon juice, a 1/4 ounce of simple syrup, and a dash of Angostura bitters. Shake that up until well-chilled, then double-strain (through your shaker’s own strainer, and through a fine mesh strainer) into the prepared cocktail glass. Sprinkle a little more chopped coconut on top.

Advanced: Hibiscus & Rum

When designing fancy cocktails for a fancy cocktail bar, John made a delicious hibiscus syrup with dried flowers to pair with Jamaican rum. But we like to keep things a little simpler here on this column. So here’s our super-easy alternative: Go to the grocery store. Look for the high-end Tazo tea line (any Whole Foods or similar should have it), and grab their Passion tea. It’s got strong hibiscus flavors along with rose hip and orange peel — all of which are awesome with funky Jamaican rum. And lime. And mint.

Instructions: Make a super-strong cup of Passion tea by steeping 1 teabag in four ounces of boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Let cool a little bit before using. In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 2 ounces of Appleton Estate Reserve Blend, 1 ounce of fresh lime juice, 1 ounce of the Passion tea, 3/4 ounce simple syrup, 1 dash of orange bitters, and 10 whole mint leaves. Shake that up until well-chilled, then double-strain (through your shaker’s own strainer, and through a fine mesh