Fresh and tropical, rum is a warm-weather standby when libations are in order. To make the sugar cane spirit even more versatile, eschew the light rums that most recipes suggest and embrace the mature choices in aged rums in a spectrum of drinks.
Daiquiri: Cocktails in the lime-drink group always seems to swim well with clear liquors—gin, vodka, tequila—but to explore the dark side with green citrus, rum is an imperative. The classic is the daiquiri, in which we've found that cane spirits with more gravitas create synergies that make the drink more than just a sum of its parts, adding previously unnoticed flavors.
In an ice-filled shaker, add two ounces rum, three-quarter ounces fresh lime juice and three-quarter ounces simple syrup. Shake and strain into a coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wheel. Suggested: Ron Zacapa, Mount Gay Extra Gold, Brugal, Ron Abuelo.
El Presidente: This is the aromatic version of a rum cocktail made with vermouth, and therefore the logical relation to the Manhattan and martini. But while elegant, it also shows a more whimsical side than those other two stalwarts as it is often taken on the rocks with loud fruit garnishes. Some recipes will tempt you with white spirits. Go dark for a great cigar accompaniment.
Place three parts rum, one part vermouth and a dash of grenadine in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange and cherry. Suggested: Bacardi Reserva Limitada, Pampero, Appleton, Botran.
Cuba Libre: Almost everybody has had this simple drink in their salad days, because it's so easy to use familiar cola to wean yourself onto liquor. Just about any spirit mixes with the syrupy-sweet soda pop, but rum seems to go best. The problem is making it seem grown-up. That's where bitters, lime and a gold rum will work wonders. You might even consider a splash of rich vermouth to make this hot-weather tonic seem more like an elixir.
Pour two ounces gold rum over large ice cubes in a rocks glass. Add juice of a half lime and two dashes orange or Angostura bitters. Fill with cola. Consider Bacardi 8, Don Q, Zaya, Zafra.