Whether you consider yourself a cocktail connoisseur or just haven’t been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ll have noticed that gin has been having a moment. And when we say ‘moment’, we actually mean an age, in which mother’s ruin has been reigning supreme on the cocktail menus of all our favourite bars.
But it looks like things are about to change, as the mighty spirit is about to be pushed off its perch in favour of a much more exotic alternative: rum is the delicious new word on everybody’s lips.
A recent survey of over 2,000 people by Panelbase.com (on behalf of Halewood Wines & Spirits) found that 56% of people would name the Mojito their favourite cocktail, pipping classics like The Martini, Tom Collins and French 75 to the post.
What’s more, Marks & Spencer announced last month that their sales of the spirit are up by 40%, proving that we’re keener than ever to jump aboard the rum train.
So whether you’re searching for some summer escapism, or looking forward to warming those cockles with a hot toddy, we’ve rounded up the best places to enjoy a Cuban-inspired cocktail in London and we’ve even asked the skilled bar tenders at our chosen spots for their top tips on how to make a rum concoction yourself at home. You’re welcome!
Mint Gun Club
Bright, light and stylishly decorated, Mint Gun Club is one of Stoke Newington’s must-try bars, especially if you’re in the business of drinking rum cocktails.
Unlike some of the rum focused bars in the capital, which tend to be full of darkened corners and seductive lighting, Mint Gun Club’s sea-blue colour scheme and quirky furnishings win it serious decor points.
And, with International Bartender of the Year Rich Hunt at the helm, you know the drinks are going to be to die for. Our favourite is the Rudie’s Gimlet, which blends shiso tonic cordial, fragrant Jamaican rum and elderflower liqueur.
Our tip: Two words – peach milk. For those who are fans of sweet, creamy drinks, you simply have to ask these guys about their homemade peach milk which features in the White Tiger’s Milk cocktail.
Their tip: Owner Rich Hunt says, “Rum, lime and sugar is the classic combination. All you need to do is mix in proportions of 1 large lime to two heaped teaspoons of caster sugar and 50mls of good rum and you have the base of a tasty drink.
“Shake it to make a daiquiri, muddle mint and add soda and you have a mojito, swap sugar for honey and you have a 'bee's knees' which really is the bee's knees.”
High Water cocktail bar is a favourite of Dalston locals. Although stylish from the outside, its unassuming spot on Stoke Newington road won't alert you to the depth of its charms until you step inside and become instantly seduced by the candlelit ambiance, creative cocktail menu and passionate staff.
In truth, you could get a fabulous concoction of any tipple here thanks to the thorough and knowledgeable ethos of the bar. But when it comes to rum, the ‘Rumble in the...’ simply has to be tasted.
The hipster in you will be appeased by the bare brick walls, and if you're looking for ample photo opportunities, you'll find them in the experimental and often tropical garnishes.
Our tip: This place feels intimate for all the right reasons, but even though it appears small from the outside, looks can be deceiving. Take a date here and venture to the far back room, past the long alleyway and find yourself a private spot.
Their tip: Bar tender Elliot Pieddeloup says, ”You don’t need the most expensive rum in the world to make a delicious cocktail at home. Spend as much as your comfortable with on your spirit, and then give it a touch of sourness with a squeeze of lime. Add some pineapple juice and sugar for sweetness and finally a shot of Campari for a bitter twist.”
Boozy brunch lovers, we've found the perfect East London hang out for you. Positioned ever so conveniently by Hackney overground, an undeniable draw of Oslo is its incredible space, which, when teamed with the beautifully presented food and drinks, is an Instagram match made in heaven.
Formally a train station, Oslo is all lofty ceilings, exposed brick walls, industrial furnishings and naked pipe work. The team have cleverly added to this with a plethora of ambiance-inducing lighting, filling every nook and cranny with a yellowy glow.
The ultimate day-to-night destination, you could happily spend the evening sipping on a Hemingway Daiquiri (or two) which mixes pink grapefruit into this classic rum recipe, and party all night in the club upstairs. But equally we urge you not to miss out on the monstrous waffle based brunch, which whether donned with chorizo sausage or smothered in Nutella, will blow your socks off.
Our tip: These guys pride themselves on drawing from Nordic inspiration, so if you’ve got a Scandi-loving mate this is a great place to take them. Also, the website won’t tell you that there’s a second, secret bar that’s available for private hire and open to the public only post midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.
Their tip: “A great rum cocktail should perfectly balance the sweet with the sour. A Daiquiri is a great example of this. 2 parts white rum, 1 part sugar and 1 part lime juice shaken together makes one of the oldest and most popular cocktails in the world. Pro Tip, try freezing a fruit petit filous and blending with the ingredient for a Daiquiri to make one of the best frozen cocktails you’ll ever have.”
This Cuban-influenced bar and club is famous for its exotic feel, which makes it a killer place to get your rum on. After entering through a cigar shop you’ll see that the multi-leveled space is full of different areas to suit your mood. Whether you want to dance the night away by the bar, snuggle up on a sofa or pull up a chair to the sociable, banquet style high tables.
Printed images of Che Guevara bathed in red glow and tiki-style cocktail glasses all contribute to the tropical vibe, so if you’re in the party mood (it can get pretty raucous) don’t hesitate to grab a Zombie (which mixes rum, apricot brandy with lime, pineapple and orange) and forget you’re in gloomy London.
Our tip: Embargo Republica offers cocktail master classes, an event option that we believe should be fully taken advantage of. They recommend the two hours of boozy fun as a great ice-breaker for a team building exercise – so excuse us, we’ll just be off to badger our bosses right about now.
Their tip: Bar supervisor Aleksandar Tomovic says, “Rum cocktails are so popular not just because taste delicious, but they also evoke visions of summer holidays - laying on the beach under the sun, surrounded by palm trees, hot sand and the sounds of lapping waves by the ocean. Now winter is rolling in, sip on a rum cocktail as a form of escapism.”
If rum was to be a Romeo, then Burlock would be its Juliet. This central London bar is keen to profess its love for the dark stuff, enthusiastically claiming that capturing the “romance of rum” is the soul of what they do.
A must for rum connoisseurs, this place boasts an exceptionally large list of different rums and has taken a global approach to the creation of their menu, including tipple from the spirit’s Caribbean birth place and the rest of the world.
Personally, we can’t get enough of the palm-esque wall paper and vintage Chesterfield sofas, which come winter time are a perfect place to snuggle and let a Almond Colada (coconut-washed Bacardi, almond milk, pineapple, coconut water and sea salt) warm your cockles.
Our tip: Despite residing in central London and looking pretty fancy this place treats its guests to an amazing happy hour. From Monday to Thursday cocktails purchased before 8pm are just £5, rising to £7 afterwards, so be sure not to miss out!
Their tip: “Rum is such a varied and versatile category that you can find one to go with pretty much any flavour. That said, I think rum and pineapple is the absolute best, there is a reason we have 5 different pineapple drinks on our menu!”
Bourne and Hollingsworth
If you’re an avid plant lover, constantly on the look out for a touch of the botanical trend for your flat, you’re going to want to move in when you see Bourne and Hollingsworth.
The perfect place for cocktails with the gals, spend your Saturday lounging on the House of Hackney printed furniture, or explore the Insta-heaven conservatory for ultimate greenhouse #goals.
We would recommend trying their Mediterranean twist on a classic Mojito (known as the Mastijo) for the ultimate Sex and the City style evening.
Our tip: Not only a fabulous spot for dinner and drinks, Bourne and Hollingsworth also put on a host of themed events throughout the year that are a must-try.
Their tip: “When making a rum cocktail, fresh is best. Squeeze your citruses straight into the drink and pineapple is always better from the fruit, not a carton. Also, match the sugar to the rum. Light (not white - Billington's unrefined is awesome) for light, dark brown muscavado for those dark / heavy / aged rums.”
If you’re hoping that by sipping on a rum cocktail you’ll be delivered from the polluted London streets to the sun-bathed shores of Jamaica, then Cottons is your best bet.
This award-winning rhum-shack, which has been soaked in “30 years of rum heritage” successfully plays up to its tropical theme with brightly coloured interior, a lively atmosphere and fruity menu.
It may be based in not-so-sunny Shoreditch, but once you step inside you'll forget that in a minute. So bring your sunnies and get ready to dance the night away to the resident DJ and carnival vibes.
We suggest knocking back the Killer Doppi, which contains four, yes four, different rums.
Our tip: Boozers on a budget, this place has some serious penny-saving perks. Not only does Cottons offer daily deals (we’re talking free food and discounted drinks) but has its own club where you can collect loyalty points to earn yourself a free rum masterclass!
Their tip: Barry Lamine, Head Bar Operations at Cottons says, “Ginger beer with any tropical fruit juice is always a safe and tasty bet for the basis of concocting a rum drink at home, plus a squeeze of fresh lime.
“Rum-wise Appleton Special is a brilliant rum to create your own cocktails with and available in most large supermarkets. If you’re making a rum punch however, make sure you use Wray & Nephews rum.”
Walking into Sketch is akin to falling down a rabbit hole. The eccentric room themes, dream-like decor and Wes Anderson-style colour palette will have any Alice wannabes head over heels for this wonderland.
The restaurant and bar offers a choice of five, very individual, dining room choices to guests which are available depending on your type and time of booking.
Possibly the most famous is the almost overwhelmingly pink gallery, which has appeared on many an Instagram feed and is famed for its afternoon tea.
To enjoy a cocktail however, the choice is yours - but we would recommend pulling up a seat in The Parlour and trying out the Paradise Rising which is finished with red dissected coconut.
Our tip: Although every room is impressive, not everyone knows about the private dining area The Lecture Room which has been awarded two Michelin stars, if you’re looking for an extra-special experience this is the place to bag yourself a seat.
Their tip: Pepijn Vanden Abeele, Bar Manager at sketch says, “Rum is so versatile to play around with as there are so many variances of it: from white rum to dark rum, single pot still to column still, spiced or non-spiced, blended to single barrel.
“On a very hot day a white rum and tonic or grapefruit soda can be most refreshing and in the evening a properly made Old Fashioned or rum Manhattan goes down nicely. Winter time: rum hot toddy!”
Come and worship at the alter of rum in MEATMission, the biblical themed meat and cocktail bar hidden in the winding streets of Hoxton market. If there were ever any sins due to alcohol, this is the place to confess them.
Dark and sultry, the main source of light is the glow of red and yellow from the stained glass style ceiling and church window imitation at the back of the restaurant come bar.
With three dining rooms, the venue works for any size - there's actually a private party room for groups of up to 12 which can be concealed with a deliciously decadent black velvet curtain.
There's a whole menu of cocktails ranging from creamy to smokey that sit alongside, as the name suggests, an impressive meat offering. For carnivores, this is what heaven looks like.
Our tip: Once you've had a few, let yourself be tempted by the photo booth for some post-drinking laughs and memories to take away.
Their tip: Rob Worsley, Bar Operations Manager says, “Rum as a category is a firm favourite with bartenders due to its versatility and reasonable price point.
Any vodka or gin drink can be made simply by swapping out for a white rum, and any bourbon or cognac cocktail can be made using an aged rum that has the right flavour profile for that drink.
“With the British Summer lasting about 3 days, sipping on a rum punch gives an element of escapism that can take you out of dreary old England and put you on a beautiful Carribean beach.”
The first thing you need to know about Dandelyan is that it's currently ranked as best bar in the world, and it's sitting on your doorstep, if you live in London that is.
Known for expressing a passion for exotic tastes, Dandelyan goes above and beyond in every aspect, the first clue being the Pinterest-heaven pink leather seats and green marble tables. This is the ultimate place to be fabulous with your best friends and tick a world number one off your list, and what better way to do that than with a delicious cocktail in hand?
This impressive title is surely reason enough try it out. But if you needed further persuading, particularly along the rum route, let us assure you that if the award winning interior design and river views don't pull you in, the Lonely Hearts Killer cocktail should do. Mixing Plantation & Barbancourt Rums, tonka, lilac
and guava, this tiki concoction comes with a very Instagrammable white chocolate garnish.
Our tip: The cocktail menu is a thing of beauty, adorned with floral illustrations, clever descriptions and even advice on what time of day to try each drink. Come to Dandelyan with plenty of time (and money) to spare with a view of enjoying the whole experience properly.
Their tip: Ryan Chetiyawardana, partner at Dandelyan, exclusively gave us his advice on enjoying a rum cocktail. “Each rum has nuances that are fun to explore with other ingredients – try the spirit neat and see if there's anything that jumps out that you can combine with the favourite flavours you usually use in your food and drink.
“One combination that's I've always loved with rum is passionfruit and black pepper. It adds a tropical acidity and a light spice that works across many different styles.”
Millies Lounge at The Ned
Walking into The Ned feels like a little bit like stepping back in time and strolling into a grandeous ballroom. It may be the first of Soho House's establishments to be open to non members, but by no means have the global luxury group scrimped on the opulence.
The eight restaurants and bars (that’s right, eight) that populate just the ground floor are each buzzing but if a cocktails what you're after, it'll be straight to Millie's Lounge for you. Honing in on the millennial pink trend, the area is furnished with vintage-rose velvet seats while the jazzy sounds of a grand piano float through the air.
We suggest grabbing a seat at the bar to really soak up the atmosphere and trying the Backyard Gimlet, mixing Bacardi Carta Blanca, nettle & rose cordial and seasalt.
Our tip: Even if you're not in the market to spend a penny, you have to take a gander at the women's bathroom located on the below ground level floor. Simply beautiful, and very Instagram-able, this is a powder room that Hollywood starlets would have been happy to touch up their makeup in.
Their tip: Head of bars Dan Berger says, “The trick is to complement the sweetness and spice as rums usually have quite a lot of depth. Stirring it down releases the flavours, but rum will also stand up to citrus in a shaken drink.
”You can't beat a good tropical flavour pairing with rum, like banana or coconut but coffee also goes really well.”
If rum was to have a London spiritual home, it would at Oriole. Everything about the dark, soulful liquor manifests in this underground bar, which is tucked behind a darkened doorway in one of Farringdon’s many small streets.
The low-lit establishment harks to the palm trend with its boutique style wallpaper, the kind that will have your iPhone in your hand before you have time to register it. But far from trend lead, the tropical print references the exotic influences of the bar, which come to life in the experimental cocktails, soulful live music and around the world dishes.
This place describes itself as subterranean and is known for its selection of rare spirits, so if you're looking to enjoy a rum cocktail you're in the right place. We particularly recommend the Aranjagaan, which mixes rum, Campari, guava liqueuer, Sea Buckthorn jam and lemon juice.
Our tip: The biggest draw of this bar isn’t even the amazing cocktails (though they are really amazing, we promise) – it’s the jazzy, live music which runs from 9pm every night so make sure you coordinate your reservation to take full advantage.
Their tip: Head Bartender, Gabriele Manfredi says, “There is no best way to enjoy rum however I personally like a dark, aged rum, chilled with a twist of lime.”
You can now treat yourself to a petit taste of France while in Bethnal Green thanks to new cocktail bar, Coupette. Named after the small but perfectly sized glasses that many an aperitif is served up in, the award-winning owners of this venture certainly know their Old Fashioned's from their Dark and Stormy's.
Achingly cool, the rustic yet sleek interior mixes metallic Art Deco touches with exposed brick. And thanks to it’s undiscovered feel, it’s the perfect spot to impress your mates.
The cocktail menu is nothing if not experimental but if you try one rum based concoction make it the Champagne Pina Colada which is already industry renown. All we’re saying is it involves, Moët & Chandon Brut, a creamy coconut sorbet and some serious alcohol. Basically imagine a booze milkshake of fizzy dreams and you’re nearly there.
Our tip: Whatever you do, don't dismiss the bar, which has been covered in hundreds of golden French franc coins and is quite the feature. Pull up a chair and watch the bar tenders work their magic, which sometimes feels more like observing scientists in a laboratory.
Their tip: Bar tender Chris Moore says, “The ingredient I like to use with rum is dry vermouth, such as Noilly Prat. Rum is a naturally rich ingredient, and dry vermouth cuts through that while adding complexity to the finished drink.”
Long Bar at Sanderson
Sanderson Hotel could be London’s best-kept secret. Hidden behind bustling Oxford Street, the 1970s-looking facade is a perfect example of things not always being what they seem. Once whisked inside, the lavishly experimental decor is as pleasing to the eye as the drinks are to your tastebuds.
Long Bar is the hotel’s most famous watering hole, which as it suggests, is a very long, very white, flower topped bar serving up some genuinely delectable flavour pairings. Expect smooth textures, impeccable mixing and fancy garnishes.
We recommend sipping on The Jade Garden which mixes Bacardi rum, tomato cordial and matcha tea and was created by cocktail curator Stuart Bale, who describes the beverage as tasting like a “garden”.
Top tip: If you have chance, stop for a cocktail in the central terrace, where the hypnotic sounds of the babbling water feature will soothe you after a long day, nearly as much as your cocktail will.
Their tip: Bale also said, “Rum is timeless and is intrinsically linked with sunnier happier times. For making drinks with rum, I’d say the best advice is to use the ripest fruit you can find and it’s hard to go wrong.”
This charming and rather eccentric bar provides a boutique-style setting, candle lit ambiance, a buzzy atmosphere and live performances from the incredibly talented staff throughout the evening.
Archer Street prides itself on mixing up exotic cocktails, but listening to the professionally-trained, diva-worthy renditions of bangers like Rolling on the River and Lady Marmalade is what really steals the show.
We recommend trying the Mambo Number 7, which sees Havana 7 shaken with pineapple juice, homemade grenadine, lime juice and Crème de Prickly Pear served in a coupe with pineapple, spiked cherry and sprinkled with poppy seeds.
Top tip: This is a great place for a date thanks to the intimate seating arrangements (think sumptuous sofas and chairs) and loud background noise: you can be guaranteed an evening with no awkward silences.
Their tip: Menu creator Benji-Purslow says, "Spice can work really well with rum, both a chilli spice, like a scotch bonnet syrup (simply infuse a bottle of sugar syrup with a scotch bonnet chilli for a few days) can work great with some of the tropical fruits, to create a fruity sweet spice, that is reminiscent of the Caribbean food.
“There is also, the other type of spice, like pimento, which you can get as a Liqueur or dram, which have lovely clove and all spice type flavours. A sprinkling of nutmeg can help almost any run drink too.”