In recent decades, the mojito has gained a rather negative reputation. As Punch explains, this fall from grace has been caused by nightclubbers who have long over-ordered the drink, a time-consuming mixing process that makes it the bane of many bartenders’ shifts, and an even larger cliché-fueled stigma.
Unsurprisingly, the spirit traditionally used to make mojitos, white rum, is also frequently misunderstood. Indeed, there remains no actual legal definition of white rum or any other "type" of rum — a fact that contrasts sharply with other, heavily regulated spirits (via Paste Magazine).
Initial iterations of the mojito — sometimes known as El Draque after Sir Francis Drake — did not include rum at all, but rather a precursor to the spirit, aguardiente de caña, per Difford’s Guide. This drink was enjoyed throughout Cuba — the site of its invention — until the 20th century when the mojito as we know it was popularized during prohibition alongside Cuban-based rum producers, such as Bacardí.
Nowadays, the choice of rum extends well beyond Bacardí, with numerous brands claiming their spirit is perfect for the cocktail. Of course, not all of these statements are true, yet there are several mojito-making rums that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Whilst we can’t guarantee that these spirits will salvage the reputation of this overly deprecated cocktail, we can assure you that they will form the basis of a delightfully refreshing mojito.
12. SelvaRey White
Celebrities have long made headlines — and money — by backing or lending their name to products. Most typically this has taken the form of a celebrity chef releasing a self-branded cookline. However, non-gastronomically minded celebrities have also leaped upon the money-making bonanza that are food and drink products, namely through the production of their own spirit lines.
From Conor McGregor’s Proper No. Twelve to Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila, the abundance of celebrity-backed spirits shows no sign of slowing down. This does not thrill everybody in the spirit industry, namely because some celebrity liquor brands contribute to shocking environmental issues (per Elle) whilst frequently appropriating other cultures (per Women’s Wear Daily).
This being said, there are a few celebrity-backed spirits that should be celebrated. Bruno Mars’ SelvaRey White is one of them. This rum provides a hit of flavor that surpasses many of its competitors, a fact thought to be due to the involvement of master distiller and rum-industry legend Don Pancho (via Paste Magazine). As reported by InsideHook, the spirit is a blend of three- and five-year-aged rums, which have a distinctly vanilla-like flavor profile. This strong taste would be most readily associated with darker rums, meaning mojitos made with SelvaRey White provide a startling, yet welcome flavorful surprise.
11. Bacardí Superior
If any rum-producing company can lay claim to the mojito it’s Bacardí. Founded in Cuba in 1862 (per Bacardí Limited), Bacardí has been synonymous with the cocktail since the early 20th century when the mojito first gained fame in Havana. The Cuban cocktail soon found an international audience during prohibition thanks to the hordes of American tourists that visited Cuba and the illicit cocktail culture that was blooming in the U.S. during this time.
Since these early days, Bacardí has sought to reinforce the association between its rum and the mojito through a slew of advertising campaigns, with the award-winning 2007 campaign being perhaps the most memorable (via The Moodie Davitt Report). However, it is not just diligent advertising that has seen both amateur and professional bartenders reach for Bacardí when making a mojito. In fact, Bacardí Superior — the brand’s white rum — is favored because of its affordability and quality, a sentiment backed by industry professionals, such as Georgia Thompson, a bartender who works in Manchester, Vermont (via HuffPost).
As reported by Liquor.com, Bacardí Superior is the best-known rum in the world, and its unchallenging and enjoyable flavor profile is highly suited to the refreshing, clean nature of a classic mojito. Its notoriety as a cheap, yet dependable, rum makes it an ideal starting point for mojito novices, therefore, its popularity will likely endure for many years to come.
10. Caña Brava 3 Year Old Rum
Caña Brava is a Panamanian rum distilled under the watchful eye of Don Pancho at his Las Cabras distillery in the Herrera province in Panama. Here, he makes rum using techniques and a climate almost identical to his native Cuba, where he honed his craft for decades (per Don Pancho Origenes). Perhaps the most important processes that define Caña Brava 3 Year’s flavor are fermentation, which occurs thanks to a unique strain of pineapple yeast (via Flaviar), and aging. The rum spends 18 to 24 months in American oak barrels and is then finished in whiskey barrels for another 12 to 24 months (per Master of Malt).
The unique flavors imparted during these processes and the dry, exceptionally clean mouthfeel (per Difford’s Guide) make Caña Brava 3 Year the perfect rum for mojitos. The spirit adds flavor complexity while also allowing space for the cocktail’s citrus and sugar to sing.
Unfortunately, ever since Brown-Forman purchased The 86 Company in 2019, the production of Caña Brava has been put on hold. Liquor.com highlights that this was a decision motivated by business, with one of The 86 Company’s brands, Ford’s Gin, being more profitable. If you can get your hands on a bottle of Caña Brava 3 Year, grab it now to secure yourself the privilege of sampling Don Pancho’s finest work.
9. Real McCoy 3
Real McCoy 3 is a rum defined by its purity. This makes it a slightly divisive option amongst rum lovers. Some people — like managing editor of Whiskey Raiders and ASCOT Awards spirit judge Jay West — bemoan a lack of complexity, while others laud its incomparable ability to elevate already flavorful cocktails (via Master of Malt). Ultimately, Real McCoy 3 may not be the best rum to sip straight and ruminate on, yet it is undoubtedly a brilliant base for many flavorful cocktails such as the bloody Mary, daiquiri, and of course, the mojito.
The purity of Real McCoy 3 extends from the palate all the way back to the production process, with BBC Good Food reporting that, unlike many other rums, Real McCoy 3 is completely additive- and perfume-free.
The rum’s flavor profile arises during the aging process, which takes place in American oak barrels with subtle notes of caramel, white pepper, fruit, and coconut all being picked out by tasters (per Master of Malt). Yet it is undoubtedly the sharp, clean, and precise nature of Real McCoy 3 that makes it a delightful spirit from which to build a mojito.
8. El Dorado 3 Year Old
Guyana has a rum history that stretches back to the mid-1600s, and in the 1780s there were more than 300 rum distilleries in business (per El Dorado Rum). In modern-day Guyana, the total number of professional rum distilleries stands at one, Diamond Distillery, where the full range of El Dorado rums is produced.
The lack of distillery competition has done little to dampen the quality of Guyanese rum, with El Dorado 3 Year Old receiving multiple awards, including silver at the International Wine and Spirits Competition, as well as a gold at the International Review of Spirits (per Master of Malt). Such accolades are not frequently associated with a rum that is as affordable as El Dorado 3 Year Old, leading BBC Good Food to label the rum as unbeatable at its price point.
As multiple reviews attest to, El Dorado 3 Year Old is the quintessential mixing rum, providing enough flavor, in the form of black pepper and brown sugar, to keep drinkers engaged. The rum is also known for accentuating the bright flavors present in many rum cocktails, such as the daiquiri and the mojito.
7. Clément Canne Bleue
As VinePair explains, rum isn’t the only type of sugar cane-based spirit. In fact, there are three main types of spirits that are produced from sugar cane: rum, rhum agricole, and cachaça. Whilst the majority of spirits on this list are made distilled from molasses (via Britannica), as a rhum agricole, Clément Canne Bleue is distilled directly from cane sugar.
Rhum agricole is a French-Caribbean specialty that originated in Martinique. As a product of this country, Clément Canne Bleue claims an unparalleled authenticity, typified by its certification by Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), a French certification granted to certain geographical indications (via Passion Spirits). Furthermore, this rhum agricole is distilled from a single sugar cane variety, giving it a unique taste (via Difford’s Guide).
Per Drinks International, rhum agricole is celebrated for expressing terroir in a way that other sugar cane-based spirits cannot. While those new to the spirit can struggle with its pronounced grassy and funky flavors, recent consumer trends have indicated that people are beginning to turn to more flavorful products. This sentiment is highlighted by Suzanne Long, an international spirits judge: "These days people tend to lean more toward dryer styles and aren’t afraid of stronger or more unusual flavors. Our excitement about craft production has changed our palates and given us permission to like spirits with more flavor. This is a cultural win for rhum agricole" (via VinePair). This suggests that flavor-boosting options, such as Clément Canne Bleue, will increasingly be featured in modern-day mojitos.
6. Plantation 3 Stars
Plantation 3 Stars is a ubiquitous white rum, seen as a staple for many bartenders and mixologists (via Paste Magazine), again because it marries complexity and versatility with a strikingly affordable price point. The finished spirit is a blend of differently aged rums from Trinidad, Barbados, and Jamaica. The combination led Plantation 3 Stars to win a number of high-profile awards, including gold at the 2018 RumXP Awards, best in class at the 2018 Showrum Tasting Competition, and a sensational 93 points at the 2015 Ultimate Spirits Challenge (per Plantation Rum).
Plantation 3 Stars’ flavor profile reflects the three island’s rum heritages through an arresting flavor profile. Spirit blogger Daniel Djang notes, "The nose introduces the three ‘stars’ with ripe banana, tropical fruit, brown sugar, and subtle coffee notes. The palate continues with more fruit, vanilla, orange zest, and a touch of hogo with a bit of viscosity. The floral finish offers more vanilla, sugarcane, and spice notes" (via Distiller).
The slightly funky taste can be off-putting to those who prefer their mojitos in the classic, clean, and sharp style. However, for anyone looking to transform the mojito into a more attention-grabbing beverage, Plantation 3 Stars is the perfect rum to achieve such results.
5. Mount Gay Eclipse Silver Rum
Mount Gay is a brand synonymous with excellence and heritage in the rum world. This is because as the world’s oldest commercial rum distillery (via The Spirit’s Business) Mount Gay has long been setting the gold standard for rum producers with many prominent figures seeking it out over the years, as reported by HuffPost.
Mount Gay continues its history of excellence with the Eclipse Silver Rum, which is made from both pot- and column-still distilled rums (via Cask Cartel). By combining these two processes, the final product gets the best of both worlds, most namely the superior flavor of pot-distilled rum and the pure, clean aspects of column-distilled rum (per VinePair).
Unlike other popular rums produced by Mount Gay, the Eclipse Silver Rum is not aged. In practice, this means the spirit is lighter in taste, color, and body when compared to rums that have experienced barrel finishes. This allows Mount Gay Eclipse Silver Rum to preserve its distinctly dry mouthfeel (per Difford’s Guide) and allows other aspects of the mojito to do the talking. This approach makes Mount Gay Eclipse Silver Rum adored by aficionados and newcomers alike.
4. Banks 5 Island Rum
Whilst many spirits and food products revere singularity to the point of excess — think single malt whiskey — rum is the opposite, with the industry unabashedly celebrating the blending and mixing of multiple rums to create a beautiful finished product. Banks 5 Island Rum undoubtedly typifies this approach, the spirit being made from a mixture of 21 different rums from five countries, as highlighted by Punch.
Balancing such a wide collection of rums is a process that could end in a sprawling, contradictory disaster. However, Master Blender Arnaud de Trabuc, who came up with the original formula, has done a sensational job allowing each rum to bring something different to the bottle. Amanda Schuster, a freelance wine and spirits writer, agrees, explaining: "It [Banks 5] manages to reveal the rich, blackstrap molasses of the Jamaican rum, mixed with the earthiness of Guyanese, the fruitiness of Barbados, the bitterness of Batavia Arak from Java, and the lightness from Trinidad rum to smooth it all out" (via Distiller).
This is a sentiment echoed by bar manager Lydia McLuen, who describes Banks 5 Island Rum as a workhorse with a flavor profile highly suited to the crafting of a distinct and delicious mojito, as reported by Punch. This fact makes Banks 5 Island Rum a stalwart of professional bars around the world.
3. Flor de Caña 4 extra seco
In comparison to multi-island blends, such as Banks 5 and Plantation 3 Stars, Flor de Caña 4 is a Spanish-style rum, a loose subgroup that generally covers rums made in former Spanish colonies. These rums tend to be light in flavor, and thinner in body than other types of rum (per Distiller). This makes them highly suited to mixing cocktails with a clean and classic flavor profile. Chances are when you order a mojito or a daiquiri, Spanish-style rum is being used to make it.
As we have seen, there is a growing desire for more flavorful rums, especially those that bring unique tasting notes to the table. However, a rum need not be bold to be enticing, a fact proven by Flor de Caña 4, which has won both a Gold Medal and a Platinum Award at the 2003 International Rum Festival (via Master of Malt).
As the name suggests, Flor de Caña 4 is a very dry rum that has the added bonus of being both carbon neutral and Fair Trade certified (via Flor de Caña). It is this distinct crispness that draws many people to Flor de Caña 4 when mixing a mojito, as it will simultaneously bring out both citrus and sugar flavors whilst making the cocktail even more refreshing.
2. Foursquare Probitas
If purists love a clean, unoffending rum and aficionados prefer a flavor that can excite, then Foursquare Probitas — which is sold under the name Veritas in Europe — is a rum everyone can get behind. This is because the liquid inside the Foursquare Probritas bottle does the impossible — it marries these two approaches in what is a bold, flavorsome, and sharp expression of rum.
This unbelievable balance wows even experienced spirit experts and judges, such as Anna Archibald, who attempted to define Probitas’ flavor profile: "This rum has a lovely aroma of sugar cane and banana, with hints of the funk that’s to come. It’s surprisingly rich and creamy in texture with flavors that echo its aroma alongside those that give it depth. Think allspice, pineapple-rich molasses, a variety of citrus, and a bit of the fruitiness and zing of serrano peppers" (via Distiller).
Foursquare achieved this masterful rum by blending two house rums from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados with one pot-distilled rum from the Hampden Estate in Jamaica (via Imbibe Magazine). Collaboration between Foursquare and Hampden Estate is the cornerstone of Probitas’ excellence, as the latter’s use of wild fermentation, natural water sources, and pot-still distillation results in high-ester rums that are completely unique, as reported by Fine & Rare. Without this inclusion, it is highly unlikely that Probitas’ would prove to be so impactful in mojitos, nor so highly prized by all those in the spirits business.
1. Havana Club 3
The mojito is one of Cuba’s quintessential cocktails. As such, there can be no better rum to create one with than Havana Club 3, Cuba’s most famous spirit. Invented by the Arechabala family and now produced by Pernod Ricard and the Cuban government (via Latitude Wines), Havana Club 3 forms a vital part of Cuban culture and identity.
As highlighted by Nick Hines, a drink and spirits writer, Havana Club 3’s quality is inherently linked to its reputation: "Havana Club is made by maestros roneros or master rum makers in Cuba. They distill molasses from Cuban sugar cane, and then blend different barrels for the optimum flavor … and, like it or not, authenticity affects the drinking experience" (via VinePair).
However, the spirit should not form the base of your mojito just due to nostalgia, but rather because of its enduring quality. This fact is attested to by the myriad of awards won by the spirit, including gold at The Rum & Cachaça Masters 2022 (per The Spirits Business) and category champion at the 2022 Bartenders’ Brand Awards (per Class).
The ongoing U.S. trade embargo against Cuba means that Havana Club 3 isn’t available for purchase within the United States, as reported by The Washington Post. Thankfully, a fantastic alternative is available in the form of Bacardí’s Havana Club, a rum made using the Arechabala family’s original Havana Club 3 recipe. However, Havana Club 3 should always be the first choice when making a mojito, as it produces the quintessential mojito drinking experience.