Cups of eggnog

In a recent and highly-scientific study, a whopping 42% of surveyed Tasting Table readers said rum is the best alcohol to add to eggnog. We see you rum fans, and we’re getting to the bottom of this important topic.

The typical eggnog recipe is easy, and you can make it ahead of time. According to Shannon Mustipher, a rum consultant and brand representative for Denizen rums, you should definitely mix your rum and eggnog ahead of time. "Pre-batching and allowing the eggnog to rest for at least 48 hours leaves your hands free and it allows guests to serve themselves easily when you are hosting a gathering," she says. "Also, an eggnog, when made with quality ingredients, can not only keep for up to a month or longer, but will improve over time, in the same way most bottled cocktails like the Manhattan, Martini, and Negroni can under the right conditions."

According to Bradley Moore of Laka Lono Rum Club in Omaha, Nebraska, the best rums for eggnog have strong flavors and a high ABV, "For me, the main thing is having a spirit that can accentuate the flavors of eggnog, but still stand out against the cream," he says. With Mustipher and Moore as our guides, let’s take a journey through some of the best rums to mix with eggnog.

Denizen Merchant’s Reserve

Label for Denizen Merchant's Reserve

Created as a tribute to Dutch rum merchants from centuries ago, Denizen’s Merchant’s Reserve rum is a blend of 8-year-old Jamaican pot still rum and a rare style from Martinique called rhum grande arome, a blend that Mustipher calls funky, aromatic, and slightly earthy. Use the of rhum grande arome is particularly eye-catching because it isn’t typically used in cocktails, not even in Martinique. "In Martinique," Mustipher says, "the grocery stores don’t keep rhum grande arome in the rum section. They keep it in the baking section. So they mostly use it in the same way some people use, say, Grand Marnier for baking."

According to tiki lore, this rum blend was used by tiki icon Trader Vic Bergeron to develop the third version of his famous mai tai cocktail. Because of this, Denizen claims its Merchant’s Reserve is the historically-accurate first mai tai rum blend to be commercially available.

"Rum mixes exceptionally well with cognac," she continues. "By adding cognac with this rum, you will get additional floral and aromatic aromas to the finished drink."

Amrut Old Port Deluxe Matured Rum

Bottle of Amrut Old Port Rum

Rums have traditionally come from the Caribbean, but thanks to increased interest in local, craft spirits around the world, good rums are increasingly coming from unlikely places. Case in point: The very delicious Amrut Old Port Matured Rum comes from a distillery in India that doesn’t even have rum as its primary focus.

"Amrut has gotten popular recently due to their whiskey, but I think their rums are fantastic," Moore says.

In previous decades, Indians who could afford to drink craft spirits would covet imports, especially imported scotches and whiskeys. But thanks to distilleries like Amrut, Paul John, and Rampur, India-made spirits are grabbing a much bigger share of the multi-billion-dollar domestic market. These spirits are also shaking up the global spirits industry. As a result, younger generations have been casting off notions that imported goods are always better than Indian products. According to a report in The Guardian, younger people in India are more likely to judge a whisky or rum on its merits, as opposed to its country of origin.

As for Amrut’s Old Port rum, Moore says it harkens back to English-style, Guyanese rums. The flavor really stands out, he adds, with a lot of molasses, dark cherry, allspice, and nutmeg notes. "It really accentuates the flavors of eggnog," Moore says. "That rum with a little bit of oloroso sherry is absolutely bangin’."

Denizen Vatted Dark Rum

Tilted bottle of Denizen rum

Made from 80% dark rum and 20% Martinican rum, Denizen’s Vatted Dark Rum draws inspiration from two different concepts. According to the Denizen website, it draws cultural inspiration and pays homage to an 1823 slave rebellion, in which slaves in rebelled against their British colonial masters. This rum also draws inspiration from the "vatted style" that was used to formulate rum blends for the British Navy in the 18th century.

"On the surface, it looks similar to the Merchant’s Reserve," Mustipher says, referring to the other Denizen rum she recommends for eggnog. "It’s also made with a dark rum and a Martinitian rhum. But in the Vatted Black, the Martinitian rhum is an agricole, which is drier than the rhum grande arome."

As a result, mixing this rum with eggnog will result in a relatively dry version. But what the rum lacks in sweetness it makes up for in terms of flavor, shipping notes of caramel, burnt sugar, and cacao, according to Denizen.

Lemon Hart & Son Original 1804 Rum

Bottle of Lemon Hart rum

When asked about a guiding light for choosing rums to go with eggnog, Moore says it all comes down to power, "Eggnog has a lot of bold flavors that can cover up a spirit. So you need to find a spirit that’s very bold and rich, in order to combat the flavor-canceling aspects of eggnog. I try to use something with a higher proof, or something with a rich mouthfeel to it."

He singles out Lemon Hart & Son Original 1804 rum as a prime example of a bold-flavored rum that pairs well with eggnog. This rum is named after Lehman "Lemon" Hart, a titan of the late 18th and 19th-century British rum trade. Hart made a made for himself by developing an innovative rum blend that eventually became an official rum of the British navy.

Distilled and aged in the iconic rum-producing region of Demerara in Guyana, Original 1804 is a British-style black rum that features the flavors of dark brown sugar, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, and vanilla bean — making it an obvious partner for eggnog.

Plantation O.F.T.D. Rum

Bottle of Plantation Rum

Overproof rums were likely developed because they took less space to ship, (via Punch). Distillers could ship these high-proof rums overseas and water them down to bottle-proof once the shipments reached their destination. Industrial strength rums likely caught on when curious sailors got high on their own supply and dipped into rum shipments during long voyages. With sailors getting a taste for overproof rums, taverns in port cities started selling the stuff. Over time, the general public grew to appreciate high-octane rums and the style eventually became commercially viable.

Both Moore and Mustipher agree that high-proof and overproof rums are great for eggnog. Clocking in at 69% ABV, Plantation Rum’s O.F.T.D rum more than fits the bill. According to the Plantation website, O.F.T.D. officially stands for Old Fashioned Traditional Dark and it’s the distillery’s take on that classic style of overproof rums.

"Plantation O.F.T.D. is great if you’re thinking, ‘How boozy can I make this eggnog? How many people are getting offended at the Christmas party this year?’" Moore laughs. "And it’s really easy to find, which is great."

Lemon Hart & Son Blackpool Spiced Rum

Bottles of rum and eggnog

Spiced rum has gotten a bit of a bad rap, and we have one man to thank for that: Captain Morgan. While we thank the captain for his service, his spiced rum is best left to college kids on spring break. In a desire to uphold the highest journalistic principles, we recently conducted some tastings and found adding Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum to eggnog made it taste like someone dumped in a bunch of hooch made from fermented Pepsi (it was really bad if you didn’t catch our drift).

Blackpool Spiced Rum from Lemon Hart & Son is here to save spiced rum, and Moore says it’s one of his top choices for eggnog. "It’s killer, with all these really, really rich flavors and cooking spices. Put that in eggnog with a little sherry. Boom! You’re good to go."

If you have a bottle of Captain Morgan spiced rum in your liquor cabinet and you’re bummed about not using it in eggnog, we got you. Our Christmas punch recipe has enough ingredients to cover up the Captain’s off-putting flavors. You could also use it in our spiced orange rum balls recipe.

Mount Gay Eclipse

Bottle of Mount Gay rum

Known for its distinctive label featuring the island of Barbados and its iconic regatta sailing hats, Mount Gay brings a lot to any cocktail, and the distillery’s Eclipse rum is one of the best for eggnog. Eclipse can infuse eggnog with notes of caramel, vanilla, spice, and oak. Mount Gay Eclipse is also one of the best rums for a rum punch.

But English-style Mount Gay rums also bring a very unique pedigree and terroir, (via Vinepair). Unlike other Caribbean islands that were formed from volcanic rock, Barbados is made from accumulated coral limestone. This gives the island a different soil profile and many sources of underground water. The water and sugar cane that is grown in the soil combine to differentiate Mount Gay rums from others in the region.

Mount Gay also has a boundary-breaking female master distiller. Trudiann Branker earned her chemistry degree at Howard University and became Mount Gay’s master distiller after a five-year apprenticeship under the tutelage of the previous master distiller. Branker told Ohio Liquor she takes pride in joining the ranks of other women making rum.

El Dorado 8 Year Old Rum

Bottle of El Dorado rum

For Mustipher, English-style rums like those from the former British colony of Guyana are a good choice for eggnog because it speaks to the roots of the drink, "Think of eggnog as a traditional (British) 18th-century punch. These were usually made with rum blends, which could involve Jamaican rum, Bajan rum (from Barbados), or Demerara rum (from Guyana). So I would say, stay with rums from those former English territories."

Made by Demerara Distillers in Guyana, El Dorado rums fit the bill as an English-style rum, and it is one of the best rums for eggnog. El Dorado makes many good sipping rums that have been aged 12 years, 15 years, 21 years, and 25 years. However, we feel the price point of bold flavors of the El Dorado 8 Year Old Rum is the best choice for eggnog. The rum’s caramel toffee notes are a perfect partner for eggnog, while the hints of tobacco and traces of oak allow it to stand out from the eggnog’s heavy cream and nutmeg.

Appleton Estate Signature

Bottle of Appleton Estate

Jamaican-style rums are renowned for their funky flavors. Some Jamaican rums go hard on the funky, so much so, they can seem out of place in dairy-based eggnog. The Signature rum from Appleton Estate doesn’t turn the funk up to 11, and because of that, it’s an ideal partner for eggnog. Letting your cocktail rest for 48 hours after mixing will allow the funkier flavors to mellow and open up this rum’s fruit-forward flavors and aromas.

Once the holidays are over, that doesn’t mean putting your bottle of Appleton estate back in the liquor cabinet until next year because it works very well in a mai tai. In the attempts to recreate the original 1944 Mai Tai from Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland, California, modern tiki bartenders typically combine a Jamaican rum and a Martinique-style rhum agricole. Pairing Appleton Estate Signature rum with a rhum agricole from Rhum J.M or Rhum Clement will give your mai tai the authenticity it deserves.

Myers’s Rum Original Dark

Bottle of Myers's Rum

Instantly recognizable by its brown and yellow label, Myers’s Rum is ubiquitous. According to Myers’s website, the distillery was founded in 1879 in Kingston, Jamaica by Fred L. Myers. Like most dark Jamaican rums, Myers’s is made from molasses using pot still distillation.

This rum has been looked down upon for years by bartenders and tiki fanatics for being overly sweet and lacking in flavor. However, the company recently rejiggered this rum’s formula, and it now has a bit more of that signature funk for which Jamaican rums are known. Tasting notes on the official website say Myers’s dark rum offers buttery caramel, raisin, and fig flavors — all of which are a natural fit for eggnog. We found Myers’s rum to be easy-drinking but flavorful in our tasting. This rum added a welcome hint of smokiness and subtle funky molasses notes. Incidentally, this dark rum is also a good choice for another dairy-based cocktail: hot buttered rum.