Dark Rum & Light Rum: The Difference

Rum in whatever color is just rum. Well, not really. There are significant distinctions between dark vs. light rum. But first, let’s look at the similarities.

All rum comes from sugarcane products such as molasses and syrup. The sugar from the cane gives dark and light rum their sweet undertones. The by-product is distilled into clear alcohol.

Rum has a high alcohol by volume ratio, typically 40% ABV and above. But it can be distilled to any desired strength.

Whether rum is white or dark depends heavily on filtration and aging.

What is Dark Rum?

Dark rum starts as a clear liquid, the same as white rum. It’s then aged in charred oak or wooden barrels to give it a dark color. The longer the aging period, the darker the rum becomes.

Dark rum has a more intense flavor than white rum because it takes time to infuse several flavors when aging. Aside from molasses and burned sugar, you can add caramel for more flavor.

The level of darkness it achieves can result in a golden or black color. So, if you see rum labeled as golden, it’s a dark rum that hasn’t aged for too long. Black rum is just dark rum that’s aged longer. Distillers sometimes add burned sugar or molasses to give it its richer color and additional flavor.

Dark Rum Cocktails

Because of its intense flavor, you can serve dark rum for sipping as is. But you can also make cocktails with it.

The different serving temperatures for each cocktail make some more suited for summer and others for spring or winter.

Rum lovers will not even care which rum you use in your cocktail, whether dark, light, or spicy. Here are a few refreshing drinks you can make with dark rum.

  • Dark and Stormy: This spicy drink is arguably one of the most famous dark rum cocktails. It is easy to put together. You’ll need lime juice, ginger beer, ice, and, of course, dark rum. Mix up everything over ice so it’s perfectly blended. Top up with a slice of lime.
  • Caribbean rum punch: Up for a fruity cocktail that reminds you of Hawaii? You’ll need the rum, orange juice, lime juice, pineapple juice, grenadine, and a small amount of light rum.
  • Mai tai: This drink is too popular not to make our super short dark rum cocktails list. You make it by combining dark, aged rum with orgeat syrup, lime juice, and orange liqueur.

Other popular dark rum cocktails include:

  • Hot buttered rum
  • Mojito with dark rum
  • Painkiller cocktail
  • Bahama mama
  • El Presidente

The list shows that dark rum makes some of the best winter cocktails. Just be prepared for a darker color drink.


What is Light Rum?

After distillation, light rum is filtered to remove impurities. It’s then packaged as is or aged briefly in stainless steel barrels.

The short or no aging time leaves the spirit in its clear state, and the resulting alcohol has a light sweet flavor. But light rum has just as much ABV percentage as dark rum.

Light Rum Drinks

Light rum cocktails are more famous than dark rum cocktails. In fact, some drinks that use dark rum usually do so in place of light rum to give them a deeper smokey flavor.

There are more light rum drinks than we can count, but here are a few of our favorites.

  • Classic Daiquiri: This is a classic rum drink you’ll love. Its simplicity makes it a favorite that comes together fast. The recipe calls for readily available ingredients: rum, simple syrup, and lime juice. You may blend with ice cubes instead of shaking during the hot season.
  • Classic Mojito: If you’re a beginner and don’t want to go wrong with your cocktail, try this mojito. These are easy to make and take just five minutes. All you’ll need is sugar, mint leaves, lime juice, white rum, club soda, and ice.
  • White Rum and Coke: You need three minutes max for this recipe. The ingredients are rum and coke and sometimes lime juice and ice. It’s beginner-friendly, as long as you keep the balances in check.

Other popular light rum drinks are:

  • Pina colada
  • Creamy coconut mojito
  • Strawberry daiquiri
  • Rum runner
  • Between the sheets
  • Southern Long Island iced tea, etc.

The advantage of rum over other alcoholic beverages is that it blends well with other ingredients. It can humbly take backstage to other components, allowing them to shine while still giving off its strength in the undertones.


Several bars in New York City have versions of rum cocktails on their menus. But if you want a guarantee of quality, taste, and the perfect ambiance, White Horse Tavern should be your next stop.