“Given that the Daiquiri is only three ingredients, the base spirit really ought to have pretty sublime aromatics and texture,” says Washington, D.C.–based bartender Chantal Tseng. When building the drink, she looks for a rum with balanced richness, sweetness and acidity, with complexity and character, “without being too harsh or neutral.” Easy, right?
According to Ryan Lotz, beverage director for Boston’s Traveler Street Hospitality group, many of the white rums on the market today lean less flavorful, but there are some standouts that offer citrusy, tropical, funky notes that take Daiquiris to the next level. Luckily, many of these rums are affordable.
To find the very best ones to use, we asked Tseng, Lotz and other bartenders with an affinity for Daiquiris for their top picks. Here are their recommendations, at every price point.
El Dorado 3-Year Rum
Affordable El Dorado 3-year is the base in the go-to Daiquiri spec from Jelani Johnson, head bartender at New York’s Le Coucou. While he typically bolsters that with a small measure of rhum agricole, Johnson says this bottling is the best standalone option, if you’re going to go for just one. Lotz describes it as a “workhorse,” and it’s also a favorite of Ned King, owner of Easthampton, Massachusetts, bar Gigantic. For a budget-friendly rum, King says, “it’s got all the structure you need to hold up in a cocktail.” Its dry finish, which is important for Daiquiris, is also a plus.
- Price: $18
- ABV: 40%
The Real McCoy 3-Year Rum
Los Angeles bar owner Lee Zaremba prioritizes texture and mouthfeel when it comes to the rum portion of the drink; with a strong base, the lime and sugar “sing,” he says. Real McCoy 3-year is a full-bodied rum from Barbados that he says “lends texture and balance to a light, well-shaken Daiquiri.” The bottling, which Zaremba also praises for its high quality and low cost, is aged in bourbon barrels, a process that brings notes of wood and spice to the spirit.
- Price: $20
- ABV: 40%
Ten to One White Rum
While it has become popular to use a blend of rums in the Daiquiri, a similar effect can be achieved by using Ten to One’s white rum, itself a blend of column still rum from the Dominican Republic and pot still rum from Jamaica. Described by Johnson as a “fantastic standalone blend,” this bottling combines herbaceousness with a unique peppery, floral, bright flavor.
- Price: $25
- ABV: 45%
Foursquare Probitas Rum
Probitas is “the antithesis of flavorless white spirits,” says Lotz. Like Ten to One white rum, Foursquare is a blend, made with rums from Foursquare in Barbados and Hampden Estate in Jamaica, each offering distinct notes of vanilla and tropical fruit. Matthew Belanger, bar manager for Death & Co. Los Angeles, says the blend “has a great balance of flavor and texture,” and, with its higher proof—47 percent ABV—it shines in cocktails.
- Price: $29
- ABV: 47%
Neisson Rhum Agricole Blanc
For Tseng, rhum agricole is the key to a superior Daiquiri. The spirit category has “a fun savory-sweet, fresh brightness that all other white rums pale in comparison to,” she says. According to her and Zaremba, Neisson Rhum Agricole Blanc is an exemplary option for the rum classic. Zaremba describes the bottling as “a hallmark of the style,” and says the grassy, earthy tones add an air of escape to the drink: “Tasting a bit of where [the spirit is] from is transportive for me,” he says.
- Price: $38
- ABV: 50%