At this point in our drinking careers, we’ve all had a Rum and Coke. And although the drink is pretty perfect as is, sometimes you feel like drinking a version that has a little more pizazz—one that reflects your now grown-up cocktail tastes. Here, we talk through five of our favorite ways to upgrade a Rum and Coke that don’t sacrifice the simplicity of the original drink.
Use More Than One Rum
Splitting the rum base between two (or even three) bottlings adds more flavor, more depth and greater complexity to the drink. In a Rum and Coke, we find that pairing a light rum or a rhum agricole with a darker, richer rum will create a cocktail that has the best qualities of both spirits. The resulting drink is light, fruity and vibrant, with heavier toffee and vanilla notes at the finish.
Adding a half-ounce of fresh lime juice to your Highball (preferably before you top the drink with Coke) will create a brighter cocktail that’s even more refreshing and quaffable. Lime juice softens the sweetness of the cola and boosts the acidity in the drink, which makes it brighter and more complex (it also makes you want to come back in for another sip). Make sure to squeeze the lime directly into the glass for optimal freshness and flavor.
Buy Better Coke
This ingredient is the most crucial part in building a better Rum and Coke. Generic cola or common American Coca-Cola—both of which are 90-percent corn syrup—will yield a cocktail that is sweeter and more acidic (in an unnatural, gross way). You should opt instead for a craft cola that uses more wholesome sweeteners (like honey or cane sugar) and only natural ingredients and flavorings. While we typically buy Mexican Coke, other brands like Boylan and Fever Tree also have amazing cola products.
Bitters vastly improve just about any cocktail, and the Rum and Coke is no exception. No matter what type of bitters you use, they will dry out the sweetness of the cola and add more depth to the cocktail. If you add Angostura bitters, the cocktail will taste even more cola-y with flourishes of baking spices on the finish. You can also add molasses bitters, cardamom bitters, orange bitters or mole bitters, all of which will add their own unique twist to the drink and interact with the cola in different ways.
Top with Champagne
If you really want to turn your Rum and Coke on its head, you can split the measure of Coke with Champagne or sparkling wine. A wine that is dry and crisp will make the cocktail less sweet and increase the effervescence with livelier bubbles. If you add wine to your drink, it’s crucial that you don’t add lime juice because it could make the drink taste flat and overshadow the flavors of the wine, which pair well with the flavors of cola on their own. Instead, opt for a twist of orange or lemon peel so you can still harness that bright citrus flavor in your drink.