How to make rum a drink for everyone at your pub

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Rum boy rum: Ian Burrell will be giving expert advice at RumFest in October
Rum boy rum: Ian Burrell will be giving expert advice at RumFest in October

Related tags Spirits Rum Ian Burrell Finance

Leading voice on rum and TV presenter Ian Burrell has told pubs stocking a variety of rums according to quality will mean everyone becomes a customer because they are not being priced out.

Global rum ambassador Burrell, who will be present at RumFest on 14-15 October at the ILEC Conference Centre in Fulham, south-west London, said if a pub were to offer a standard rum, a better rum and a premium rum, it would be “catering for all types of affordability”.

He continues: “Someone might be a rum lover but when they look at the rum selection in a pub, they may be below the types of products they normally drink. If there’s a level they can pick from and they can afford it, yes, they’re going to go for the more expensive one because they know their rum or they understand the intrinsic value to the product that’s being offered.

“It’s great for the pub because it’s increasing the spend per head and pubs want people to spend more money in your establishment.”


As an example, he cites three types of Jamaican rum Appleton a publican could stock being a basic Appleton, Appleton 8 and Appleton 12 – which are differences in the age of the rum.

“You’re just increased that spend per head just because you had a better offering of the same brand,” Burrell states.

Burrell explains having different levels of quality doesn’t have to work on ages, it can be way more varied.

On the possibility of using white rums, he explains: “It’s probably a little bit more challenging [with white rums] because when we think of rum, most consumers that go into pubs and bars think of them as a mixing product. You think it’s going to be cheap but there are some premium white rums out there that are just as premium as any unaged Tequila, for example.”

Differentiating quality

Burrell continues: “Rum is a versatile spirit that takes its cues from Tequila, from whiskey and from brandy.

“You’d have your basic offering of a white rum then you can have your step-up, which may be from a different region or maybe it’s a vintage where it’s only made from fresh cane juice, and it’s only made once a year. Or it might be it might be a white rum that’s been aged in barrels for several years and what they’ve done is filtered it through charcoal to take the colour out to make it smooth. But still when you smell it, if you smell it blind, you’d think it was a gold rum you were drinking.”

He adds this can be done for all rum types and perhaps a publican would want to split it by regions or countries and this can be expressed quickly via notes on a board behind the bar.

Burrell says although rums are originally from hot countries, these things change and develop. Transportation means molasses can be sent to colder countries and rum can be made there.


One of the biggest increases here in the UK market is British-made rums where molasses are imported from places such as the Caribbean, north Africa or even parts of southern Europe.

“They’re bringing molasses here to the UK, whether it’s Scotland, Cornwall, Devon, Ireland, etc. They’re distilling it here and making local rums.

“There’s two parts of the rum category that are showing massive growth and that’s the high end, the premium end, where you’re creating value with a product that’s been aged for five to 10 to 15 years, and the other one is spiced rums, where a lot of distilleries in the UK are making their own, either by from scratch or importing the molasses from a hot country, fermenting and distilling that then adding their spices to that or they’re buying rum from one of the hot countries and re-distilling it with spices just like a gin.”

Cola is seen as the traditional mixer for rum but there are many alternatives that licensees should consider stocking to go with rum.

When serving a better-quality rum, it’s advisable to offer less volume when it comes to the mixer so the rum shines through better.

Sipping audience

“There are some companies with a higher-quality rums that are really going after the sipping audience,” Burrell says. “This is something that happens at RumFest every year – many people see rum and assume it has go with a mixer but they are pleasantly surprised when they sip a higher-quality rum with no mixer and they go ‘wow, I didn’t think rum could be slipped and could taste this good. It’s a pleasant surprise and I love seeing that smile on people’s faces.”

He adds some people have to mix and that’s perfectly fine. There are now a lot of rum-focused mixers being created now and Burrell points to the likes of Fever-Tree, London Essence, Sekforde and Stratford, which is just for rums.


He cites an example cocktail that is easy to make: “One of my favourite drinks I love to push, especially in pubs, is a highball. The rum highball has rum, cola & lime, but you can pair rum & ginger ale and rum & ginger beer with a twist of lime and a couple of dashes of bitters.

“But then some of these really nice mixers that are made for rums go great in a highball, and that’s a simple drink. Get a tall glass, a bit of rum or spiced rum, add your favourite mixer whether it’s a Frobisher Apple & Raspberry tonic or it’s London Essence watermelon & cucumber, add a slice of lime and lemon – bam! You’ve got a really quick drink that’s really refreshing and it rivals the gin & tonic.

“That’s how rum is growing in certain pubs. It’s that simple serve but something that’s refreshing and flavoursome.”

On to the upcoming RumFest, Burrell explains: “RumFest is the longest running and the oldest rum festival where rum consumers come and learn about the category and the different styles of rums that are out there from all over the world.

“We normally have about 400 different SKUs for people to try, sip and savour, but we also have the experts that make or sell the rum to guide you through that particular rum so it’s like a fun version of a rum university over two days.”

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails

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