The Rum Old Fashioned Is a Classic Gone Tropical

Rum Old Fashioned
Unsplash / Celia Schoonraad

When you think of the Old Fashioned, you probably think American whiskey, which makes sense. This classic cocktail, a decidedly American invention, has been served up roughly the same way since the 1800s and is still a bar staple. For most aficionados, that’s historically translated to using a base of either bourbon or rye whiskey, two archetypal American spirits.

The 8 Best Whiskeys for Old Fashioneds

But naturally, when something is this iconic, it’s going to invite riffs. Take this rum Old Fashioned for example. This twist uses a combination of dark and navy-strength rum for a molasses-inflected, tropical version of the beloved sipper.

Here’s how to make a rum Old Fashioned right.

How to Make a Rum Old Fashioned

Courtesy Jane Burns, Allium Restaurant + Bar, Great Barrington, Massachusetts

1 ½ ounce Plantation Dark Rum
½ ounce Smith & Cross Rum
¼ ounce Demerara simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Orange twist, for garnish


Add all ingredients to mixing glass with ice. Stir until well chilled. Strain into rocks glass over single large ice cube. Garnish with orange twist.


Can You Make an Old Fashioned with Rum?

As evidenced by this recipe, you certainly can make an Old Fashioned with rum.

Whiskey—and specifically bourbon and rye—is the most common Old Fashioned base, but the simplicity of this classic cocktail makes it infinitely customizable. Just keep in mind, rum, like whiskey, has many different flavor profiles, which can drastically alter the taste of your drink. Dark rums, which get their earthy, spicy flavors from barrel aging, are particularly good whiskey substitutes in an Old Fashioned.

Spiced Rum Old Fashioned

Adding spiced rum to this cocktail can get a bit tricky.

“Keep in mind that many [spiced rums] are both sweetened and spiced,” says Kara Newman, Wine Enthusiast writer at large and spirits reviewer.  “Old Fashioneds have very few ingredients, and if you’re adding even more sugar and spice (via the bitters), it’s easy to wind up with a drink that’s out of balance. My advice is to mix spiced rum with ginger beer for a Dark & Stormy-style highball and skip it for an Old Fashioned.”

How to Make an Old Fashioned Without Whiskey

Not a whiskey fan or into this recipe? No problem, you can still enjoy many different versions of the Old Fashioned. For instance, the mezcal Old Fashioned, replaces whiskey with (you guessed it) mezcal. This is an especially great cocktail if you’re looking to explore this expansive category of spirits.

Looking to try another rum-based Old Fashioned? You can use any decent bottle you may have on your bar cart for the Southern Toast. Just be sure to rinse the glass with “maraschino liqueur for a subtle cherry-almond hint,” as our recipe suggests.

Also, don’t sleep on the Wisconsin Old Fashioned.  This regional favorite swaps “whiskey for a brandy-based mixture served one of three ways: sweet, sour or press,” wrote Tyler Zielinski for Wine Enthusiast. Check out the recipe here.

Cocktails that Substitute Rum

Along with this riff on the Old Fashioned, there are plenty of other rum twists on some classic drinks. For instance, take the Kingston Negroni, which simply swaps out gin with a rum of your choice.

There’s also the El Presidente. Its origin story isn’t exactly known, but it came about during Prohibition, when Americans flocked to Cuba for a stiff drink. But this rum-based Manhattan is unique in that “rather than the spirit providing dryness to balance a sweeter vermouth, a drier vermouth is used to allow the rum’s natural sweetness to shine,” writes Dylan Garret for Wine Enthusiast. And don’t forget about a Between the Sheets cocktail. This riff on the classic Sidecar subs in rum for Cointreau.

Lastly, if you’re after the perfect nightcap, mix up a Rum Alexander. This concoction has all the boozy, sweet goodness of the original Brandy Alexander, only with aged rum and coffee liqueur for an added kick.

This article was updated on March 21, 2023

Published on February 7, 2018