10 Best Rums For An El Presidente

The El Presidente is one of those cocktails that's not well known but definitely deserves a sip, especially if you're a Manhattan fan. Several experts called the El Presidente a Manhattan with rum, but Jerry "Beachbum" Berry, who's written numerous books on tropical cocktails and rum, had a more interesting take: "If the daiquiri is the king of Cuban cocktails, the El Presidente is the court jester." He considers it to be "a joke of a recipe, a collision of rum, vermouth, and grenadine that to my mind is less than the sum of its parts."  That said, Berry has no problem subbing out the classic white Cuban rum for a gold Barbados that gives the drink "some much-needed extra flavor." 

That extra flavor not only comes from the type of rum you use, but also the type of vermouth. Those who compared the El Presidente to a Manhattan said vermouth is also very important. Neil Hartzel, a bartender at Riviera House, said most bartenders thought they should be using dry vermouth, but "with dry it's gross." Once they switched the dry out for blanc it was a completely different cocktail. Turns out a lot of bartenders agree with both Hartzel and Berry, which is why you're now seeing the El Presidente on more and more menus across the country. While there are only a few blancs to choose from, the number of rums are endless. That's why we enlisted the help of experts to highlight the absolute best rums to use the next time you prepare an El Presidente.  

Doorly's XO

Distilled by master distiller Richard Seale at the Foursquare distillery in Barbados, Doorly's XO is a blend of pot and column still rums that enjoys a "dual maturation" says Peter Holland, the United Kingdom brand ambassador for Foursquare Distillery. The rum matures for five years in ex-bourbon American white oak barrels, and then finishes in ex-oloroso sherry casks. Although Doorly's has been around since the early 1900s according to Master of Malt, the rum has gained in popularity ever since Seale acquired it in 1993. 

The rums used in the Doorly's XO blend range in age from six to at least 10 years according to The Rum Howler Blog. It's that combination of rums that gives Doorly's its flavor and why Jerry "Beachbum" Berry thinks it's the best choice for the El Presidente, noting that it's a "well-aged, full-bodied, delicious expression that gives the El Presidente a much-needed boost."

Real McCoy 3 Year

When people talk about something being the "real McCoy" they mean it's the real thing; nothing has been added and it's absolutely perfect in its original form. According to The Real McCoy website, that's exactly what founder, Bailey Pryor, and master distiller, Richard Seale were going for when they named their rum. The name was inspired by rum runner Bill McCoy who, per a documentary produced by the distillery, filled his boat with quality rum during Prohibition and sold it just three miles off shore in international waters while other rum runners diluted their liquor with turpentine and wood alcohol. Pryor and Seale followed Bill McCoy's example and refused to muddy their rum with added sugars or flavors.

That unsullied product is why Marie King, the bar manager at LA's oldest tiki bar, the Tonga Hut, says the Real McCoy 3 year "works really well" in the El Presidente cocktail. "You want something with a little age and body, that's then been filtered to take away the color but still keeps the body." That said, King made sure to tell us that while the rum is the main spirit in the cocktail, it doesn't "matter as much as the blanc vermouth. [Blancs] like Dolin or Lillet are dry but a little sweet and floral, too."

Havana Club 3 Year

Cuban rums are the holy grail of rums. Several experts list Havana Club as their first choice when it comes to rum for cocktails. But because of the embargo, they're very difficult to get. (If you happen to come across a bottle of Havana Club in the U.S., it will be a Puerto Rico rum produced by Bacardi and, despite the same name, is a completely different product from Cuban Havana Club, per The Washington Post.)That said, Rafael Ramirez, the bar manager at The Rex and The Drift in Redondo Beach says that if you ever do find yourself outside the United States and happen to find a bottle of Havana Club, grab it! He believes the 3 year is "probably the best white rum out there. Its notes of coconut, nutmeg, and green grass ... add layers of complexity to any cocktail." 

Cuba's sugar cane, soil, and tropical climate are all important factors in Havana Club's creation. It's that Cuban terroir that makes this rum so special and why Ramirez prefers it for his El Presidente, especially since "the rum has nowhere to hide. It's the star of the show!" Ramirez also likes to add an expressed twist of grapefruit to the cocktail to "add more nuance to the drink."


Usually when one thinks of white rum, a neutral, unaged spirit comes to mind. That neutrality often brings with it a lack of flavor, but that is not the case here. Unlike other white rums on the market, Probitas is a combination of three Caribbean rums that Sean Cork of Caña Rum Bar in Los Angeles says was "formulated to emulate the full-flavored white rums of the '20s and '30s." 

A joint venture courtesy of two renowned distilleries also on this list (Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados who makes Doorly's, and Hampden Estate in Jamaica), it's understandable why Probitas was mentioned by several experts. Marie King from Tonga Hut desrcibes Probitas as a "richer" rum that is full of citrus and molasses flavors with just the right amount of Jamaican funk. King praises the rum for its body and often finds herself reaching for it when she's making an El Presidente, while Cork believes it makes a "wonderful addition to this cocktail."

El Dorado 3 Year

Distilled on the east bank of the Demerara River in Guyana, El Dorado is a rum that's steeped in Caribbean history. Originally a haven of rum distilleries starting in the 1600's, Guyana saw those numbers dwindle, and, according to the website, today only one distillery remains: Demerara Distillers Limited. It may be the last rum distillery in Guyana, but it continues a tradition of patience and crafting a rum that's full of dimension. 

The El Dorado 3 Year is a perfect example of that. Most blended aged rums are darker in color because of the time spent in the barrel, but the El Dorado 3 year is crystal clear thanks to its double filtration through natural charcoal. Even though that filtration gives you a clear rum, it doesn't take away from the flavor. That one-two punch of flavor and color are why Mike Treffehn from the Rum Club in Portland, Oregon prefers it for the El Presidente. He says there's "a richness of body from its aging, notes of cocoa balanced with dryness, and the filtration leaves a crystal clear aesthetic that makes the slight blush of grenadine really pop."

Bacardi Añejo Cuatro

We all know the Bacardi label. At a lower price point, it's the brand we automatically picked for our home bars because it made a great Rum and Coke or mojito. But even though some might look down on the popular brand, it's actually a really delicious rum that makes this list not once, but twice. The website notes they have a "rum for every occasion," and they're right. From the original clear Bacardi Superior to its newer ready-made drinks, if you're looking for a great rum to use in a classic rum cocktail, odds are Bacardi will have it. 

For the El Presidente, Nick Jackson, the head bartender at The Rum House in New York, likes the Bacardi Añejo Cuatro. Aged for at least four years, the Cuatro has vanilla and cinnamon notes while finishing off with a nice toffee flavor that Jackson says would be "amazing [mixed] with any of the Havana Club rums." Jackson likes using it because "it is a nice lightly aged rum with a little more character than some white rums."

Bacardi Diez

While Nick Jackson from The Rum House prefers the Bacardi Cuatro, chef and owner of Wusong Road, Jason Doo, likes the 10 year. Doo not only appreciates its price point (around $40 a bottle), he says "the hints of oak really play well with the vermouth." 

The 10-year is a blend of rums that range in age from 10 to 23 years. (When it comes to liquor, the age statement on the bottle refers to the youngest booze in the mix). While the distillation process is similar to that of the Cuatro, the additional years of aging paves the way for a completely different flavor profile. Where vanilla and cinnamon shine through in the Cuatro, the Diez has a more fruity feel thanks to its bright peach, melon, and banana notes.

Even though Doo believes the Diez is the rum for the El Presidente, like Marie King, he says you should replace the vermouth with Lillet Blanc because the final cocktail "will blow your mind."

Hampden Estate 8 Year Old

The "flagship" of the Hampden Estate, this rum hails from one of the oldest sugar cane estates in Jamaica. While the estate has been around since 1684, it wasn't until 1779 that owner Archibald Sterling built the Hampden Great House and turned the ground floor into a rum boutique. Although the land changed hands several times over the next few centuries, Hampden continued to produce the finest sugar cane and rum in Jamaica. But it wasn't until 2018 when the rum was launched commercially, that the rest of the world finally got to sample this rich rum. 

Hampden Estate continues to employ the same techniques it has used since the 18th century: they use copper double retort pot stills to distill all their rums. That distillation process is why David Brady, the general manager of London's Black Parrot Bar, believes the Hampden Estate 8 Year Old has "sheer punch in the face elegance" and why it's his preferred choice for the classic cocktail. "The rich topical fruits of banana and guava married with the slight hint of medicinal mint, dry tannins, and touches of oak, smoke, and chocolate covered coffee beans ensure that with just a touch of blanc vermouth you're going to have one hell of a cocktail."

Don Q Gran Reserva

While several experts say that Cuban rums are where it's at when it comes to making certain rum cocktails, because they're so hard to get, those same experts recommend rums that are produced in a similar way. Don Q is one such rum. While they have several expressions under their label, Mike Treffehn, the bar manager for Portland's Rum Club, believes the Gran Reserva is a "great choice" for the El Presidente because it has a "leaner profile more akin" to those Cuban-style rums. 

Made in Puerto Rico, Don Q has been in the Serrallés family for over 150 years, and according to the website, prides itself on being "the unquestionable favorite in the land of rum." While the Serrallés family has been making rum since 1865, it wasn't until 1934, just one year after Prohibition, that the rum became available in the general marketplace. The family chose the name Don Q in honor of their favorite literary character, Don Quixote. Just as Don Quixote was on a quest for a perfect world, so is the Serrallés family on a quest for "perfection in rum making." A smooth spirit that's both sweet and dry, the Gran Reserva is another important leg of that quest.

Angostura 1787

Angostura is a name well known in the bar industry thanks to those little bottles of bitters that line professional and home bars all over the world. They're the punctuation point to some of the most famous classic cocktails we all know and love. But did you know Angostura makes rum as well? According to Angostura, the distillery has been producing rum for over 75 years and the several offerings of the spirit that are produced by the brand are just as respected as the bitters that put Angostura on the map.

Even though the distillery produces a wide range of rums, David Brady, the general manager for London's Black Parrot Bar, prefers this higher end option, which is aged 15 years, for an El Presidente. Dubbed 1787 to commemorate the establishment of Trinidad's first sugar mill, Brady believes it adds "a touch of decadence" to your cocktail. He says it's "absolutely lush. Full of tropical and heather notes, it works wonderfully well in a stir-down cocktail like the El Presidente."