The Flavors And Facts Around Blackstrap Rum

At its core, Blackstrap rum differentiates itself from regular molasses-based rums through its distinct composition and flavor profile. Unlike the more familiar molasses, which boasts about 70% sugar content, making it sweet and viscous, blackstrap molasses turns towards the darker, sludgier side. With approximately 45% sugar, its taste can sometimes veer towards the less appealing, introducing notes that are salty and somewhat bitter. This fundamental difference in taste and texture sets the stage for understanding what blackstrap rum truly is.

The Misconception Around Black Rums

The rum industry, with its rich history and diverse offerings, sometimes blurs the lines between what is marketed as blackstrap rum and what constitutes this distinctive category. Popular brands like Cruzan Black Strap, Bacardí Black, and Kraken Black, while dark and enticing, do not fit the true definition of blackstrap rum. These spirits, more accurately described as black rums, owe their dark appearance not to their aging process or the use of blackstrap molasses but to the addition of caramel coloring post-distillation. This technique mimics the visual cues of aged rums. It infuses a molasses flavor, often incorporating the salty, savory, and earthy notes characteristic of blackstrap molasses through added flavorings or sweetness.

Historically, its reputation was once marred by associations with harsh tastes and subpar quality, a stark contrast to the smoother, more refined white and aged rums that graced the top shelves of bars and liquor stores. On the other hand, black rum’s story is one of redemption through redemption in the cocktail world.

The tiki aesthetic, which values the fantastic and the aesthetically pleasing, was instrumental in bringing black rum out of oblivion and into the spotlight. Black rum is more than an ingredient in these drinks with a tropical twist; it’s a bold statement. Tiki drinks are already visually striking, but they add depth and complexity that bring out their brilliant colors and tastes even more. The boldness of black rum, with its rich molasses undertones and smoky, sometimes spicy notes, enhances the sensory experience, turning a simple cocktail into an adventure for the palate. The dramatic flair it lends to tiki drinks isn’t merely about taste—it’s about capturing the essence of tropical escapism, where each sip transports you to sandy beaches and lush landscapes.

Classic drinks like the Black ‘n’ Stormy and Corn ‘n’ Oil have made use of black rum because of their distinctive flavor profile, which is not limited to tiki establishments. These cocktails highlight the spirit’s adaptability and its ability to shine in more straightforward recipes. With its refreshing fizz and ginger zing, the Black ‘n’ Stormy is visually and flavorfully stormy thanks to the dark, caramel undertones of black rum. Corn ‘n’ Oil is similar in that it has an uncomplicated structure that allows the rum’s nuanced flavors to shine through, with lime’s acidity and cane syrup’s sweetness acting as counterpoints. The robust flavors of black rum are the very reason to enjoy it in these drinks, rather than the other way around. It’s proof that the spirit can lift any cocktail to new heights, surpassing even its lighter cousins in terms of character and depth.

The resurgence of black rum in cocktail culture is a reflection of a broader appreciation for spirits with distinct personalities and stories. It represents a shift away from uniformity and towards embracing diversity in flavors and histories. The once-overlooked black rum, with its challenging flavors and lower shelf status, has found a place of honor in the hearts of mixologists and enthusiasts alike. Its journey from the shadows to the spotlight is a celebration of its unique qualities, proving that even the most underestimated spirits can become the stars of the show.

The Role of Blackstrap Rum in Cocktails

Despite its niche position, blackstrap rum has found admirers among mixologists and bartenders who value its ability to introduce complexity and depth to cocktails. Tyson Buhler, a beverage director, likens its taste to that of overly brewed coffee – a bitter yet intriguing profile that, when used judiciously, complements a wide array of ingredients. This unique character is what makes blackstrap rum a sought-after addition to cocktails, bringing a rich molasses flavor that enhances both the depth and the richness of the drink while balancing out the sharper, more bitter, and herbal notes. Here are two popular cocktail recipes that you can use if you’re feeling that blackstrap rum is going to be your new thing:

Blackstrap Rum Swizzle

The Swizzle is a classic cocktail that hails from the Caribbean, traditionally prepared with rum and a variety of ingredients that accentuate the spirit’s natural flavors. The Blackstrap Rum Swizzle brings a twist to this classic by incorporating the dense, flavorful profile of blackstrap rum, creating a drink that’s both refreshing and complex.


  • 2 oz Blackstrap Rum
  • 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz Maple Syrup (adjust to taste)
  • 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters
  • Crushed Ice
  • Mint Sprigs and Lime Wheel for garnish


  1. In a highball glass, combine the blackstrap rum, fresh lime juice, maple syrup, and Angostura bitters.
  2. Fill the glass with crushed ice and use a bar spoon to swizzle the ingredients together until the outside of the glass frosts.
  3. Top with more crushed ice, creating a dome at the top.
  4. Garnish with a few sprigs of mint and a lime wheel.

The Blackstrap Rum Swizzle is a testament to the versatility of blackstrap rum, blending its rich molasses tones with the brightness of lime and the aromatic complexity of Angostura bitters. The maple syrup adds a layer of sweetness that complements the rum’s depth, resulting in a cocktail that’s both invigorating and satisfying.

Blackstrap Rum Old-Fashioned

A twist on the classic Old-Fashioned, this version utilizes blackstrap rum to introduce a dark, caramel sweetness that sets it apart from its bourbon-based counterpart. This cocktail is perfect for those who appreciate the depth and character of traditional spirits while seeking a new experience.


  • 2 oz Blackstrap Rum
  • 1/4 oz Simple Syrup (or to taste)
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • Orange Peel and Cherry for garnish


  1. In a mixing glass, combine the blackstrap rum, simple syrup, and orange bitters with ice.
  2. Stir the mixture until well chilled and properly diluted.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube to maintain a slow dilution and preserve the cocktail’s richness.
  4. Express the oil of an orange peel over the drink and rim the glass with it before dropping it in.
  5. Garnish with a cherry for a classic touch.

The Blackstrap Rum Old-Fashioned is a celebration of the spirit’s robust flavor profile, with the simple syrup enhancing its natural sweetness and the orange bitters providing a citrusy counterpoint that brightens the overall experience. This cocktail is a sophisticated choice for an evening sip, reflecting the timeless elegance of its origins while offering a distinctly modern twist.

Cruzan Black Strap Is A Case Study in Market Dynamics

The introduction of Cruzan Black Strap Rum was partially motivated by a desire to compete in the market dominated by Myers, a leading name in black rum. Launched as a “flavored rum” in the mid-1990s, its success spiked in 2013, coinciding with a broader surge in the rum category’s popularity. Despite its name, the rum’s flavor leans more towards the sweet and conventional molasses, rather than the bitter profile associated with blackstrap molasses – a choice that underscores the role of marketing in the naming and positioning of spirits. This strategy not only helped Cruzan to carve out a niche but also played a part in sparking interest among artisanal distillers in the United States to explore genuine blackstrap molasses for their products.

The use of real blackstrap molasses by craft distillers marks a return to more authentic practices in rum production. Spirits like Thomas Tew Widows Walk and Warship Reserved Black Strap rum emerge from this tradition, utilizing blackstrap molasses to create white rums that are rich in flavor without the addition of artificial colorings. This choice reflects a broader trend towards authenticity and flavor complexity in the craft distilling industry, with distillers valuing the distinctive, vegetal taste that blackstrap molasses imparts to the final product.

The Future of Blackstrap Rum

Despite some criticisms around the potentially misleading use of the term “blackstrap,” the category continues to evolve, finding its place in the repertoire of bartenders and enthusiasts alike. Its unique flavor profile, while not always the star of the show, adds a layer of complexity to cocktails, enriching the drinking experience with every sip. The appreciation for blackstrap rum, whether in its pure form or as a component of a blended drink, speaks to the ongoing exploration and innovation within the world of spirits.