The rum runner cocktail hails from the Florida Keys. It's a popular tropical rum cocktail made with fruits and and both light and dark rum. You can either shake or blend it, and no matter how you mix it up, the rum runner's always a delicious drink.
Who Invented the Rum Runner?
The Holiday Isle Tiki Bar in Islamorada, Florida, claims to be the originator of the rum runner cocktail. According to the Holiday Isle website, the bar was overstocked with both light and dark rums and the bar manager, John Elber, invented the fruity drink to use up the surplus before new inventory arrived.
Many sources trace the invention of the cocktail to the 1950s, while the Holiday Isle site, among other sources, says it was invented in the early 1970s. To further confuse matters, an entirely different drink called the rum runner can be traced to the 1930s in New Orleans.
All the confusion aside, we do know that the the drink we know today rocketed to popularity in the '70s in the Florida Keys, where you can still order it today at the Holiday Isle Tiki Bar and other bars and restaurants.
Why Is It Called a Rum Runner?
The rum runner was named after bootleggers—a.k.a. rum runners—who smuggled alcohol during Prohibition in the United States. The term "run runner" usually referred specifically to smugglers who moved alcohol via ship, while bootleggers carried it over land.
What Exactly Is in a Rum Runner Cocktail?
When it comes to tropical drinks, rarely do two recipes agree. The rum runner is a perfect example, though there are a few elements that most (but not all) recipes agree on: rum, banana liqueur, blackberry liqueur, and grenadine.
From there, recipes include pineapple juice or orange juice (or both), or or two types of rum (sometimes spiced or coconut), and the occasional use of falernum, among other things. (Falernum is an almond, ginger, lime, and spiced sugar syrup that is used in many rum cocktails. If you can’t find it, you can use grenadine instead.)
Below you'll find three unique rum runner recipes to try. It really doesn't matter which rum runner is "original" or "the best" because the journey to finding your ideal rum runner is half the fun.
Jamaican Rum Punch
How to Serve a Rum Runner
Rum runners are usually served in a hurricane glass, but any tall glass will do. Top your cocktail with any fruit garnish you like.
The Spruce Eats
An Easy Fruity Rum Runner Recipe
This rum runner recipe may have one of the longer ingredient lists for a cocktail, but most are poured equally, so it's an easy drink to both memorize and to make. It combines two styles of rum, which is a nice foundation for the fruity combination of banana, blackberry, orange, and pineapple. Some drinkers like to replace the dark rum with spiced rum or switch to a coconut rum instead of pouring light rum.
“If there’s any drink that fits the description of a ‘fruity rum drink’ it’s the rum runner. Made with a hodgepodge of liqueurs, juices, and rums, it scratches that fruit punch itch perfectly. It is quite sweet, which might lead one to add a little lime juice or pull back on some of the liqueurs.” —Tom Macy
A Note From Our Recipe Tester
1 ounce light rum
1 ounce dark or aged rum
1 ounce banana liqueur
1/2 ounce blackberry liqueur, or blackberry brandy
1 ounce pineapple juice
1 splash grenadine
Variety of fresh fruit, for garnish
Steps to Make It
Gather the ingredients.
The Spruce Eats
Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
The Spruce Eats
Strain into a hurricane glass over fresh ice.
Garnish with fruit and enjoy.
The Spruce Eats
Make this rum runner into a frozen drink by pouring the ingredients into a blender with about 3/4 cup of ice. Blend until smooth.
Watch Now: A Refreshing Rum Runner Heavy on the OJ
A Rum Runner Recipe Heavy on the OJ
If you enjoy orange juice cocktails, this is a great rum runner recipe. It requires fewer ingredients, so it’s super easy to make. The rum, blackberry brandy, and banana liqueur complement the fresh orange nicely, and their combined sweetness offsets the tart citrus. Try it in the blender as well; it makes a fantastic frozen cocktail.
To make this drink, combine 1 1/2 ounces of rum with 1/2 ounce each of blackberry brandy and crème de banana, and 3 ounces of orange juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Add a dash of falernum (or grenadine), shake, and strain into a chilled hurricane glass.
Watch Now: DeGroff’s Classic Rum Runner Recipe
A Classically Styled Rum Runner Recipe
Dale DeGroff’s “The Craft of the Cocktail” is a book filled with amazing recipes like this rum runner. It’s entirely different than all others, and that’s what makes it great.
This drink has a lighter profile because it skips the heaviness of orange juice and opts for refreshing pineapple instead. It also features two rums and introduces the rich texture of an egg white. All of these elements give DeGroff’s rum runner a classic style that’s lost in most modern renditions of the cocktail.
To make this drink, muddle a piece of lime in the bottom of a cocktail shaker until lightly bruised. Add 1 ounce each of light and medium rums, pineapple juice, and simple syrup, as well as 1/2 ounce of lime juice and an egg white. Shake vigorously (more than usual to properly mix the egg) and strain into a tall glass with ice. Garnish with tropical fruit.
Raw Egg Warning
Consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs poses a risk for foodborne illness.
How Strong Are the Rum Runner Cocktails?
Rum-filled tropical cocktails are generally not light drinks, though they can be as weak or strong as you want to make them. If you pour stronger rum or use less juice, you will naturally get a stronger drink.
To estimate the alcohol content of these rum runner recipes, let’s assume you pour 80-proof rums, a 60-proof banana liqueur, and a 50-proof blackberry liqueur. The first recipe includes two rums and two liqueurs, so it comes in at a rather potent 25 percent ABV (42 proof), or similar to a fruity martini. The other recipes include more juice per volume and are a more relaxing 14 percent ABV (28 proof). That’s more like drinking a glass of wine.