Rum and coconut, with their shared exotic origins, are like fraternal twins of the tropics. The heady, sugary warmth of rum in all its incarnations, plus the incomparable flavor of coconut milk, mingle to instantly evoke sunshine and sand, lulling you more deeply into a mellow mood with every sip. Your real-life surroundings might be a city in a rainstorm, but with rum and coconut, it’s balmy Caribbean vibes all around. These variations on coconut-and-rum cocktails are prepared with coconut milk or cream, but you can customize their richness (and calorie count) by subbing coconut water or light coconut milk.
The original rum and coconut cocktail with origins in Puerto Rico, the piña colada has retro vibes but timeless appeal. Who wouldn’t want to channel the glamorous, cocktail-proffering host of a 1970s summer soiree? You can find a mix (add your own rum) in most supermarkets, but the classic piña colada recipe is relatively simple to assemble. Mix together two types of rum, pineapple juice and your preferred type of coconut milk – shake it or blend it with ice, whichever you prefer. A tiny paper umbrella and pineapple garnish are essential.
In a Caribbean Queen, quality rum joins a refreshing blend of pineapple and coconut water, made zippy with lime juice and elevated with fresh lemongrass juice. The resulting cocktail, shaken with ice and twice-strained, is crisp, creative and refreshing. If you miss the creaminess of a more typical coconut cocktail, substitute light coconut milk for some or all of the coconut water.
Grab your trusty muddler to infuse coconut milk with fresh mint leaves and lime juice (a spoon will do, too) to give this coconut mojito the classic cocktail's characteristic brightness. Light rum and coconut rum amp up the coconut's intensity, while cool club soda cuts the creaminess just enough to result in a highly drinkable creation.
Pecan Milk Punch
Preparing a pecan milk punch, a cocktail that’s every bit as comforting as it sounds, starts in the kitchen with the toasting of pecans. While easy enough, this is a task that justifies making a big batch of punch, so invite some friends over to enjoy your Southern baker-meets-mixologist endeavor. The original recipe uses bourbon along with touches of cinnamon and vanilla, but a molasses-like dark rum is an ideal alternative.
Vanilla vodka, coconut rum and coconut milk or cream are the basic components of a coconut martini, which puts a tropical twist on a usually metropolitan-leaning cocktail. This coconut martini further embraces island style by adding a splash of pineapple juice. Make it extra fancy – and sweet – with a sugared rim around your martini glass.
The bushwacker is a desert-esque frozen cocktail. Perfect for an after-dinner treat, it's rich with chocolate and coffee liqueurs along with coconut cream or milk, all blended with ice. It's like a chocolate-coconut candy bar in boozy cocktail form. This Caribbean bushwacker recipe also adds Irish cream liqueur, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream for a truly indulgent drink.
Take your cocktail inspiration to South America with the batida, a fruity showcase for cachaça, known as Brazilian rum. You can find it in well-stocked liquor stores, and while you're tracking down unusual cocktail components, find the second key ingredient, passion fruit syrup, as well. Coconut milk and fresh lime juice are prominent accents. The batida is blended with ice; serve it in a rocks glass.
Joanne Thomas has worked as a writer and editor for print and online publications since 2004. As a specialist in all things food and drink, she has penned pieces for Livestrong, Robert Mondavi and Modern Mom, among other names. She found her first jobs in a series of kitchens before moving on to celebrate food via the written word. Thomas resides in California and holds a bachelor’s degree in politics from the University of Bristol, U.K.