London’s best bars to drink rum in, from Trailer Happiness to the Beachcomber

·9-min read
Totally tropical: cocktails flowing at the Rum Kitchen Brixton
Totally tropical: cocktails flowing at the Rum Kitchen Brixton

There has never been a better time to drink rum in the UK than now. For the first time in history, rum has eclipsed £1 billion in sales, nudging whisky out of its way as it progresses up the alcoholic beverage “food chain”. And a big factor behind rum’s rise to prominence has been the proliferation of rum cocktails served at bars.

Rum is a festive spirit that is as transportive as it is delicious and diverse. Produced everywhere from Jamaica to Australia, and coming in all sorts of styles and flavour profiles ranging from light-bodied, grassy and dry rums (for the gin and tequila drinker), to tannic, robust versions bursting with overripe tropical fruit (for the whisky or Cognac drinker), there really is a rum for everyone. It’s this inclusivity that has captured the hearts of young consumers in particular; a cohort that has evidently taken a liking to rum and rum cocktails, with nearly half of reported rum drinkers between 18 and 34. With an increased interest in classic rum cocktails, like the tropically flavoured mojito, piña colada, rum punch and the like, rum drinks aren’t only becoming staples on menus at cocktail bars, they’ve also infiltrated local pubs as well.

To trade in your gin and tonic for a proper rum tipple, you need an experienced and educated bartender to find a rum, and cocktail, that fits your palate best. From escapist tiki bars filled with theatrical tropical cocktails to some pedigreed cocktail bars that know how to mix a mean mai tai, here are the best bars to drink rum cocktails in London.

Trailer Happiness

Trailer Happiness is an institution; ask any bartender in London, and they’ll agree (any who don’t are suspect). For the average cocktail bar, reaching 10 years of operations is considered a massive achievement and milestone in an industry where businesses are relatively short-lived. But Trailer isn’t your average bar – it’s been around for twice as long. After nearly 20 years of operations – enduring a recession and pandemic over that time – this award-winning subterranean tiki bar located in the heart of Notting Hill on Portobello Road is still going strong, serving up an array of tropical drinks that attracts rum lovers and tiki fanatics from around the world.

From the bar’s Wray & Nephew-laced blue rum punch that packs more of a punch than it initially lets on to twists on classics such as the piña colada, dry daiquiri, zombie and the like, Trailer is absolutely the can’t-miss rum cocktail destination in London. Soak up the tropical kitsch décor, and let the space mentally transport you to somewhere warmer, but do be warned: first-timers are at risk of getting “Trailer’ed”. It’s a term that often makes perfect sense the morning following a night out at this renowned tiki bar. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

177 Portobello Road, W11 2DY, trailerh.com

Black Parrot

If you aren’t a rum enthusiast or haven’t stumbled upon Black Parrot while traipsing around the City of London’s characterful nooks and crannies, then this bar may not be on your radar; but it really should be. Now it is.

This rum bar is a hole in the wall that, once inside, opens up into a long wooden bar with a library of rums that fills the entire length of the bar —just over 700 to be exact. It’s one of the most extensive and eclectic collections in the world (and as a travelling rum lover who’s drunk in many bars around the world, I can safely say this is true). Luckily, the bar’s hospitable general manager, David Brady, is there to guide guests on their rum-filled journey. Whether you want to play it safe and keep it approachable with a cocktail made with a rum from Cuba or Barbados, or want to venture into uncharted territory and taste a daiquiri made with rum sourced from Fiji, Réunion or Mauritius, there are few better places to learn about rum’s diversity and full spectrum of flavours than Black Parrot.

8 Bride Court, EC4Y 8DU, blackparrotbar.co.uk

Coupette

This French spirit-focused cocktail bar in Bethnal Green may not stock the widest range of rums in London, but there’s one thing it does have, and that’s the impeccable Champagne piña colada.

The cocktail made its debut on the bar’s opening menu in 2017 and quickly established itself as a modern classic cocktail due to its clever simplicity and replicable execution. To make the it, the bartender adds a house blend of flavourful, lightly aged rums, coconut sorbet, pineapple juice and cordial and ice to a blender to make the frozen rum cocktail. The icy cocktail is then poured over the Champagne in the stemless wine glass and is finished with a garnish of dried coconut shavings. Regardless of whether it’s raining, snowing or unbearably hot, this exceptional serve can, and should, be enjoyed all year-round. And chances are you’ll have more than one on any occasion.

423 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AN, coupette.co.uk

Laki Kane

Located in the heart of Islington on Upper Street, Laki Kane is the liveliest tiki bar in London. The bar dubs itself as a destination with “authentic Pan-Asian cuisine, tropical cocktails and the very best of entertainment”, and considering the rotating lineup of DJs, fire dancers, magicians, burlesque performers and Carnival dancers, guests can bank on never having a dull time at this urban-tropical escape.

The bar serves a range of theatrical tiki cocktails, including the Wahine Hi’u L’a, a large format drink for four to six people made with rums, Cherry Heering liqueur, port, Italicus, rooibos tea, lime, butterfly pea flower tea and a rum mixer. Of course, in true Laki Kane style, the service vessel is fitted with two sparklers that light up the room and give guests another Instagram photo op. For the espresso martini drinker, the Cold Brew Punch is the cocktail to try. Plantation Barbados rum and Bounty coconut rums are married with Guinness, chocolate wine, jaggery syrup, coffee and coconut water for an uplifting and rich serve that’s a real crowd-pleaser.

144-145 Upper Street, N1 1QY, lakikane.com

Satan’s Whiskers

The award-winning Satan’s Whiskers in Bethnal Green may not be a rum bar, but it is one of the best bars in London to sate your thirst for any perfectly crafted classic cocktail, piña coladas included.

While staff will happily make you one of the best dry daiquiris you’ll ever have – a mixture of rum, lime juice, passionfruit syrup, sugar and Campari that was actually developed by the bar’s owner, Kevin Armstrong – their Miami Vice is the one to order if you want one of the best frozen rum cocktails around. It’s half a frozen piña colada and half a frozen strawberry daiquiri poured into the same hurricane glass. The result is a gorgeous serve that looks like a candy cane and tastes like paradise. If you’ve never been, there’s no better way to be introduced to Satan’s than by sitting down and have one. Just don’t get overexcited; brain freeze isn’t just for kids.

343 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9RA, satanswhiskers.com

Limin’ Beach Club

Nestled into Gabriel’s Wharf on the South Bank, this urban beach bar with a Caribbean-meets-Ibiza vibe is one of the best places to be in London when the sun is shining.

The bar has a focused selection of rums, including its own independent label called Limin’ Beach rum, which is used to make Limin’s signature rum punch. The house piña colada is a hit, fashionably served in a carved-out pineapple; and if you want something authentically Caribbean and simple, a rum and coconut is the move (your rum of choice poured into a freshly opened coconut, mixed with coconut water). With your toes in the sand, and some Trinidadian doubles and haddock fritters to nibble on during the drinking session, it’s easiest to spend an entire day on the soft sands of the South Bank – trust me.

56 Upper Ground, SE1 9PP, limin.co.uk

Merchant House

The spirit lover’s Merchant House is home to some 600 whiskies, 400 rums and 400 gins — a serious list. With such a vast selection of rums from around the world, including sought-after bottlings from Foursquare distillery in Barbados and Habitation Velier, a bartender’s choice rum in one of the bar’s classic cocktail offerings is the best way to get the full Merchant House experience. Whether you opt for a citrusy daiquiri or mai tai, or prefer more spirituous Manhattan-esque cocktails like the Cuban El Presidente (rum, fortified wine, curaçao and grenadine), let the knowledgeable bartenders take you on a rum-filled journey — you might even learn a historical tidbit or two along the way.

13 Well Court, EC4M 9DN, merchanthouse.bar

Rum Kitchen Brixton

Rum Kitchen is a celebration of Caribbean ingredients, both in its food and drink offerings. While any of the brand’s London locations are worth a trip for a tasty rum cocktail, the Rum Kitchen Brixton avoids the hustle and bustle of the Carnaby Street and Soho sites, which makes it worth a shout for Londoners who are seeking somewhere away from swarms of tourists.

With more than 100 rums from various islands and regions for guests to taste, there’s no shortage of options to choose from; and the cocktail list includes classics such as the fresh and minty mojito, as well as the painkiller (rum, coconut, orange, pineapple, lime, nutmeg and bitters), mai tai and the other usual suspects. If that wasn’t enticing enough, the bar does one of the best happy hours in London where, before 6pm, a number of drinks are available for purchase for as little as £5. Run, don’t walk.

437 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LN, therumkitchen.com

The Beachcomber

Located on Queensway, The Beachcomber is an immersive tiki bar that claims to have the largest collection of rhum agricole in the UK. For newcomers to the rum world, rhum agricole is a regulated style of rum from French territories with one of its defining characteristics being that it is made from fresh sugarcane juice as opposed to molasses. It is produced in Martinique, Guadeloupe, Réunion and elsewhere, and can be enjoyed in a range of classics from daiquiris and negronis to the quintessential rhum agricole cocktail, the ti’ punch (rhum, sugar, lime).

The Beachcomber’s agricole-based take on the negroni, dubbed the agroni, is a balanced blend of Rhum Clément select barrel agricole rhum, Créole orange shrubb (an orange liqueur), Campari and Mancino red vermouth for a fresh and funky twist on the bitter gin-based classic. But if you want to really match your cocktail to the bamboo bar and rattan light fixtures that help bring the bar’s tropical ambiance to life, the Missionary’s Downfall (Rhum JM blanc, peach liqueur, mint, honey, pineapple and lime juices) is definitely the tiki classic to try.

86 Queensway, W2 3RR, thebeachcomber.co.uk