Refreshing cocktails made with Rum have long been a summer staple at bars and restaurants across the U.S. The fruity flavors and island vibes come through in a variety of Rum-based mixed drinks, from Caribbean classics like the Mojito to Tiki mainstays like the Mai Tai. They are at the heart of cocktail bar culture, and a key component of any summertime on-premise drinks program.
To help operators navigate seasonal cocktail planning, OnPrem Insight dove into Union data for the 12-month period ending May 31, 2023 to uncover the most popular Rum cocktails at high-volume bars and restaurants — and learn when guests are ordering them most.
Rum Cocktail Sales are Steady
At Union venues, Rum-based drinks represent about five percent of all cocktails sold. Over the past year, sales dropped slightly, by half a point. The success of other categories, including Tequila and RTDs, are likely contributing to Rum’s slight share of sales loss.
While Rum cocktail sales are small when compared to, say, Tequila cocktails, they are still a valuable category for operators to pay attention to in the hot summer months, when sales of Rum cocktails spike.
“Customers expect to see refreshing, tropical classics in the summertime,” says Layne Cox, Union’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Retro cocktails made a comeback post-pandemic, and poolside staples like the Piña Colada and Daiquiri have been gaining share at Union venues.”
She adds that even though Rum cocktails are prized as a dependable category for sales, they don’t have to be boring. “There’s so much room for experimenting with these popular, fruity drinks. Shake it up with your bar’s own flavor profiles, or add a signature twist to a feel-good favorite.”
Mojitos Rule, but Rum Coladas and Daiquiris are on the Rise
The majority of Rum cocktails sold at Union are the iconic vacation sips: the Mojito, Colada, and Daiquiri. In this report, the cocktails cover a range of drink flavors and formats, from frozen to on the rocks.
At Union, the Mojito is a solid, on-premise performer, representing 39 percent of all Rum cocktails sold in this period. However, Mojitos’ share dropped by nearly three points in the past year, compared to Coladas and Daiquiris of all flavors, which grew by 2.7 and 1.3 points respectively. In fact, Daiquiris overtook Mai Tais this year, jumping from fourth to third place in our ranking of the 10 most popular Rum cocktails.
The classic cocktail profiles prove their popularity summer after summer. According to CGA by NielsenIQ, the Piña Colada in particular saw a big jump last summer. So far summer 2023 is proving to be just as successful at Union venues for this trending pineapple-flavored Rum cocktail. The other cocktail to keep an eye on this summer is the Daiquiri. It has been climbing steadily, with a 20 percent share increase in the last year, catching up to the Colada at Union.
Less popular but still making the Top 10 are boozier “party” cocktails including the Hurricane (two types of Rum, lime, orange juice, passion fruit, grenadine), Liquid Marijuana (spiced and coconut Rums, Blue Curacao, sour mix, pineapple juice), and the Zombie (three different Rums, orange, lime, grenadine). The Cuba Libre, essentially a Rum and Coke with lime, represents only cocktails ordered by that name.
When Do Rum Cocktails Sell?
It may not be surprising that Rum cocktails see a boost in the summer and a lull in the winter. Sales of Rum cocktails at Union spike in July and taper downward throughout the summer. One exception: The boozy, New Orleans-style Hurricane sees its biggest spike in February, no doubt due to Mardi Gras celebrations.
The average price of a Rum cocktail in this period was $10.78, which increased slightly in the past year from $10.21. In general, Coladas — of any flavor — are ordered proportionally more often by women than men. The reverse is true for Mai Tais, which are ordered more often by men. Mojitos are only somewhat more popular with men than with women, and Daiquiris are ordered equally across genders.
Rum cocktails tend to sell well slightly earlier in the day, with only 29 percent of Rum cocktail sales happening in the Late Night hours (after 10 pm), as compared to 36 percent of all cocktail sales. When it comes to the time of day Rum cocktails sell best, the top three Rum cocktails each have their time to shine. Mojitos enjoy steady popularity from Happy Hour (4 pm) on, with Dinnertime (7 pm – 10 pm) being a key daypart for sales. Coladas and Daiquiris, interestingly, experience very different daypart trajectories. Coladas trend earlier in the day and Daiquiris later into the evening. Nearly half of all Colada sales happen before Dinner (with 20 percent at Lunch alone), while more than 70 percent of Daiquiri sales happen at Dinner and Late Night.
Rum Cocktails: Maximizing Sales
Are guests thirsty for Rum cocktails? They are in the summer, and that’s when bars and restaurants need to capitalize on Rum’s reputation as a festive summer sip. “We expect to see the Colada continue to do well this summer, but the Daiquiri is one to watch,” says Cox. It’s gaining share alongside the Colada, and has much more potential for late night sales.”
For operators looking to boost summer sales, offering the top-selling Rum cocktails from Union’s list is a good place to start, notes Cox. “While the tried and true rum cocktails like Mojito and Daiquiris will certainly attract customers, they’re also looking for what’s new. You can stand out with a unique Caribbean- or Tiki-inspired drink menu. Make a summer playlist, stock up on cocktail umbrellas, and lean into the vacation vibes.”