Every time you slurp the cool and sweet deliciousness of a piña colada, or sip a mint-infused mojito, there is a very good chance that the rum that gives those crowd-pleasing cocktails a smooth kick was produced in Puerto Rico. The island is the rum capital of the world, making a majority of the rum enjoyed worldwide and more than 70 percent of all the rum sold in the United States mainland.
Puerto Rico has a history of rum making that dates back to the 16th century. The industry developed as a byproduct of the sugarcane industry, which became the island’s economic engine shortly after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores. Puerto Rican rum brands are renowned worldwide with Bacardi, Don Q, and Ron del Barrilito among the most recognizable.
So, if you are visiting Margaritaville Vacation Club by Wyndham - Rio Mar in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, why not experience the island’s history in a cocktail glass? There are a few distilleries within 1-2 hours by car that you can tour to take in the sights, smells, and tastes of some of the world’s highest-quality rums.
Located across the Bay of San Juan in the town of Cataño, most of the Bacardí rum consumed worldwide is made here at Casa Bacardi. Visitors are greeted with a welcome cocktail at a pavilion with a roof that resembles the open wings of a bat, like the one on Bacardi’s logo. You can choose between three tour options: Historic Tour, Rum Tasting, or Mixology Class. In the gift shop, you can even bottle your own premium rum directly from the barrel. After the tour, go back to the pavilion for another cocktail and sweeping views of colonial Old San Juan. Before you go, reserve your tickets online for your desired day and time.
Hacienda Santa Ana
Just 15 minutes outside San Juan, the town of Bayamón is home to the oldest rum-making facility in Puerto Rico - Hacienda Santa Ana. Top rum brand Ron del Barrilito has been manufactured here since 1880. First created by Pedro F. Fernández in 1871 at his father’s sugarcane plantation, his family is still behind the operation and uses the same recipe the family patriarch Fernández developed to treat guests of the hacienda. This rum is produced in small batches, with a flavor profile similar to bourbon. In the beginning it was served straight out of small wooden barrels, or “barrilitos'' in Spanish. The hacienda’s guests kept asking for more of the delicious rum from “el barrilito” and it stuck. At Hacienda Santa Ana’s visitor center you can learn about the rum’s history, witness the craftsmanship that goes into its making, and of course savor Ron del Barrilito rum aplenty.
Destilería Cruz is a craft microdistillery in the rainforest of Jayuya, a town in Puerto Rico’s central mountain range steeped deeply in the culture of the indigenous Taino people (pre-Columbian descendants of the Arawak). It makes pitorro rum under the PitoRico brand. Pitorro is a type of moonshine rum popular on the island, especially around the holidays and ever present in coquito, Puerto Rico’s traditional creamy Christmas punch. Historically, moonshiners would bury barrels of 95-proof pitorro, pure or mixed with fruit pulp, to be “cured” until smooth. A legal version of this spirit, which has a higher alcohol by volume content than traditional rum, is available under the PitoRico brand made here. Visitors can drop by and take a brief tour of the factory that includes a tasting of the different flavors of PitoRico like coconut, passion fruit, tamarind, orange, and original.
And, what about Don Q rum? Sadly, their distillery (the second largest on the island) does not have a public facility you can tour. But if you want to venture south to the city of Ponce, you can tour the Serrallés family mansion, also known as the Serrallés Castle, the 1930’s Spanish-revival home where it all began.