Rum vs Vodka: What’s the Difference?

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Both rum and vodka are famous alcoholic beverages that you can drink plain or in combination with different ingredients. They are classic ingredients in cocktails themselves and it seems that opinions are split when it comes to these different drinks.

Rum and vodka differ in taste, color, smell and ingredients. So you will have to understand each one of these drinks individually to know how it can satisfy you by itself or in different recipes. 

Rum vs Vodka

Features Vodka Rum
Flavor Neutral Sweet, grassy, earthly
Alcohol content 40%-50% 5%-80%
Made of Grains Sugarcane
Uses Plain or in cocktails Plain, in cocktails or desserts
Color Clear White, gold, brownish shades

What is the difference between vodka and rum?

The first difference you will notice is the one in color. Vodka comes in a clear color, regardless of its recipe. However, rum can come in a clear color as it is the case of white rum, or in different shades of goldish-brown colors

Once you taste the two different drinks, you will notice a second obvious difference. Vodka comes with a somewhat neutral flavor when rum has a more defined flavor. You will notice that rum can taste sweet, grassy and earthly but it can also come with other notes depending on the ingredients used.

The alcohol content of rum and vodka is slightly different as well. Rum comes with an ABV ranging from 5% to 80% while vodka has an ABV of 40% to 50%.

We should also consider the scent of these two drinks. In terms of fragrance, rum is quite different from vodka. It brings a sweet, vanilla scent to the table, with earthly notes, while vodka is odorless.

Chances are that you will sense if a cocktail or a dish has rum in it, only by the fragrance of it, once you get familiar with its scent. This is not something we can tell about vodka that will give no hints about its presence in a cocktail until you taste it.

We will take all these differences individually and discuss them in detail so you can better understand which drink is a good choice for you and why.


What has more alcohol in it vodka or rum?

If you compare the alcohol levels in vodka and rum, you will notice that the type of rum you use will have a big impact. Most vodka brands come with an alcophol content of 40% but you can find strong ones weith 50% ABV as well. The range of ABV content is much wider for rum which can have as little as 5% alcohol or as much as 80% alcohol.

If you take the average rum, it will come with an alcohol level of about 37%. In this case, there is not much difference between rum and vodka. However, if you choose an Austrian rum, you will be comparing 80% alcohol in rum to 40% alcohol in vodka.

Also Check: Gin vs Vodka: What’s the Difference?

Which has more sugar rum or vodka?

Generally speaking, rum is made of sugarcane which makes it higher in sugar compared to vodka that is made of grains like rye. However, both distilled rum and vodka don’t contain sugar. So, once your rum will go through the distillation p[rocess, its sugar content will be reduced to zero.

You will inevitably notice though that rum is sweeter than vodka. That is due to the sugarcane that is used to create the drink but also to different other ingredients added, especially to spiced rum.

The sweetness level is not found in vodka that has a rather dull taste and it is mostly consumed for its alcohol content. When you purchase rum or vodka mixes however, such as cocktails already made, most of them will come with a type of sweetener to enhance their overall flavor.


Which is stronger rum, whiskey or vodka?

If you want to compare rum with whiskey and vodka, you will notice that there are several aspects that could influence the strength of these drinks.

The average rum will have a similar content of alcohol to whiskey and even vodka. This content can vary from 35% to 45% and even 50% to all three of them. However, if you choose a strong rum with an ABV of 8-% that will be above the vodka and whiskey ABV.

Ultimately, we can conclude that vodka and whiskey come at a fairly comparable alcohol content while rum can range greatly from 5% to 80%.

When it comes to different strengths, the flavoir of each drink has to be considered too. The smoky taste of whiskey will enhance its strength too, just like rum’s aroma does. However, since vodka has a more dull taste, you might not notice its alcoholic strength as easily.

Rum vs vodka alcohol percentage

Both vodka and rum will bring a significant alcohol content to your cocktail. But this alcohol level can vary depending on the type of rum you choose.

Vodka always comes with the same alcohol content which stays around 40% to 50% but rum’s ABV can vary significantly. Therefore, if you want just a tad of alcohol in your drink, you should choose a 5% rum.

At the same time if you want ta stronger alcohol content, go towards an 80% rum. For the average cocktails, a 40% rum or a 40% vodka should do just fine.

Most rum versions found on the market have an alcohol content that is similar or comparable to vodka. However, their flavor will differ as well so you will have to take that into account too before you make your final decision.

Rum vs vodka taste

After the difference in color, the difference in taste is the greatest between rum and vodka. Regardless of the type of rum you choose, it will not taste like vodka, no matter how weak or distilled it is.

Rum’s taste can come in various levels of sweetness and it can have other notes too such as earthly ones, grassy ones and even spicy notes. Spiced rum has a particular sweetness and herbal taste that comes directly from the spices added to it. Initially, rum is made from molasses, and its taste mirrors this flavor.

On the other hand, vodka is more dull. Most types of vodka will have the same taste and color, with the only difference being the level of alcohol they contain.

Also Check: Bourbon vs Whiskey vs Scotch: What’s the Difference?

Which is better white rum or vodka

The only type of rum that could be confused with vodka is white rum. Both white rum and vodka have the same clear color. Most white rums have an alcohol content of 40 % ABV which is similar to the alcohol content in vodka as well. The similarities between white rum and vodka stop here though.

In terms of taste, these two drinks are quite different. The aroma and flavor of white rum or light rum will depend on the time it was aged. The more the rum was aged in a wood barrel, the more it will have a tannin or vanilla flavor to it. At the same time, light rum that was not aged at all or very little time, will come with a crispier taste that might even have citrus and green notes.

Both white rum and vodka are commonly used in various cocktails. They can even be used interchangeably, in spite of their different taste. However, note that the white rum will bring a different flavor to your drink compared to vodka that will only bring an alcohol boost.

Ultimately what you choose between white rum and vodka is totally up to your personal preferences. If you are looking to just increase the level of alcohol in your drink, simply add vodka. However, if you want the vanilla or tannin taste of an aged rum, your drink will have a much richer flavor as well.

White rum is commonly used in cocktails such as Boston Rum Punchm Between the Sheets and Planter’s Punch No. 2 or White Madras. Vodka can be used in many cocktails that need an alcohol boost.

Also, you can simply enjoy a glass of white rum or plain vodka with some ice cubes if you don’t want to prepare more complex drinks!

Final thoughts

Ultimately, if you prefer rum over vodka or the other way around it is going to be completely up to your personal preferences. But remember that rum comes in various types, each one with their defined taste and alcohol level, which could mean that you might be choosing rum over vodka more than once.

Vodka is a sure choice when you just want to add some alcohol to your drink without changing its flavor. On the other hand rum will alter the entire profile of a cocktail by bringing not only alcohol content to it but also a different taste and even a different smell. You will find yourself using both these alcoholic beverages in different combinations and you will not regret it as they can both bring an interesting quality to your drinks!

Chad Smith

Meet Chad Smith, a seasoned bartender with a passion for mixology. He's the founder of Tin Roof Drink Community, a blog where he shares expert tips, creative recipes, and fosters a vibrant community of cocktail enthusiasts and aspiring bartenders. Join Chad as he takes you on a flavorful journey through the world of drinks. Cheers!

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