Cozy Up

Hot Spiced Rum takes the edge off the cold.

 

With winter in full swing, there’s nothing better than curling up and indulging in a steaming mug of spirits to warm you up from the inside out. Nowadays when we think of hot spirited drinks, whiskey-based libations like the whiskey hot toddy or Irish coffee come to mind. But there was a time when all manner of spirits were served up hot, and rum was one of the predominate spirits used in these high-temp tipples.

In his landmark book, “How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion,” ca. 1862, seminal barkeep Jerry Thomas provides a recipe that’s become something of a benchmark for hot rum drinks:

Hot Spiced Rum

– 2 oz Jamaica rum

– 1 tsp mixed spices 

– 1 piece butter

– 4 oz boiling water 

Combine the rum, spices and butter in a mug, then add the water.

Thomas recommends spicing the drink with clove and allspice; other variations include star anise and cinnamon. Thomas’ recipe specifies using a piece of butter “as large as half of a chestnut,” so use your best judgment based on how buttery you prefer your drink. Just be sure to use real butter— substitutes don’t tend to incorporate well or provide the necessary richness.

For the rum, Thomas calls out Jamaican varieties, which are distilled in pot stills and have some wonderful funky and vegetal notes to them. Smith & Cross is a fine choice for the job. David Wondrich, who thoroughly dissects Thomas’s tome in his own book, “Imbibe!,” says that dark Demerara-style rums like those from El Dorado also work quite well. In any case, avoid the light, heavily filtered varieties out there. If your spice rack is lacking, a quality spiced rum can be subbed out in a pinch. Again, El Dorado makes a tasty version that’ll do just fine.

Like so many classic recipes, this one leaves plenty of room for experimentation. To brighten things up, try adding some citrus notes with a little orange zest or a lemon peel. Latte fan? Top it with a bit of unsweetened, lightly whipped cream for a bit of froth, with a dusting of grated nutmeg for some seasonal aromatics.

 

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Photo credit: Christopher Gibbins

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