Tuesday 4 December 2012

Winter Cocktails: Hot Buttered Rum

Another staple of the winter-drinking season has to be Hot Buttered Rum. If you've never had one, you simply must try the simplest version as soon as you can - especially if it's cold out. Nowadays recipes have gotten very complicated (some of which I'll be sharing throughout the month), but the original really was just rum, butter and hot water, with a little sugar and spice for good measure.

For those unfamiliar you might have exclaimed "butter, you say?," which is understandable, but do remember what your reaction might have been to hearing of cocktails with raw egg for the first time. (I hope by now that's commonplace for you. If not then you are missing many a delicious traditional and modern drink and should get started right away by heading to your favourite bar or at least clicking the "egg" tab on the ingredients list to the right). Butter as a hot-drink ingredient dates back to at least the 16th century when it was used with ale along with the aforementioned sugar and spice as a remedy for a sore throat or lost voice. Like every other medicinal tonic, its use became for pleasure, and spirits replaced the ale as they grew in popularity. Rum is listed specifically for the drink, which was the spirit of choice amongst both the English Navy and the (soon to be) Americans in the late 17th and 18th centuries (see also: Grog).

Like the Toddy, this is a drink that becomes easily over-complicated. That is not to say that the 'updated' versions aren't tasty and well-made, and I'll even be sharing a few this month (including one from Zig Zag in Seattle, and a Hot Buttered Rum Cider from Slanted Door in San Francisco). However, there is something wonderful about the simplicity and honesty of these very old drinks, one of the many reasons why they survive today. Do avoid any addition of juices, cheap liqueurs, or whipped creams though!

For ingredients, use butter and not margarine. The amount is quite small (I go with no more than a teaspoon), and feel free to reduce it, but without it you're making a Hot Spiced Rum, or a Hot Rum Toddy with added spice. Any sugar will do, but Demerara or cane sugar is always best, and don't overdo it. For the spices, you'll get the most flavour and aroma by grinding your own if possible (nutmeg should be grated fresh always, but allspice and cloves are much too small for grating so nobody will judge you if you just use the pre-ground kind). Sometimes I will add a little nutmeg on the top before serving, and if I'm feeling wild and crazy I'll even add a cinnamon stick as a garnish.

As for the rum, the darker the better. Jerry Thomas asks specifically for Jamaica rum in his 1862 recipe (below), which does include Appleton Estate (one of the rums easily found in Canada). I suggest other darker and affordable kinds as well, such as Flor De Cana or Havana Club 7 Year Old, but if you want something much nicer I highly recommend Mount Gay Extra Old or El Dorado. Try anything you have, but light rum doesn't suit the drink. 
If you don't have sugar handy, use the same amount of 2:1 simple syrup, or twice the amount of 1:1.

Hot Buttered Rum (Jerry Thomas, 1862)
2oz rum
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp spices (allspice and cloves)
1 piece of butter as large as half of a chestnut

Fill tumbler with 3-4oz hot water. 

Add the ingredients to a mug first, then top with the water.

[["Yukon Cornelius" from Veneto in Victoria ]]
[[ "The Rockefeller" from Veneto in Victoria ]]
[[ The Hot Toddy ]]
[[ Winter drinks from Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco ]]
[[ "Bear Skin" from The Refinery in Vancouver ]]
[[ "Cold & Delicious" from The Violet Hour in Chicago ]]
[[ The history of Eggnog ]]
[[ "Gold," "Frankincense," and "Myrrh" from Trevor Kallies in Vancouver ]]
[[ "Old Saint Juan" from Shea Hogan in Vancouver ]]
[[ "Hot Buttered Rhum Cider" from Slanted Door in San Francisco ]]
[[ The history of mulled wine ]]
[[ The history of The Flip ]]
[[ Hot Buttered Rum ]]

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