Cocktails, Drinks, Recipes

Hot Buttered Rum


Well, it's March. Here in New York, after another warm spell, we're back in the midst of chilly temps. It's more Paris chilly than Northeast US frigidness; instead of negative temps giving your face frostbite, the all the cold moisture in the air just seeps into your bones. These past few rainy days, hiding indoors with a good movie or book seems preferable to sloshing through the streets and subways, the latter which in New York becomes totally crippled any time we get more than 1/4 inch of rain.

I've also been dealing with the cold by whipping up some hot drinks. In this case, hot buttered rum. Now, every bar in town seems to serve a mulled wine, hot apple cider, or hot toddy. But in our high-cholesterol-fearing modern age, it seems that nobody wants any butter in their drinks anymore, even as we scarf down pork belly entrees and bacon desserts en masse. What a shame. Because you can actually make this delicious drink with just a scant 1 teaspoon of butter, or less than the amount the average person puts on his morning toast.

In the US, hot buttered rum dates back to the colonial era. By the late-1600s, New England distilleries were already producing rum using molasses imported from Caribbean. Given the harsh winter weather in New England, it seemed natural that something like hot buttered rum would become popular.

I've seen many recipes for hot buttered rum that includes cloves, vanilla extract, salt, even whipped cream, all which might be great. But I like this paired-down version from my copy of The Old-Time New England Cookbook, a republication of Rain, Hail, and Baked Beans: A New England Seasonal Cookbook, from 1958. Like recipes in many other old cookbooks, this one is written out in short sentences with vague quantities; our sugar in the grocery store doesn't normally come in lumps anymore, nor our butter in pats. Below is my take on this hot buttered rum for purists. I grated fresh nutmeg and cinnamon because its more aromatic, but you can certainly make this with pre-ground spices.



Hot Buttered Rum

Makes 1 drink

  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon or so unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 ounces dark rum (2 ounces if you like it strong)
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick cinnamon as a stirring stick, optional
  1. In a 10- or 12-ounce mug, dissolve the sugar in a small amount of hot water. Add the butter and rum. Top off with hot water.
  2. Sprinkle the nutmeg and cinnamon on top. Stir with a cinnamon stick or spoon before sipping.

Adapted from The Old-Time New England Cookbook


Other winter cocktails to try: