We often assume liquor warms us in the winter, because it feels warm going down. Of course, it actually has the opposite effect — drinking alcohol causes us to lose heat through a process of vasodilation, which brings blood (and body heat) to the surface of our skin.
But that’s only a problem if you’re stuck somewhere cold. Once you’re safely inside, alcohol only helps us to move our body temperature to the temperature of the room. And if we’re drinking something warm, all the better.
Which brings us to hot buttered rum. It’s a very old drink with, doubtless, any number of family recipes; if you have one, stick with it. I’m sure it’s delightful. Most recipes call for preparing a butter “batter” ahead of time, then dosing each drink with a couple tablespoons of the spiced, sugared butter, along with some rum and hot water. Today, brown sugar is standard for sweetening up the mix. Jerry Thomas’s 1887 recipe uses white sugar; Esquire drinks columnist David Wondrich suggests using white sugar, and omitting the spices entirely.
As for me, I hail from a family of teetotalers, so I don’t have a family recipe. Instead, I’m cribbing Emeril Lagasse’s recipe (though we’re going to step down from his generous 3-ounce measure of rum, which will definitely make you go “Bam” as you walk down the hallway to the bedroom. And the next morning.) You can prepare a batch for your next winter party, or just to have in your fridge for the next few times you’re craving a hot drink. (You’ll need to prepare the batter at least an hour or two before serving, so that the butter will solidify.)
- 1 stick unsalted butter, left out to soften
- 2 cups light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Pinch ground cloves
- Pinch salt
- 2 oz. dark rum
- 2 tbsp. buttered mixture
- Boiling water
- Ground or grated nutmeg to top (optional)
- Cream softened butter in a bowl with sugar, spices, and salt.
- Refrigerate covered or in a plastic container for at least 1 hour, or until ready to serve.
- Spoon 2 tablespoons of butter mixture into a mug.
- Pour 2 oz. dark rum over butter, and top off mug with boiling water.
- Stir to combine and melt butter. If desired, top with a sprinkle of nutmeg.