Hot buttered rum . . . with poker

Hot pokers! Sultry spices! Robust Rums! Gobs of molten butter! Shipwreck booty … OK, the booty is an exaggeration and the pokers are optional (but surely fun to contemplate). But hot buttered rum is really only reasonable at this time of year. And it does seem like a try-this-at-home drink. Especially if a fireplace is involved.

As usual, there is not just one true way. There’s not even agreement on whether dark or light rum is the preferred medium. In fact, butter and sugar are the only constants; even the water can become tea or hot cider. Some recipes, oddly but intriguingly, include ice cream. So, let’s get started.

This is about the most basic recipe:

1 oz light rum

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp butter

4 cloves

Put sugar, butter, and cloves in a sturdy mug and muddle. Add rum. Fill to taste with boiling water. Sound just a little too basic? Messy too? You’re right; better just to drink the rum solo. Let’s kick it up a notch. We could add a few more spices (say nutmeg, allspice), maybe a little vanilla.

But better to take the leap to making a “batter,” which is really like a compound butter; for use on a steak you’d be adding herbs, but here we add sugar and spices.

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 tsp molasses

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg — preferably freshly shaved from whole nutmegs

Cream the ingredients together and either attempt to roll into a log with waxed paper or simply put into a small container and refrigerate.

For the drink itself, I experimented with different proportions and two rums, Cruzan Estate (a medium golden rum) and Gosling’s Black Seal — dark, as the name suggests. I also did this in a pint canning jar in case the final experiment with a not-quite-red-hot poker (remember the red hot poker?) went awry. The first attempts were a little too watery, and an experiment with floating whole cloves on top of the drink was dismissed due to the cloves being annoying to drink around and the anticipated aromas not significant. A whole star anise worked, however. So here it is with the preferred dark rum:

3 tbs, more or less, of the prepared batter

2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal or other dark rum

8 oz (1/2 cup) boiling water

1 whole star anise for garnish (optional)

1 long stick of cinnamon for stirring and garnish (highly desirable)

First, rinse the container in very hot water. Put batter and rum in the bottom, pour in the boiling water and stir with the cinnamon stick. Since I had it, I also added about 1/2 tsp of cinnamon simple syrup made by boiling equal parts of sugar and water with about two or three inches of cinnamon stick and let the mixture steep. It was a good flavor booster.

Now for the poker part. This is partly for show, and, as one recipe suggested, to “caramelize” the ingredients. Lotsa luck. I managed to score about a 9-inch length of stainless steel from my neighbor who welds wind sculptures, but, lacking a refiner’s fire, had to heat it in the flame of a gas burner. Stainless isn’t a particularly efficient conductor of heat, which meant that I could hold the rod by one end with a pot holder while I heated the other for as long as I had patience. Upon insertion, it made a satisfying whoosh and sizzle, but apart from the drama, there was no discernable effect. Stick with the cinnamon stick.


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