The Art of the Cocktail: how to make Hot Buttered Rum for the Holidays


part of the Ace 12 Days of Christmas series.

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Demon rum. The original spirit consumed widely across North America and the Western Hemisphere. While today, bourbon is considered the quintessential liquor of the United States, it wasn’t in the too far distant past that rum held that honor.

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There existed no greater advocate of rum than Charles William Taussig, the president of American Molasses Company and adviser to FDR.

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“There is in the sweet aromatic redolence of old rum, a mystic charm, a soft soothing fragrance that beguiles one into forgetting its more sinister and vicious history.” Of course, Taussig had a vested interest as his molasses company gained serious profits from the rum industry.

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The “sinister and vicious” part arose from the triangular industries of sugar, molasses and the slave trade. The original American colonies purchased molasses which New England rum companies used to distill into spirits,  the rum {what the colonists didn’t drink} went to Africa and slaves were shipped to the Caribbean-to harvest the sugar so the cycle could start all over again.

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Demon rum.

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How big was the rum trade in that era? Boston alone produced more than a million gallons of rum per year by the 1730s. Bear in mind that the population of the city at that time was some 13,000 people.

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Onerous taxes on molasses and rum exported from the Caribbean to the American colonies eventually contributed to the American Revolution. Colonialists of the era grew ever more weary of the British raising taxes on necessities {rum} til the discontent was distilled into “the shot heard round the world” on April 19th 1775. Seven years later the world saw the birth of the United States of America.

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Demon rum.

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On to the modern era.

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Kentucky’s Oak Rum is made by Lexington’s Barrel House Distillery “along the Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek, just upstream from some of the finest distilleries in the world – our source for the bourbon barrels used to age our product.  We think you will find OAK RUM to be unique – a sippin’ rum at barrel proof.  Like a fine Kentucky bourbon, this rum is best on the rocks, though it certainly works well in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. Definitely a dark rum, but the bourbon barrel aging gives it a hint of bourbon and charred wood – OAK wood that is.”

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I love rum. It was one of the first liquors I ever explored and it took on new meaning when I first began traveling to New Orleans where the spirit holds a special place in the city’s history. There are dozens of fine recipes for rum drinks but when we got our first blast of cold weather last week I started daydreaming about Hot Buttered Rum. It’s somewhat like a toddy in that it’s served hot and is sweet and boozy. It’s also a perfect tonic for a cold evening or Holiday Party. Enjoy.

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Hot Buttered Rum recipe

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3 t. Sugar, turbinado

1/4  c. Water, hot

2 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

2 oz. rum

1 t. orange zest and a nice pat of cow’s butter

hot water


* Dissolve sugar in hot water

* Add cloves, cinnamon stick and rum

* stir thoroughly

* add enough hot water to fill the glass

* garnish with orange zest and pat of butter

Cheers Y’all.

Kentucky native and Ace contributing food writer RL Reeves Jr blogs at His forthcoming book is Eat Like a Turk in Istanbul.

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