There’s a good reason humans have been warming up their liquor for centuries of winters. Our favorite barman tells all.
- ¼ pound unsalted butter, softened (I use Happy Cow)*
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup quality rum (I use Motte & Sons Barrel Aged)
- 1 quart boiling water (plus extra for rinsing glasses)
- Ground nutmeg to garnish
Beat butter with lemon zest, allspice, cardamom, cloves, black pepper and vanilla extract until well-combined and butter begins expand in size and lighten in color. Spoon butter mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper and roll into a tight log. Twist or fold ends and chill in the refrigerator until firm.
Rinse coffee mugs with boiling water to warm, then add 2 ounces rum, 2 tablespoons compound butter and 4 ounces boiling water. Stir well and top with a sprinkle of grated nutmeg.
Compound butter, wrapped well, will store nicely in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or in the freezer until you forget what it is and toss it out (indefinitely).
*A word of fair warning: do not try substituting salted butter in this recipe. It leads to a wretchedly unpalatable end result. Trust me.
About the Drink
This is a cocktail that many a southerner may have heard of—if from no other source, Bing Crosby orders one in White Christmas…easy on the butter—but so few have ever tried. It’s a quintessential hot toddy. It has been around since Colonial days, most likely appearing the first cold winter after the northeastern states started importing (and distilling) sugar and molasses from the Caribbean. Traditional recipes call for rum, water, brown sugar and a pat of butter in a mug, stirred with a red hot fireplace poker to bring the whole concoction to a boil.
For this cocktail, I found a truly outstanding, locally distilled aged rum in Spartanburg. Though new to the Upstate distilling community, Motte & Sons Bootleggers have created a rich, palate-pleasing rum that has spent a respectable two years maturing in used bourbon casks. While their spirits are currently only available for sale at their distillery, the rum is certainly worth the drive.
I wanted to create a complex beverage that played up the molasses notes in the aged rum. So I added some Caribbean spices to the butter, and sadly, having gas logs (and thus no poker), I had to resign myself to using the tea kettle to heat the water.