When we think of distilling sugarcane, we think of places with names like “Montego Bay,” “Havana,” and “Anguilla.” Not “Pawtucket,” “Salem,” or “Boston.” Fact is, New England used to make a hell of a lot of rum up there, and they sold it to all comers, some of whom promptly transported it to sundry foreign locales. But they didn’t export all of it, not by a long shot. They drank it hot. They drank it cold. They drank it straight. They drank it mixed—with water, lemon juice, orange juice, apple juice, baked apple, sugar (always sugar), maple syrup, molasses, brandy, gin, ale, port, madeira, nutmeg, cloves, egg whites, egg yolks, milk, cream, butter, just about everything this side of bacon drippings (and sometimes even that).
And when the local industry faded away (Prohibition didn’t help) and they began to guzzle whiskey and dry martinis just like everybody else, the folks in New England still hung onto rum for medicinal purposes. Consider this particular recipe for hot buttered rum a cure for frozen toes. The purpose of the butter? Haven’t a clue. According to Charles Browne (author of the 1939 Gun Club Drink Book), it’s there only to lubricate your mustache. Good enough.
2 oz. dark rum
2 sugar cubes
1 pat unsalted butter
- In a mug, dissolve the sugar in a little hot water, then add rum and butter.
- Fill the mug with hot water and sprinkle a little nutmeg on top, if you feel the calling (we generally take ours without).
*You can also substitute cider for the water and add 1/2 teaspoon mixed cinnamon and cloves, but that’s getting away from the rock-ribbed simplicity of the thing.
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