What is Hot Buttered Rum?

Cinnamon sticks are often used to garnish hot buttered rum.
Freshly ground cloves are often used to season hot buttered rum.
Hot buttered rum is traditionally spiced with nutmeg.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 August 2014
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Hot buttered rum is among a family of spiced drinks popular during the holiday season. The drink is made with butter, rum, sugar, and spices, and diluted with hot water, which warms it. After a day in brisk winter weather, a hot drink can be a pleasant way to warm up and relax. Usually, hot buttered rum is served in thick ceramic mugs that will retain the heat without cracking. The drink tends to be sweet, with a strong alcoholic kick from the rum.

Like many hot alcoholic drinks, hot buttered rum has its origins in Europe. Spiced drinks made with various alcohols have been around for thousands of years. This beverage probably entered the scene in the 1700s, when the potent liquor began to be imported from the Jamaican colonies. When water supplies were potentially dangerous, people often consumed a great deal of alcohol, and came up with creative ways to prepare and serve it. In the winter, warming drinks were vital in poorly insulated, cold buildings.


The base for hot buttered rum is sometimes called a batter, and it can be made up to one month ahead of time. The batter can be frozen and scooped out as needed. To make a classic batter, people can mix 8 tablespoons (one stick or 113 grams) unsalted butter with 2 cups (about 420 g) light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon (2.6 g), 0.5 teaspoon (1.1 g) nutmeg, and 0.25 teaspoon (0.52 g) ground cloves. The ingredients should be blended well and kept refrigerated or frozen until they are ready for use.

To make hot buttered rum, a cook can put 2 tablespoons (about 28.5 g) of the mixture into a mug and pour approximately 3 ounces (88.7 ml) of rum over it. Boiling water is added and the mixture stirred until all the ingredients have blended. The drink can be served plain, or whipped cream, cinnamon sticks, or another holiday garnish added. It should be served immediately, as the ingredients will begin to separate as it cools.

This beverage can be served with cocktails year round, although traditionally it is served with other Christmas drinks such as egg nog, mulled wine, and spiced ciders. Like other heated alcoholic Christmas drinks, it still contains alcohol, and it should be consumed in moderation. People who serve this rum drink at a party should make sure to have nonalcoholic options available for young guests and drivers, so that they do not feel left out of the celebrations.


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