There was this email that I received several months ago. Would I like to make some cocktails for an exclusive food salon located in Princeton, NJ?
Would I? How could I possibly say no. The homes are all around town, the hosts and their teams make quick work of the set-up and the breakdown.
The ringmaster is Karla Cook. She tends to the task of being everywhere at once without effort. Probably comes from being a good delegator who gets right in there herself.
What an honor to be able to be on stage- if you will. In front of sixty or so guests who seek authentic food AND drink.
My segment of the evening was the hot buttered rum. Normally this is a pretty mundane effort- hot water, cheap rum, crappy industrial butter that has been frozen and unfrozen dozens of times. You know that drink. The one that stung you in college and you never forgot when your jaw got numb,
Nor that hangover. The one that Fernet Branca was invented for.
At any rate, I set into motion a series of emails to acquire the best ingredients possible for this very elemental hot buttered rum. One that the guests had never tasted before.
Because of the quality of the ingredients. After all, Karla's Food Salon dinners are made up of people who are passionate about flavor. I had a very small envelope of time for their attention and if I blew it, it would be the last thing that they tasted that evening, and that would just suck. I'd never get asked back.
My hot buttered rum was more than just a hot drink after a filling meal, what it became was a metaphor for the entire, lovely evening. The camaraderie and song, the entertainment, the food, kale salads ten ways, both vegetarian and porcine delights- was that pig skin? Hmmm.
We celebrated quality rums made by passionate distillers.
We also celebrated SNAP the USDA certified organic Ginger Snap liqueur- rolling in at 80 Proof, it's reminiscent of the German sugar cookie that is dripping in butter and ginger. Amazing stuff! Honored to add it to the mix. A liquid ginger snap cookie in every sumptuous sip.
First there was Diplomatico Rum from Venezuela. This is gorgeous, lovingly made, nutty rum that smacks with wet, sea salt slicked stone. Each sip offers whiffs of Caribbean spices and the salt soaked air. It's tasty stuff!
Diplomatico Rum is clearly identifiable around these high gravity rums. It stands out because of the quality of the molasses and the terroir of the place where it is carefully distilled, captures the sweetness of the trade winds each time you open the top.
Diplomatico Rum is quality rum, worthy of your hard earned money.
The next rum was the Stroh Rum from Austria. Stroh Rum tastes like butter. I don't know how they do it, but it tastes like hot buttered rum all the time! I'm a huge fan because there is nothing like it on the market.
Stroh has an imprint in my DNA from when I was a college student at Emerson in Boston back in the 80's and I carried a hip flask with me. I usually had it filled with something exotic.
I wish I knew where that sterling silver flask was today. It was originally an antique from Brooks Brothers and it came in very, very handy. Especially filled with 160 Proof Stroh Rum!
Stroh Rum is gorgeous for cooking too. A rum cake made with Stroh was enjoyed at my 12th birthday party in Austria. The cake was just soaked in Stroh Rum. I'll never forget the buttery taste, nor the vivid dreams that I had that night.
Stroh is just perfect for a hot buttered rum.
I also used a freshly made over-proof rum from Jersey Artisan Distilling. They are the first distillery in NJ since prohibition. I'll tell you is that it was 80% alcohol, not their usual fare. And it's not available on the market. It's in the power length just like the Stroh Rum. Perfect in a hot buttered rum. Smooth and generous in the nose with a finish that said FIRE!!!!
The butter component was in my favor the most authentic along with the raw honey element.
The butter came from Bobolink Dairy, my friend Jonathan White raises ancient cow breeds and they graze out in the grasslands making milk that evolves into the best butter in the United States. I took this butter and whipped, so very gently by hand with raw honey from Caledonia Spirits in Vermont.
Raw honey in a hot buttered rum? Absolutely. I'm sure that in the days before industrialized sugar, most people ate honey for a sweetener if they had bees on their farms. Sugar was very expensive. Not everyone could afford it and Europeans had quite a sweet tooth.
Sailors would have drunk their hot buttered rum drinks in cold weather while out in the unforgiving sea. This is a drink that is meant to warm you deeply from the inside out.
So my hot buttered rum contained an entire pound of scintillating raw honey from my brother from another, Todd Hardie- who keeps bees and makes spirits in Vermont.
I folded in cinnamon, mace, nutmeg and a secret blend of curry spices from Spain. I creamed the butter with the spices and the raw honey together until it was nice and soft then placed the bowl in a cool place covered.
Each mug got a tablespoon of the "batter" and with each future sip, the flavors of rum, over proof rum, and SNAP with chocolate bitters from Bittered Sling and El Guapo Bitters (Holiday Pie).
Are you thirsty yet?
Here's the recipe that I created for last night.
Cocktail Whisperer's Hot Buttered Rum for the Princeton Food Salon
For a batch of 35 cocktails
1 pound Bobolink - or really good sweet butter, certainly not commercial butter, please
1 pound raw honey (essential)
1 tsp each: cinnamon, mace, fresh nutmeg and a pinch of curry spices, 3 pinches of sea salt
1/2 bottle Diplomatico Anejo Rum
1/2 bottle Stroh 80% Rum from Austria
1/2 bottle Snap (USDA Certified Organic, from Art in the Age)
1/2 bottle un-named overproof rum- you can use any dark rum here that is overproof)
Chocolate Bitters- I used Bittered Sling, Bitter Truth or Fee Brothers are a good substitute...
Enough tea for 35 cups of tea. that's up to you!
Fresh nutmeg and a grater)
Gently (this is not a race) fold the butter into the raw honey with the spices and the sea salt until smooth and well incorporated, keep at room temp covered until ready to use
I made a pot of Lapsang Souchong tea. How much tea to use is up to you. Mine was strong and smoky!
preheat mugs with boiling water, pour out
Add a tablespoon of the butter/honey/spices batter to each mug.
Add the liquors
Top with the hot tea
Finish with bitters and a scraping of fresh nutmeg (essential!)
My second book is out now! Whiskey Cocktails. Here's to what ails ye!