Hot Buttered Rum is today’s Drink of the Day as we pay tribute to Victor Bergeron on his birthday, December 10. You know him as Trader Vic, the founder of the restaurant and Tiki bar chain by that name. He was a pioneer in the Tiki craze of the 1950s and 1960s, so in honor of him elevating an old drink to a new level we’ll get into his Hot Buttered Rum recipe.
The Trader Vic’s Story
Vic started the whole shebang in 1934 by opening a small bar and restaurant named Hinky Dink’s in Oakland, California. The décor and menu gravitated toward a more tropical flair and the name was soon changed to Trader Vic’s.
Vic created some famous drinks. Without doubt, his most famous is the Mai Tai, which we covered on National Mai Tai Day. Vic’s other contributions include the Fog Cutter and the Scorpion Bowl, the latter of which appeared on the menu of nearly every Tiki bar. The Scorpion Bowl is still widely available due to the revival of interest in Tiki bars over the last decade.
Rum is the base spirit most associated with pirates and Tiki enthusiasts, but Vic sometimes used other ingredients. He’s credited with inventing the Eastern Sour, which is a variation on a Whiskey Sour with a bit of orange juice and orgeat added. He did that to celebrate the launch of a Trader Vic’s location in Toronto. He also invented the El Diablo, a refreshing tequila drink using cassis liqueur and ginger beer, and first published it in the 1946 edition of Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink.
Vic did not invent Hot Buttered Rum, but his contribution to the aura surrounding the drink makes it appropriate as Drink of the Day in his honor. You see, he specified that it was served in a specific ceramic mug – a skull. The skull mug is not a requirement, but if you’ve got one around you’re encouraged to use it.
The Hot Buttered Rum tory
Hot Buttered Rum itself is a warming, medicinal brew from colonial times. Today it’s particularly popular during winter and was popularized in the 20th century by Kenneth Roberts’ 1937 novel Northwest Passage. Trader Vic, of course, added a bit of flair by employing the skull-shaped mug.
Various recipes exist, but all are based on sugar, butter and various spices, plus hot water and rum. You can simply add these all to a mug in your desired proportions, but creating a batter of sorts before doing so is beneficial.
We previously mentioned David A. Embury’s 1948 work The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks when we covered the Greta Garbo cocktail. He was not very fond of Hot Buttered Rum. He considered a lump of butter to be “…the final insult. It blends with the hot rum just about as satisfactorily as warm olive oil with Champagne.”
Having gotten that off his chest, Embury goes on to say:
“Trader Vic, in his excellent Book of Food and Drink, a copy of which should be in the hands of every true gourmet, recommends that sugar (brown) and butter be first thoroughly creamed together with the spices and that the hot water and rum be added to this batter and stirred well. He has even prepared a ready-mixed butter for the market and it is excellent.”
Hot Buttered Rum batter is available online from a variety of purveyors, including Trader Vic’s.
Also of note, particularly if you would like a bit more spice and oomph, is the Feats of Strength which we feature for Festivus. For Christmas Eve we recommend the Vert Chaud as the best version of spiked hot chocolate yet invented. And, of course, if you would like something entirely different consider a Hot Gin Toddy.
Hot Buttered Rum
- 1 lb Brown sugar
- ¼ lb Butter
- ½ tsp Ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp Ground cloves
- ½ tsp Ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch Salt
- 1½ oz Rum per drink. Use a dark rum.
- Place brown sugar, butter, and spices in a bowl.
- Mix thoroughly with fork or mixer.
- To assemble the drink:
- Preheat mug by filling with boiling water and emptying.
- Add 1 heaping teaspoon (or more) batter to mug.
- Add rum.
- Fill mug with hot water.
- Rinse and repeat.