You can read a very interesting little history of rum production here, where I learned that it came into being as a way to use up the by-product (molasses) of sugar production on Caribbean sugar plantations in the mid-seventeenth century. Getting any further into the weeds will teach you that rum production and commerce was inextricably linked to the slave trade, a nasty part of its history that we, and rum, must acknowledge and live with. No good comes from papering over it, so there it is.
I really can’t drink rum in anything but the tiniest quantities. It’s one of two alcoholic beverages that messes with my head in very unpleasant ways. But a little toddy now and then? Hot buttered rum? On a cold and windy day, when something resembling tiny shards of glass are falling from the sky and being blown, at speed, right at my face? Yes, please!
Here’s a recipe from The Spruce Eats:
1 tablespoon butter (soft)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 dash cinnamon (ground)
1 dash nutmeg (ground)
1 dash allspice (ground)
1 splash vanilla extract
2 ounces rum (dark)
5 ounces water (hot)
Place the butter, sugar, and spices into the bottom of an Irish coffee glass or mug, and mix well or muddle.
Pour in the rum, and top it with hot water
Stir, and enjoy!
Tips: Hot water, not boiling, or it will ruin the flavor. You can use more, or less butter, and adjust the spices, to taste.
Probably the most famous evocation of “rum” in popular culture comes from the Andrews Sisters, whose song, “Rum and Coca-Cola” is a song of “Mother and daughter, Working for the Yankee dollar,” and was a huge hit during World War II. According to Maxine,
The lyric was there, it was cute, but we didn’t think of what it meant; but at that time, nobody else would think of it either, because we weren’t as morally open [Note: I find that a bit of an odd phrase] as we are today and so, a lot of stuff—really, no excuses—just went over our heads.”
The point is made a bit more explicitly in the original calypso, which includes some social commentary, and is sung here by its author, Rupert Westmore Grant, better known as Lord Invader.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Do you have a favorite “warmer-upper?” Please share.