Hot Buttered Rum … A Brief History

Hot Buttered Rum cocktail - Jamie Oliver - Feature

Those searching for something both sweet and alcoholic to warm them up through the winter months need look no further than the classic Hot Buttered Rum cocktail. It’s such a popular tipple that there’s even a National Hot Buttered Rum Day, celebrated each year on January 17. Over the years, the mixed drink has come in myriad variations from tiki to sophisticated, but you have to look back to colonial days in the United States to find the true origins of the beverage.

David Wondrich, in his book “Imbibe!”, traces the origins of butter in hot drinks back to the reign of Henry VIII. But alcohol doesn’t come into the picture until later. “History is silent as to where and when the spirits came into the picture,” explains Wondrich. “But eighteenth-century New England would have to rank high on any list of suspects.”

During its Colonial period, America had become a major player in the Rum industry. Simply, the stuff was everywhere, and during New England’s cold winter months, people needed other ways to sip their beloved spirit. Enter Hot Buttered Rum.

Eventually, Whiskey surpassed Rum in popularity across the U.S. Hot Butter Rum, however, still drew interest has the cocktail world heated up. The drinks appears in Kerry Thomas’s iconic 1887 manual “The Bartenders Guide” and even more recently in the famed “Trader Vic’s Book of Food & Drink” first published in the 1940s.

The drink became popular again in the 1940s as part of Tiki drink culture. Trader Vic’s recipe called for “hot buttered rum batter,” which was made up of 1 lb. of brown sugar, 1/4 lb. of butter, salt and other spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves). Two other Tiki versions also become popular, the Volcano House Hot Buttered Rum from the Volcano House Hotel in Hawaii, and the Pub and Prow Hot Buttered Rum from a Chicago restaurant of the same name.

Hot Buttered Rum is traditionally made with rum, hot water, sugar, butter, and spices. However, variations on the drink include replacing the butter with ice cream, milk, or coconut oil, while some even replace the water with cider. It’s recommend that you use a dark, heavy rum for the cocktail, but really any Rum will do. Just remember, Hot Buttered Rum is meant to be a warming drink and isn’t for the calorie conscious, as an eight-ounce serving has around 300 calories.

Hot Buttered Rum cocktail - Jamie Oliver

We’re partial to Jamie Oliver’s recipe:

Jamie Oliver’s Hot Buttered Rum

  • 2 parts Bacardi Carta Negra
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 3 cloves , (optional)
  • small knob of butter
  • cinnamon stick , to garnish
  • Freshly grated nutmeg , to garnish

Over a low heat, melt the butter in a pan with the sugar and cloves. Turn off the heat and add the Bacardi Carta Negra and stir well. Pour the contents through a sieve into a mug or toddy glass and top with hot water to taste. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and grated nutmeg.

If you would like to try the original recipe from Wine Enthusiast:

The Original Hot Buttered Rum Recipe:

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 ounces dark or aged rum
  • 6 ounces hot water
  • Cinnamon stick, for garnish (optional)

In a mixing bowl, combine butter, vanilla extract, sugar, spices and salt. Beat until well combined. In heat-proof glass or mug, combine aged rum with 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) spiced butter mixture. Remaining batter can be stored in airtight container in refrigerator for future use. Top with hot water and stir until ingredients are well incorporated. Garnish with cinnamon stick if preferred.

Whatever recipe you choose, we don’t think there’s any better way to celebrate National Hot Buttered Rum Day that sipping on one of these delightful cocktails.

*Photo from