My go to sore throat tonic: hot buttered rum for one. As a kid, my favourite life saver flavour was butter rum, but the cloying candy version is a pale reflection of the adult liquid version. This drink is like fruit cake in a glass – but in a good way – dark with cinnamon and cloves, a little nutmeg to keep some mystery, brown sugar to enhance the taste of molasses in the rum and butter to coat chapped lips and a sore throat with a soft, warm, oily slick. Its effect does cause you to withdraw in upon yourself, tucking legs beneath you on the couch, hugging the hot mug with two hands beneath your face to fully experience the orange and spiced steam. The warmth, drinking it, radiates to the tips of your toes. With every sip, there’s a greater assurance that all is right with the world.
The gearhead asked me the other day why I hadn’t written a blog post for the week. I replied, honestly, that I was trying to avoid writing dark and depressing things. The winter dragging on, the inevitable exhaustion from riding this emotional knife edge of melancholy and the fuzzy headache cloud accompanying an increasingly sore throat were pulling me dangerously close to writing all of you through a dark downward spiral. The gearhead offered this gem of response, “but you are dark and depressing.” My hackles were now fairly up. He noticed and choked off this poor reprieve, “jeesh, don’t you know when I’m pulling your leg?” [wife edits: stony sore-throated silence].
I offer this with pugnacity. The drink, hot buttered rum, is often mixed using a pre-made [wife edits: in advance – hmmm, I never have this kind of foresight] paste of softened butter, mixed with spices and sometimes grated citrus peel. The advantage of making the paste in advance is that the flavours permeate the butter and a tablespoon or two melts beautifully in the drink, delicately offering up its layered flavours and aromas as it does so.
Instead, this recipe is for those who don’t have a cache of spiced butter in their fridge [wife edits: hazard, most of us]. I think this version is just as delicious. The only trick here is to follow the method. For instance, I’m very careful to add the freshly squeezed orange juice and the rum as the very last ingredients. I wouldn’t want to risk burning off any alcohol…one needs all its volatility [wife edits: pay attention gearhead, this is important] and the essential vitamin C in the orange juice, to help fight your cold, is very easily denatured by heat [wife edits: in fact, this probably can’t be avoided, given the heat, but let’s pretend otherwise]. So alcohol and orange juice last. Oh, and the butter as the proverbial cherry on top, melting slowly across the top like an iceberg floating across the equator. [wife edits: or is that me, floating across our kitchen to place the now empty mug in the sink?]
Hot Buttered Rum
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 stick of cinnamon, about 2 1/2 inches long (10 cm)
1-2 whole cloves
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
freshly squeezed orange juice from the orange you used for the peel
2 ounces (60 ml) dark rum
1 tablespoon butter
boiling water to top it off
Choose one of your favourite mugs. Into it, place the sugar, orange peel, cinnamon stick, cloves and nutmeg. Bring the kettle to the boil and fill the mug three quarters of the way full with boiling water. Stir the concoction to get the sugar to melt and the spices to release their flavour. Let this sit for a minute or two to cool down. Add the rum and freshly squeezed orange juice and give it a stir. Finally, add a dollop of butter to the mug, give it a gentle stir, and voila.