Got a little Captain in you? Here’s a way to find out: Create your own spiced rum and put it up against the popular commercial brands. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good it is.
You don’t need an advanced degree in mixology to do this: On the scale of difficulty, making spiced rum falls roughly between getting ice out of a tray and fixing a decent Mai Tai. What’s more, the ingredients are probably already in your kitchen. If not, they’re easily found at a grocery store—no need to trawl online for wizened bark from some distant island, as you do for many homemade-bitters recipes.
Start with one of your favorite rums. A decent white rum is fine, but I prefer a moderately aged, slightly dry spirit, as this adds some intrigue to the end product. Don’t splurge on an expensive, mature bottle; it doesn’t taste that much better, and its oakiness will sometimes quarrel with the spices. My most recent batch was made with a golden rum (80-proof) from St. Vincent. But Cruzan and Mount Gay have both worked well for me in the past.
Next, take a 750-mL bottle of your rum and pour it into a wide-mouthed, airtight container, like a Mason jar. (You can use the bottle itself, but extracting the orange peel and swollen cinnamon stick when you’re done can be vexing.) Then add a selection of herbs and spices—exactly which and how much are your call—and let it sit. My personal recipe, which is adapted from the inimitable Martin Cate, owner of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, is ready in about two days.
How should you drink your spiced rum when it’s done? Forget the cola. It’s winter; try making a hot Teatime Toddy with it.
Contributed by Wayne Curtis
- 1 (750-mL) bottle Rum
- 1 Vanilla bean
- 1 (3-inch) slice Orange peel, white pith removed
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- 2 Allspice berries
- 4 Cloves
- 6 Black peppercorns
- pinch Ground nutmeg
- 1 slice Fresh ginger, about the size of a quarter
Add all the ingredients to a wide-mouthed, airtight container and seal. Let stand for two days and taste. If you want a bit more flavor, leave it be for a third day. Strain the spices out and rebottle the liquid.
Making your own spiced rum allows you to tweak the flavor profile—play up the flavors you like by adding more of them, and dial back on those you don’t. Bear in mind that the lower-quality commercial products tend to overplay the vanilla—cut back on that and the other flavors emerge nicely.
Wayne Curtis writes about drinks for The Atlantic and is the author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. He is also host of the site Slowcocktails.com.