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Kenneth Roberts’s Hot Buttered Rum Recipe

No wintertime cocktail is Maine-ier.

hot buttered rum
By Brian Kevin

Two things that will vastly improve your time spent socializing outdoors this winter: a good thermos and a recipe for hot buttered rum. No wintertime cocktail is Maine-ier. Rum was the hooch of choice for Maine’s colonists, easy to distill and a ubiquitous import in coastal towns. Heated and sweetened, it was a fortifying treat. Kennebunkport novelist Kenneth Roberts, who wrote about hot buttered rum so often he’s credited with reviving its popularity in the early 20th century, called it “Maine’s earliest drink . . . doubtless of inestimable benefit to hardy pioneers who needed internal warmth to protect them from the rigors of a Maine winter.” In his 1937 novel Northwest Passage, the protagonist cites its value to Maine’s mountain-lion hunters: “After a man’s had two-three drinks of hot buttered rum, he don’t shoot a catamount. All he’s got to do is walk up to him and kiss him just once, then put him in his bag, all limp.”

This (loose) recipe from Roberts’s 1938 book Trending into Maine has been much anthologized, although both colonists and some contemporary drinkers might suggest swapping water for cider.

“Pour one fair-sized drink (or jigger) of rum into an ordinary table tumbler: add one lump of sugar, a pat of butter the size of a single hotel helping, half a teaspoonful of cinnamon, fill up the tumbler with boiling water, stir well and sip thoughtfully. If too sweet, use less sugar in the next attempt. If not sweet enough, add more. If the cinnamon isn’t wholly satisfactory, try cloves. If more butter seems desirable, use more.”

Read more tips about COVID-friendly winter outdoor hangs!