Monday, January 20, 2014

At First Glass turns three -- and has a hot buttered rum

Believe me, At First Glass had far more refined plans for the third-year anniversary of the blog. The anniversary happens to coincide almost perfectly with the 300th post -- we've reached 303, but we'll just round off, and not count a few that weren't so good -- so At First Glass had actually gone out shopping in preparation, and had bought a treat for the 31st of December. (Excuse the speaking in the third person, but we have been feeling slightly feverish all week. We also have an annoying cough, which makes us feel snappish.) We bought a bottle of Puligny-Montrachet, thinking to savor it, and write all about it, and learn all sorts of new things by at long last exposing ourselves to a terrifically fine French wine. A white Burgundy. A classic; a standard-bearer.

But man proposes, God disposes, as Landseer titled his gruesome picture of polar bears devouring the soft parts of a sailing ship in a horrid Victorian Arctic midnight. (See the blog Visions of the North for a good look at the painting.) At First Glass got a cold and fever and sore throat. At First Glass has been living on tea, toast, cough drops, hard boiled eggs, chicken broth, and tea lately. With some tea and toast and cough drops thrown in. We were also idly surfing the 'net looking for home remedies -- must we really gargle with hot water and apple cider vinegar? -- when suddenly we remembered. We couldn't sleep; we hearkened back.

We hearkened back to a childhood cold, and sleepless nights and a childhood remedy resorted to at last by dear old Dad. Hot buttered rum. (In the interests of full disclosure I should explain that Dad and Mom were both of the generation busy raising seven and eight and ten kids per household, whose pediatricians -- they were called "doctors" in those days -- quietly allowed a drop or two of whisky even in Baby's bottle, to buy one night's respite from colic hell.) I don't recall that we ever kept rum on hand in the otherwise fairly well-stocked liquor cabinet, so I'll bet it was actually hot buttered whisky. But no matter. Even then I must have been destined to be a food writer, albeit politics and literature will always seem so much grander topics, because I know I made a mental note of the recipe. Or perhaps I just wanted to impress the other fifth-graders with what a hardened boozer I was ... anyway I recalled it now. I could see the mug in my memory, steaming up into my face and smelling powerfully, the pat of butter melting and swirling away on top. The liquid was blazing hot and tasted awful. I couldn't have choked down too much of it. But I'll bet I slept. As far as I know, the decoction amounted to nothing more than hot water, whisky, butter, and perhaps a little cinnamon.

Last night's quick recipe for hot buttered rum was equally casual. A mug of water zapped to boiling in the microwave, a good glug of rum (why yes, we do have a little on hand in this house), a spoonful of cinnamon and sugar, the pat of yellow butter swirling and melting on top. You can stir the butter through, but it still leaves your lips lightly greasy. This time I was able to down most of the mug's contents, even though I am not a rum fan. It was desperation time. The object was sleep, not taste.

It worked fairly well. Unhappily, alcohol seems to wake you up, hours later, as thoroughly as ever it sent you off to dreamland. I wonder if Baby noticed that too? Anyway it turns out one may find quite elegant recipes for hot buttered rum on line, boasting delicate additions neither Dad nor I had thought of. Brown sugar and vanilla, which after all is more alcohol, are among the best of them.

(A hint for the Young Housekeeper. Even if we do have a cold, of course we can't drink hot buttered rums all day. And we might find ourselves getting tired of tea, tea, and more tea. A quick solution, more palatable than you might think, is simply a cup of piping hot water, dosed with a drizzle of honey and perhaps a squirt of lemon. So nice for the raw throat.)

Emeril Lagasse's Hot Buttered Rum [for a crowd]

* 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
* 2 cups light brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
* Pinch ground cloves
* Pinch salt
* Bottle dark rum
* Boiling water

In a bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Refrigerate until almost firm. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into 12 small mugs. Pour about 3 ounces of rum into each mug (filling about halfway). Top with boiling water (to fill the remaining half), stir well, and serve immediately.

Hot buttered rum [for the solitary sufferer] (from

* 1 small slice soft butter
* 1 tsp brown sugar
* optional spices to taste: ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, allspice
* vanilla extract
* 2 oz dark rum
* hot water


1. Place the butter, sugar and spices at the bottom of an Irish coffee glass or mug.
2. Mix well or muddle.
3. Pour in the rum and hot water.
4. Stir.

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