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The Rum Diaries: Rescuing Classic Rum Cocktails

December 6, 2011

Some of our favorite drinks have been lost to obscurity and cast aside by their sheer lack of panache – the result of being made with rums that have been stripped of their magnificent natural flavor and aroma.

This edition finds us with a bit of a cold spell setting in as we approach the end of the year. To get us through the season, here are some interpretations of one of America’s great alcoholic beverages (and a very seasonal concoction): The (Hot) Toddy.

Known for its warming and curing abilities, the Toddy is the stuff of legend and has as many interpretations as there are people to make them up. While the Toddy probably predates the word cocktail itself, for the purpose of this piece, we’ll be working from Jerry Thomas’ seminal cocktail book, The Bar-tender’s Guide (published in the U.S. in 1862 – the first-ever cocktail book).

From here, it’s easy to surmise that because of its popularity during this era, rum would have been the base spirit of many a Toddy. Here are a few different iterations of a simple easy rum drink in the form of a Hot Toddy to warm your bones.

Adapted from Jerry Thomas’ The Bar-tender’s Guide:

1 tsp. sugar
½ wine-glass (3-4 oz.) water
1 wine glass (6-8 oz.) Spirits


Place the sugar in the bottom of a mug and pour in spirits. Stir the mixture while pouring in boiling water until sugar is dissolved. Sip and enjoy

Spirits: Use spirits with character: oak-aged and pot-stilled spirits tend to shine in this drink

Water: Make sure to use the hottest water possible

Alternative sweeteners: While JT and his peers would have only used granulated sugar, today we have access to many other types of sugar and alternative sweeteners. Try matching things like maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, and cane sugars to your spirits.

Garnish: If you like a little extra vitamin C for this one, try taking a long peel of lemon or orange or both, and express the oil into the glass. This was classically known as a Skin and NOT a Toddy. Semantics.

Chai Rum Toddy

If you are feeling like getting a little culinary, try this homemade chai spice recipe as a pick-me-up:

4 oz. Denizen Oak Aged Caribbean Rum
16 oz. water
2 Tbsp. black tea (Ceylon or English Breakfast)
2 tsp. honey, or to taste
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp. whole cloves
15 cardamom pods, crushed
7 star anise pods
1 tsp. black peppercorns

Tools: saucepan, tea infuser, fine-mesh strainer, spoon

Glass: mug

Combine spices with water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and add tea (in an infuser) to the water, allowing to steep for 4 minutes. Remove the tea infuser but allow the spices to simmer for another 6 minutes. Strain spiced tea into two glasses. Stir in 2 oz. rum , 1/4 oz. lemon juice and 1 tsp. honey (or desired amount) into each glass. Serves 2.

For a more simple version check out this recipe for the Baked Apple Toddy as featured in Maxim Magazine this month by New York’s own Marshall Altier:

Baked Apple Toddy

Another twist on a traditional potable, this super-simple hot toddy uses the same apple brandy (lest you think this is a sissy spirit, it hails from America’s oldest distillery, straight outta Jersey) for another flavorful kick.

1 Tbsp. sugar in the raw
1½ oz. Denizen Oak Aged Caribbean Rum
½ oz. Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1 dash Bar Keep Baked Apple Bitters
2-3 whole cinnamon sticks, plus 1 for garnish
Pinch cloves
Fresh nutmeg

Pour ingredients into a mug. Top with boiling water steeped with cinnamon sticks and cloves. Strain out the solids before pouring. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Grate cinnamon and nutmeg on top.

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