Hot Buttered Rum – A Classic Early Colonial American Drink

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The History Of Hot Buttered Rum

Adding butter to hot drinks was not new during colonial America, butter beer dates back to the 16th century, but hot buttered rum was an early american twist on this type of drink. In the Americas rum and molasses were plentiful and fairly cheap because of it’s close proximity to the Caribbean. In fact rum was the first real spirit of the Americas, not whiskey. I looked high and low but I was unable to find a hot buttered rum like recipe till the 1860s with Jerry Thomas’s book. I scanned drink and food recipe books and eventually just started looking for any historical book older that 1860 that might have a recipe or at least mention a hot buttered rum. Trust me I put more effort into this cocktail than any reasonable person should. I did find a mention of it in the 1826 edition of the Pennsylvanian Historical society. I mentioned how it is common at birthing for “good women” to have hot buttered rum, wines and cordial water served to guest. And if the baby be unwell or fretful a dose of spirit, water and spices could help too. I found an 1855 British book called the Practical housewife, gave a very similar recipe to the one provided but called the drink a buttered toddy. A a book from 1830 called “Three Courses and a Dessert” mentions the hot butter rum and says how its a terrible meaty drink. There were a couple times I found this referred to as a buttered toddy but not much, the much more common name was still hot buttered rum.

Lord knows I tired but the earliest I could find this drink mentioned was in the 1826 Pennsylvanian Historical society. The titles of most of the books that had hot buttered rum recipes were like, the domestic blah blah blah, housewife so and so, or friendly neighbor such and such. They all revolved around the house and made no mention of going out to a tavern, which leads me to think this was very much a home made cocktail. This ultimately means the history of it is a bit muddy and there is no single canon recipe, so take this recipe, modify it, make it your own have fun.

What Does Hot Buttered Rum Taste Like

This is an amazing drink that is spiced well with great texture and flavor. The butter doesn’t come across as heavy or greasy, it adds a nice creamy mouthfeel similar to gum syrup, egg whites or a very full bodied wine. This drink is not weak either. You can really feel the warm rum but the light creamy butter and pumpkin pie spices make it pleasant and not too strong. When I was younger I use to think of this drink as more of an overly sweet almost milk shake like drink but it doesn’t have to be. And again since there is no real single canon recipe for this, the recipe I have here is an amalgamation of older recipes I liked. The sweetness and spice toned down a bit with a little bit more rum. The 2 ounces of rum helps keep the drink from feeling flat and the sugar and spice level make it so the drink taste like a cocktail and not a dessert. The hot buttered rum batter is great on anything. I sometimes add it to coffee, on toast, biscuits, pancakes, etc. Add a little more sugar, spice or butter if you feel the drink needs it.

Spiced Butter Batter Recipe

  • 1/4 tsp (1.5 g) Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp (1.5 g) Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp (1.5 g) Clove
  • 1/4 tsp (1.5 g) Allspice (or 1/2 tbs: Allspice dram)
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 g) Vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) Brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) Unsalted butter

This recipe will make about a cup (240 grams) of spiced butter batter mix which is about 12 drinks. This is really good on biscuits too and my kids love this spread on toast.


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Hot Buttered Rum – A Classic Early Colonial American Drink

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Learn how to make a Hot Buttered Rum.


  • 2/3 oz Spiced Butter Batter

  • 2 oz Gold Rum

  • 6 oz Hot Water


  • Drop spiced butter batter into a ceramic or heat resistant mug.
  • Add hot water and stir till the butter is completely melted and incorporated into the water.
  • Lastly add the rum and give a couple last stirs to finish mixing the drink.

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