holiday gift idea: a bottle o’ spiced rum

Before I begin, I would like to say: I hope I am not accidentally giving away another family secret.

I don’t think I am.

Let’s tread cautiously, though.

When Boyfriend and I were in France last May (oh, summer! being too hot! what is that like?), we spent a couple days at my family’s in Bretagne. (Scenes above.) I think the food took him slightly by surprise: langoustines with fresh mayonnaise, a tagine, cheese, fruit salad the first night; nutella, homemade jam, baguette, and brioche for breakfast; an outdoor garden lunch spread of melon and tomato spears, savory cake, pate, a tower of tea sandwiches, a giant tabbouleh, cheese, a fraiser, chocolate mousse, apple tarte; and that very night, two courses of dinner and dessert crepes.

And you wonder where why I can never stop talking about food. ‘Tis the genes.

One thing that cut through these delicious, decadent meals: my aunt and uncle’s spiced rum. So easy to make, and even easier to drink. Even if your friends aren’t big rum drinkers (and normalement, I am not), it’s a great base for making mulled wine, hot toddies, hot buttered rum, spiked cider, and other winter brews. And since we have a bottle just hanging around the bar, I sometimes splash a small tablespoon into banana breads, coffee cakes, and even, yes!, chocolate mousse. For grown-up parties. After sitting in spices for several months, the harsh zing of alcohol disappears, leaving just a spiced cinnamon-vanilla taste that warms you through and through.

And you can always just drink it.

Spiced Rum

  • A 1-litre bottle of dark rum
  • 25 allspice berries
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 tsp honey (optional, because I forgot this part back in October and it didn’t matter)

Add the spices to the bottle of rum and let sit at least one month, or until the allspice falls to the bottom.


7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jana on December 10, 2010 at 11:51 am

    What a wonderful idea! This year, we’re gifting homemade jam, but next year, with time to let it rest, I am definitely giving away spiced rum. Still, just to be on the safe side, I think I might have to test and try it a couple of times in the next year – in all the recipes you mention, and more. Gosh, banana bread with a splash of spiced rum sounds so good I can almost taste it already.


    • Posted by iowasthinking on December 10, 2010 at 12:04 pm

      “Test” away! And it’s worth mentioning that I made a 3/4 litre bottle, and the berries sunk in just three weeks, though more resting time is always better!


  2. Posted by Ron Harris on December 10, 2010 at 1:04 pm


    I know this primarily is a food blog but not being much of a cook it mostly leaves me envious of Billy who gets to eat the amazing dishes. I would really like to see more posts from you on cultural, artistic, and social matters. Your occassional commentaries on art, museums, city life and the like have been highly insightful, exceptionally well crafted and interesting. You are a very talented writer in addition to the obvious – a fabulous chef. Sorry we won’t see you here in Laguna Beach this holiday season. Enjoy.


    • Posted by iowasthinking on December 10, 2010 at 1:25 pm

      Hi Ron,
      I have some non-cooking (and, I admit, winter cocktail) posts on the horizon that’ll be right up your alley – though this one hardly counts as cooking, more like dropping things in a bottle and waiting. 🙂 When I’m home in a week, there will be more on the DC museum front, too. Btw, change of plans and I shall be in Laguna the first week of January!


      • Posted by Ron Harris on December 10, 2010 at 1:53 pm

        That’s great news. You have to promise to carve out a little time for when we can see you. Merry Christmas et al. to you.



  3. OMG this sounds soooooooo good and something that I could actually do. If I can find those allspice berries that you speak of in China, I’m definitely going to do try out the recipe!!


    • Posted by iowasthinking on December 12, 2010 at 2:14 pm

      Hi Jess! Definitely hunt for them, but I’m sure a pod (maybe two) of vanilla and cinnamon sticks would improve rum, even without the allspice!


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