Is This The Best Hot Buttered Rum In All The Land?

You've got plenty of cold weather left to decide, but: yes. The answer is yes.

December 28, 2017 ‚óŹ 2 min read

By Cassandra Landry | Photo courtesy of Scofflaw, art by ChefsFeed

If you find yourself on a frigid night in Chicago’s Logan Square with some time to kill, you might consider the darkened cocktail bar on the corner of West Armitage Avenue.

On nights like these, when the wind bites at your face and the cold makes your fingers feel like little freezer-burned sausages, Scofflaw draws you in like a moth to a boozy flame. 

Inside, it's warm. Moments after a menu lands in your hand, you may realize you don't need it. "Get the hot buttered rum," says a young man with a scruffy beard next to you. He's huddled over one himself as if to absorb its warmth straight into his chest. "Just do it." A glance down the glittering bar will confirm that this advice has already reached just about everyone else: there's a small army of steaming glass mugs, each garnished with a modest floating wheel of lemon.

So you order it, and the suspense is potent and thrumming with a deep, golden hue not unlike the one lighting up little pockets of the room. It arrives. There are very few drinks that can transform your average cocktail bar into a snug tavern out of a storybook, turning strangers into confidantes and giving every transaction an edge of enchantment: it turns out a well-made hot buttered rum is one of them. “It’s like liquid winter,” says Scofflaw's Dan Shapiro. “Or liquid coziness. It’s like a real-life butter beer from Harry Potter or something.”

Griffin Elliott, the drink’s creator, has been behind the bar at Scofflaw from its earliest days. When the first winter came around, he had an idea for a signature hot drink. "Once we tasted it, we were like, this is excellent," Shapiro says. As a result, very little has changed from its earliest incarnation: there’s always a Blackstrap rum—a dark and syrupy rum to evoke the character of molasses—split with another aged rum with a different flavor profile. Pair that with butter and baking spices, and you've got hygge you can drink, basically.  

Shapiro mentions that the drink easily passed muster with a trusted palate in town: Liz Pearce, who tends bar at The Drifter. Once that happens, you know you've got a winner on your hands, he says. “Oh my god, I LOVE this drink,” she writes. “I wait for it every year. I think it's the richness of the Blackstrap that makes it so good. It's like liquid pancakes.”

Pearce mentions one of the trickiest pitfalls of the hot buttered rum canon: too boozy, or too full of grit. The trick is to blur the lines. “Scofflaw's is perfectly sweet, perfectly boozy and rich—and the hint of citrus from the lemon wheel makes it indulgent but non-aggressive...I want one right now."

The drink only hits Scofflaw's menu seasonally, so for those of you who can't make it to Chicago before spring, we've procured the secret sauce. Take care of this recipe like it's a weird spell someone once gave you in a dark tavern in a dream. It's that good. 

Hot Buttered Rum 

Griffin Elliott | Scofflaw, Chicago

1 oz aged rum of your choosing
.5 oz Cruzan Blackstrap rum
45g spiced butter*, at room temp 
8 oz hot (like, boiling hot) water 

Stir to combine. Garnish with lemon wheel.

*Spiced Butter

3 lbs dark brown sugar
1 lbs Butter
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground clove
Combine the ingredients in a stand mixer; mix until evenly combined. To prebatch, roll out butter balls to 45 grams each.

Holy shit, enjoy this drink.