Last night I lived out a childhood fantasy. At a young age, my mom indoctrinated my sisters and I to movie musicals. Every Christmas we gathered round the tube to watch Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas — all the while wondering why such a beautiful young woman would ever fall for such an old geezer. I’m still scratching my head over that one, but I suspect it was the voice. Ah, that voice. Chicks dig musicians.
In one scene, Bing and Rosemary are flirting over a plate of cold sandwiches in a deserted bar on a cold night. Bing waxes poetic about all things snowy and Christmassy. At one point he mentions “hot buttered rum, light on the butter.” That always captured my imagination. Hot buttered rum, I thought, would be light and creamy and sweet. It would go down smooth and warm me from head to toe. I would sip it with my eyes closed. I’d hear the brutal snowstorm outside my door, give thanks that I was warm by the fire and then take another comforting, restorative sip. Ahh.
So last night with the blizzard a comin’, I decided it was time to try this magical winter drink. It’s made of dark rum (I used Capt. Morgan’s — don’t know if that qualifies as “dark,” but it’s all we had), sugar syrup (2 parts sugar to one part water — so sweet it might dissolve your fillings), hot water and a pinch of nutmeg. Then you’re supposed to top it with a pat of butter and a cinnamon stick. I didn’t have any cinnamon sticks hanging around so I just sprinkled a bit on top.
The finished drink didn’t look at all like I expected. I was thinking it would be creamy-looking from the butter. But the main ingredient of this drink is hot water — not unlike Alka Seltzer Cold. Then, as the butter melts it takes on the appearance of curdled milk. But hey, can’t judge a book by its cover, right?
Now Bing may like his hot buttered rum light on the butter, but I have a heavier hand. And you know what? This drink is so bad that even butter can’t save it. I actually found a substance that renders inert the awesome power of butter. I didn’t think it could be done.
I often feel weird drinking warm alcohol unless it’s in coffee — and even then I’m not a huge fan. I couldn’t get over the feeling that I should be serving this drink on a bed tray to an ailing geriatric aunt who was wrapped in an antigue quilt and wearing a sleep bonnet.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been lured into false assumptions about butter-flavored drinks. Ever try buttermilk? Sounds enticing, huh? Creamy milk infused with golden butter? Mmmmm….. But not so much. In what is probably not a coincidence at all, Rosemary Clooney drinks buttermilk in the very same White Christmas scene that I mentioned before. After I’d finally tasted buttermilk for myself I used to wonder why she would order such a frumpy, grandmotherly drink if she was trying to get Bing to kiss her. It’s like ordering Cream of Wheat on a date. “Come on, Rosemary! Order a brandy or a whiskey! Something sexy or daring… ” She might as well have brought her hot-water bottle with her to the bar.
So I think I’ll leave the hot buttered rum to Aunt Bitsy and her sleep cap. “Here you go, Aunt Bitsy: Hot buttered rum, light on the butter, heavy on the butt.”
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