Winter Drinks With Will: Hot Buttered Mai Tai
[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]
Your new drinking buddy Will will be dropping by with recipes, reviews, and general booze-related musings. He's an itinerant reader and writer who's not above slinging drinks or pushing commas to pay life's various tabs. He likes cheese and bacon, but not as much as the rest of you weirdos seem to. Will judges bars not by the color of their Johnnie Walker but by the content of their bourbon list. Welcome Will!
A good friend just promoted himself to better friend by purchasing a bar. His ascension to best friend will be complete as soon as he gets the Tom Petty off the jukebox and the "Closed" sign off the kitchen door. In the meantime I've appointed myself Executive Director of Pickled Eggs, a high-stress position that explains why I smashed a boiled egg in my kitchen sink the other day.
Why can't any of you people teach me how to get the shells off neatly and easily, so I'm not left with mangled, cratered eggs that have me daydreaming about pickling babies' bottoms and only befriending bar owners who have the wherewithal to at least install a vending machine?
But as much as I regret the waste and shrapnel wrought by my childishness, I'm glad my petulance shamed me into a reflective time-out during which I realized how truly blessed I am. If your life's stickiest wickets are the divots in the pickled eggs you eat in your friend's ocean-proximate bar, you should spend a little less time smashing food and a little more time being thankful you don't have real problems, like food allergies.
I know a guy who was diagnosed with a shellfish allergy well into his fifth decade, and it seems every third person born after the fall of the Berlin Wall can be felled by holding a hand that has once held a peanut. That must be excruciating. I derive much of my pleasure and most of my self-esteem from displaying mastery over the lesser yet tastier life forms; if I couldn't use my opposable thumbs to open pistachios and oysters, I'd want to trade them back to Darwin for gills or feathers.
So food allergies are obviously torture, but what about regular old allergies to pollen and dust and so forth? I think I could live with those, and perhaps even thrive. Despite every airborne-allergy sufferer I know carrying on like someone has killed his whole family (or gouged his boiled egg) every time the snow melts or the leaves shrivel, their clean little secret is that "allergy season" is pretty much a pharmaceutical industry synonym for "mild head cold season," and everyone knows having a cold is awesome because you get to drink hot toddies.
I believe very strongly in the restorative powers of warm whiskey and as such will not indulge in this cure for the common cold except when medically indicated. Isn't an over-reliance on antibiotics what got us into all this allergy mess in the first place? Moderation's not really my style, but in this case I've got to respect the science. Which means I needed to come up with something else to drink when the air is cold but my body is well.
I really like Hot Buttered Rum, but it might be a little mild for people used to more distraction out of their cocktail enhancements; those people could add some ground cloves, nutmeg, etc., to their butter. I think that's inching a little too close to "why didn't you just use Captain Morgan to begin with if you don't actually like rum?" territory, but I'll allow it because I'm an open-minded guy and because it provides a handy segue to the Hot Buttered Mai Tai, which uses orange zest instead of lemon and a touch of almond extract with the honey.
serves 4, active time 10 minutes, total time 10 minutes
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons zest from 1 orange, plus 4 orange zest twists
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 8 ounces dark rum
- Honey to taste
Combine butter, zest, and almond extract in small bowl and mash with fork until well blended. Pour 2 ounces rum into four small coffee mugs. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter mixture to each. Top with just-boiled water and stir until butter is melted. Add honey to taste (about 2 teaspoons is normal). Garnish with orange twist and serve immediately.