11 Best Rums For Hot Buttered Rum

When the weather turns chilly and the days grow short, there's nothing better than curling up by the fire with a warm cocktail. While the Hot Toddy or spiked apple cider are great options, nothing beats the warm spices and flavors of a Hot Buttered Rum. The added bonus of that creamy, butter batter makes this cocktail even more decadent and perfect for those long, cold winter nights.

Dating all the way back to the colonial days of America, this is a cocktail that, according to the National Day Calendar, has been warming our bones ever since Jamaica began importing molasses to the 13 colonies. While it was sipped early and often during those frigid months on the east coast, the cocktail fell out of favor until the 1940s when, Spirited notes, Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr., a.k.a. Trader Vic, published his recipe for a hot buttered rum batter. That batter gave new life to the drink and it's been enjoyed on ski slopes and around campfires ever since.

While the batter definitely makes the Hot Buttered Rum the drink it is today, an HBR just isn't an HBR without rum. But what rum should you use? Well, we asked many experts for their top picks, and they all said you want a rum that's rich and full of spice. Here are the ones they recommended.

El Dorado 3 Year

Distilled on the east bank of the Demerara River in Guyana, the county was a haven of rum distilleries starting back in the 1600s. According to the El Dorado website, those numbers dwindled over time. Now, in the 21st century, only one distillery remains: Demerara Distillers Limited. While DDL is responsible for several alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, the El Dorado legacy started with the 15 Year, according to the website. Today there are several rums ranging in age from three to 25 years.

While most blended aged rums are darker in color because of the time spent in the barrel, the El Dorado 3-year-old is clear thanks to its double filtration through natural charcoal. Even though that filtration gives you a clear rum, it doesn't take away from the flavor. As a matter of fact, David Brady, the general manager of London's Black Parrot Bar, believes the 3-year-old has enough flavor to really shine in an HBR. He says you want a rum that will "balance and yet compliment the richness of the butter." Brady feels the 3-year does just that thanks to its "spice kick."

Plantation Barbados 5 Years

Although Plantation Rum is one of the younger brands on this list, it's a popular choice for bartenders all over thanks to its combination of rums from Barbados and Jamaica. The brand even came up a few times in our talks with experts for Hot Buttered Rum. Alexandre Gabriel, the president and owner of Maison Ferrand, the parent company of Plantation Rum, loves "authentic products that express the personality of the land that grew them," and Plantation definitely has personality. Each rum under the Plantation label has its own distinct flavor, which is why you'll find one version perfect for a daiquiri while another is better suited for warm, wintery cocktails like the Hot Buttered Rum.

Jason Doo, the owner of Wusong Road in Cambridge, says he loves to use Plantation Barbados 5 years in his Hot Buttered Rum because of its "notes of cinnamon, baking spices, and deep molasses flavor that seem like it was just made for New England sweater weather."

Real McCoy 5 Year

According to the Collins Dictionary, the phrase the real McCoy means that the object to which you are referring really is what it claims to be and is not an imitation. That's what The Real McCoy rum creators, Bailey Pryor, and Richard Seale want their patrons to know when they purchase a bottle. Named for rum runner, Bill McCoy, who, according to the website, refused to sully his Prohibition rum with prune juice or turpentine, this rum is a clean distillate that has no added sugars or flavors. Pryor and Seale wanted to follow in McCoy's footsteps and put forth a Barbados rum that's full of flavor and "lived up to the name the Real McCoy."

While all the rums from The Real McCoy library seem to be popular with bartenders all over the world, Nick Jackson from The Rum House in New York likes the 5 Year Aged for a Hot Buttered Rum because of "its bourbon barrel-aged characteristics." He says it's because the rum "adheres to very specific aging requirements with no sugar or color added" that makes it one of The Rum House's preferred options for the winter drink.

Hamilton Navy Strength

A rum that's referred to as "navy strength" means that it's 57% alcohol by volume (ABV). Why that specific number? Because, according to Sub 13, during the 18th century, the Royal Navy had to be sure that if sailors accidentally spilled their daily dose of rum on the gunpowder, it would still be flammable enough to use. They actually performed tests by mixing the rum with the gunpowder and then setting it on fire. If it went up in flames, the sailors knew they were safe and could continue drinking. Eventually, they landed on 100 degrees proof, which is roughly 57%. Flash forward to the 1990s when the smart marketing people over at Plymouth Gin started stamping the brand's gins as "navy strength," and now you'll find the term on rums and gins alike — like the Hamilton Navy Strength.

A blend of Jamaican and Guyana rums, it's Mike Treffehn's first choice for a Hot Buttered Rum. The bar manager at the Rum Club in Portland says when he makes this drink, he wants "full richness and boldness to stand up to the hydration and butter." While a mix of rums would be great, Treffehn doesn't want to grab several different bottles, so he reaches for the Hamilton. Its combination of rums means it has a "full-bodied, funky deliciousness, and at 114 proof, it's got the kick to accomplish that warming effect we look to a Hot Buttered Rum for."

El Dorado 12 Year

A Demerara-style rum out of Guyana, El Dorado draws on over 300 years of craft and history. Back in the late 1600s, the website explains how Guyana was the place to go for rum. Acres and acres of sugar cane all over Demerara county meant that by the late 1700s, there were over 300 distilleries producing rum. However, low prices for sugar and high taxes in the early part of the 20th century caused most of the distilleries to close up shop as it was no longer cost-effective to make rum, and by 1999, only one distillery remained: Demerara Distillers Limited. Even though DDL is the last bastion of Demerara rum, it continues producing a quality product that includes rum, soda, and even jam.

El Dorado, DDL's flagship liquor, is a rum that experts come back to again and again. But the Aged 12 Years is the expression Sean Cork, the self-proclaimed rum nerd of Caña Rum Bar, picks over and over for the Hot Buttered Rum because he prefers "something that can stand up to the likes of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and clove while simultaneously melding with the buttery texture." He says the Aged 12 Years "brings a rich, fruity, nutty, lightly smoky quality that melds wonderfully with the other ingredients while not fading into the background." And if you want a real treat for the holidays, Cork suggests tossing "½ an ounce of overproof (Hamilton 151 Demerara River) in there to warm your bones!"

Appleton Estate 12 Year

A popular brand among rum aficionados, Appleton Estate is a Jamaican rum that's been around for over 200 years. According to the website, Appleton had its first distillation in 1749 in the "mystical" Nassau Valley. This location is unusual in that the landscape is made up of "cone-like limestone hill formations" and caves that filter the water and give the sugar cane its unique flavor. That flavor is what makes this rum so special and why rum bars all over usually have several, if not all of, its expressions.

While each of Appleton's rums is great for a variety of cocktails, the 12 Year Old Rare Casks is Nico Berardi's choice for the Hot Buttered Rum. The bar manager at Notting Hill's Cottons Restaurant believes it's "best to have a rich flavored rum with some good kick" and the Appleton 12 Year Old does just that thanks to its hints of dried fruit, dark chocolate, and coffee. He says it's a beautiful product that's very well-balanced and easy to drink.

Worthy Park 109

Author of several tropical cocktail books, Jerry "Beachbum" Berry believes that "to enhance the buttery richness and complement the assertive spice of a good hot-buttered rum batter, [you need] a heavy-bodied, molasses-y dark Jamaican rum, the higher the proof the better." He says "the best one on today's market by far is Worthy Park 109."

Only recently introduced to the world, Worthy Park 109 is part of a long history of Jamaican rum. First made in 1741, Worthy Park Estate was the first Jamaican rum producer years before any other Jamaican distillery, according to the website. While the distillery has gone through numerous hands and changes over the years, the estate has expanded its capital with cattle, cocoa, and citrus. But sugar cane and rum continue to be its main focus. Worthy Park believes that quality is of the utmost importance and so makes sure that "each step in the distillation process is measured and evaluated to ensure consistency and quality."

Designed to be "your go-to choice" when you want a full-bodied rum, the 109 is full of tropical fruit flavors combined with subtle notes of vanilla and toffee which is why Berry says the 109 isn't "a one-trick pony." He believes "it also makes for a superb Planter's Punch."

Zaya Gran Reserva

For Robert Adamson, the prime minister of Strongwater Anaheim, Zaya is his "favorite holiday rum due to its versatility from a mixed drink to holiday Old-Fashioned, its a great spirit to work with." The reason Adamson thinks it's so great is because of its "blend of aged rums with notes of caramel, vanilla, toasted oak and baking spices that adds complexity to whatever, or whoever, it's paired with." Those caramel and vanilla notes Adamson speaks of are due in large part to the fact that Zaya is made with blackstrap molasses.

Most rums out there are made with molasses or sugar cane, but Zaya defines itself with its use of blackstrap molasses. How is blackstrap different from regular molasses? According to Pediaa, the main difference is how they're made. Regular molasses come from sugarcane juices, which are then turned into concentrate and crystallized sugar. While blackstrap molasses comes from the sugar cane boiling not once, not two, but three times! That triple boiling and sugar extraction process results in thicker, darker molasses that isn't as sweet but is high in minerals and vitamins. Those blackstrap molasses combined with the rum maturing for 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels are what brings out those vanilla and baking spice flavors Adamson talks about, and why he says he always uses it in Strongwater's Hot Buttered Rum.

Myers's Rum

Founded in 1879, Myers's is that classic dark rum that can be found on grocery store shelves everywhere. You know, the dark brown bottle with the bright yellow label — the Jamaican rum that Marie King says "the tropical cocktail community has poop-pooed... for years." While it may not be a bottle you'd want to display on your bar because it's plastic and not a pretty, fancy glass, King believes Myers's is worth a second look, especially for the Hot Buttered Rum. The bar manager from LA's oldest tiki bar, the Tonga Hut, says Myers's has "recently retooled their blend and it's got a lot more funk to it, more like the 1960s Myers' Dark."

According to the Myers's website, that "funk" comes from the pure Jamaican molasses the Myers family has been using to make the rum since the late 1800s. With hints of leather, caramel, honey, and figs, it's a decadent dark rum that's perfect for the winter holiday. King especially likes it because the "funk really cuts through the fat of the butter batter. Makes you want to order more than one!" she laughs.

Plantation Original Dark

With so many rums to choose from, Plantation Rum seems to have an option for every cocktail. There are so many choices, in fact, experts bring it up over and over no matter the drink. And here we are again. This time, it's Plantation's Original Dark that was suggested by both Tonga Hut's Marie King and The Rum House's Nick Jackson as their choices for the Hot Buttered Rum. The head bartender at The Rum House says they've had an HBR on their happy hour menu for a few years and they "prefer to use a darker rum to stand up to the butter and spices" in the cocktail. The Original Dark does just that thanks to its notes of vanilla, cinnamon, leather, and cloves.

A blend of Barbados and Jamaican aged rums, King says the Original Dark "has a richness and a little sweetness [as well as] a little bit of the funk that plays well with the butter." But the main reason she likes Original Dark is because of its accessibility. "It's so prolific and out there and its price point is great," she says.

Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva

A rum that's been owned and operated by the same independent Venezuelan entrepreneurs for the past 20 years, Diplomático prides itself on creating rums of "quality and authenticity." Since it's a small, family-owned distillery, the brand is able to control the whole process from cutting the sugar cane in the fields through fermentation, distillation, aging, blending, and finally bottling. The result is "a beautiful blend of rums," says Rafael Ramirez, the bar manager for The Rex and The Drift.

According to the website, Don Juan Meléndez ("Don Juancho") is the man who inspired Diplomático and is on every one of the rum's labels. A local nobleman, Meléndez loved exploring the ingredients and methods for making rum. Today Diplomático continues that tradition by employing the values that were so important to him.

While there are several expressions on Diplomático's docket, it's the Reserva Exclusiva that Ramirez says is the best choice for a Hot Buttered Rum. The multi-award winning rum's "warm spice notes and rich tannins compliment a nice hot buttered rum."