Spiced rum

Give this DIY winter warmer a West Coast twist

Homemade spiced rum makes a good gift, especially for yourself. Matthew Benevoli photos

As the days get shorter and colder, we trade our Hawaiian shirts for sweaters and our light spirits for dark. Spiced rum is a wonderful way to warm up your cocktails during the autumn and winter. But what is spiced rum? In short, it’s (usually) an aged rum that’s been flavoured.

Modern versions of rum have been around since the 17th century, with accounts of “secret blend rums” in Jamaica flavoured with fruit, herbs and spices being served in Port Royal taverns. When spirits age in oak barrels, the wood commonly imparts rich flavours of vanilla and caramel, but beyond this you’ll find spice notes of allspice, nutmeg and clove, among others. Depending how the barrels are treated, you may also find toasted nut and stone fruit notes atop the woody oak blanket. “Spicing” with these components seems a natural evolution to further enhance the flavours that rum already presents us with.

Given rum’s lengthy history, it’s surprising that spiced rum has only been commercially available since 1984. Now in 2021, there are many options available, but why not customize your own blend to warm your soul and your tastebuds? Here’s a West Coast-inspired blend to start your infusing adventures.

How to Make West Coast spiced rum

You will need

• 1 (750 mL) bottle of medium-bodied aged rum (use something you enjoy already)

• Food-grade cedar plank

• 1L jar or other sealable container

• 6 allspice berries

• 6 whole cloves

• 1 star anise

• 2 cinnamon sticks

• 1 tsp finely ground nutmeg

• 1 tsp cardamom pods

• 2 tsp spruce needles

• 3 strips of orange zest, about 1 inch wide (no white pith; pith adds bitterness)

• 1 vanilla bean pod

• Optional: 1 to 2 tsp sweetener such as cane sugar, maple syrup, honey or granulated sugar


1. Add rum to a large pot over medium heat and bring just up to simmer.

Add cedar plank to simmering rum and let rest for 30 minutes.

2. Remove from heat, add cedar plank and let rest for 30 minutes, stirring the plank occasionally.

Add spices and spruce needles to a litre jar.

3. Add spices (allspice, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom) and spruce needles to a litre jar or other large sealable container. Twist orange zest strips to release oils and place in your jar. Cut vanilla pod lengthwise, scrape out beans then add both to your jar.

Add cedar-infused rum to spices.

4. Remove cedar from rum, then add cedar-infused rum to spices, tightly seal the jar and shake well.

5. Store for 2 days in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Shake after 1 day.

6. After 48 hours, strain through a fine-mesh sieve or a cheesecloth into a clean bottle. If you like, add sweetener now.

7. Spiced rum will keep indefinitely if stored in a tightly sealed bottle and out of direct sunlight. As it rests, the flavours will develop, and the sharper tones will mellow out.

Make El Presidente and Flannel by the Fire cocktails with your West Coast Spiced Rum.

Make these cocktails at home with your West Coast Spiced Rum

El Presidente

Flannel by the Fire

—by Matthew Benevoli

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