Orange & Vanilla Hot Buttered Rum


Bring these orange and vanilla hot buttered rums to your next holiday party! Easy to make for a crowd.

Photography Credit: Garrett McCord

Every winter, I’m surprised by how many people have never had a hot buttered rum.

This is a classic American cocktail that dates back to colonial times, and it’s as much a part of Christmas as eggnog or peppermint hot chocolate. More people need to know how good this cocktail can be!

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To help spread the word, hot buttered rums have become my standard contribution to holiday parties and potlucks. I just make an extra large batch of spiced butter ahead of time, grab a bottle of dark rum, and off I go.

Hot Buttered Rum

I get some water boiling as soon as I arrive, and a few minutes later, and the first butter-filled cups are ready. The room fills with the aroma of cinnamon, orange and vanilla.

It’s impossible to resist, and nearly everyone who tastes it asks for the recipe.

Traditional buttered rums are simply flavored with cinnamon and brown sugar. But I think the addition of orange zest and vanilla really make this cocktail stand out.

Of course, feel free to tinker with the recipe to create your own version! Lemon zest, cardamom, orange bitters, or even swapping out the rum for brandy or rye, are all fantastic alternatives.

Orange & Vanilla Hot Buttered Rum Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 drinks

Good-quality dark rum really is key here. You don’t have to pay a lot of money for good bottle; just avoid anything in a plastic jug. (I find Mount Gay is a flavorful and affordable option.)

The compound butter will keep for several weeks in an airtight container in the fridge, and the flavors will only get more intense over time. I often make a large batch a few days in advance of a party so it’s at its most fragrant.

Scale this recipe up for larger crowds.


For the orange-vanilla butter:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or the seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean pod)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch salt

To serve:

  • 6 ounces dark rum
  • 3 cups near-boiling hot water
  • Cinnamon sticks for garnish (optional)


1 Make the compound butter: In a stand mixer with a beater attachment or using a hand mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, orange zest, vanilla, spices, and salt until light and fluffy. (If making ahead, transfer the butter to an airtight container and refrigerate until needed.)

2 Make the hot buttered rums: Divide the butter between four mugs (3 to 4 tablespoons per mug). Add 1 1/2 ounces of rum per mug and then top with hot water. Stir together until the butter and sugar melt. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and enjoy while hot!

Hot Buttered Rum

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Hot Buttered Rum

Garrett McCord

Garrett McCord is a professional writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in many print and online publications such as Gourmet Live, Saveur, Huffington Post, Smithsonian, and NPR. Past clients also include numerous food companies, wineries, and distilleries. Garrett writes about cocktails on his website, Coupe de Grace.

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4 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Lisa

    Big fan of yummy warm winter drinks here in Maine. I’l be trying this one! Thank you for the recipe.

    Fresh Eggs Daily

  2. darlene

    Thank you and Merry Christmas!

  3. Susie

    Wonderful, especially after a few days of letting the butter sit. But, I got an unpleasant mouthful of orange zest on my last sip (ahem, gulp…). Do you strain the zest out somehow?

  4. Belle

    I’ve always loved hot buttered rum, but this really does step up the game!

Hot Buttered RumOrange & Vanilla Hot Buttered Rum