With fall coming, it is the time for everything pumpkin spice and apple cider which means it is time to find new ways to bring delicious warm baking spices into our cocktails. Most people think about cinnamon and nutmeg when you think about warm baking spices, but the folks from the land of Tiki drinks have another spice they love to use in cocktails, allspice! Allspice commonly finds its way into all kinds of drinks from the Caribbean by way of a special liqueur, Allspice Dram.
Allspice Dram is a simple, spiced liqueur flavored by the small dried berries of the pimenta tree. The pimenta tree is native to islands like Jamaica and the Greater Antilles and tropical locales around all around the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The small dried berries of the pimenta tree are more commonly known as allspice, which is prized for its big bold spice flavor that combines hints of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg (hence its name Allspice!) Once discovered back in the 1500s by European explorers, and prized for its unique spicy berry, it started to be cultivated all over Caribbean colonial locations.
With such a great flavor of warming spices, its no wonder that all spice found has found its way all into sorts of Caribbean cuisine, serving as a spice in things from Jamaican Jerk to Mexican Moles. With allspice being so prominent in food, its no wonder it became a flavor that found its way into the cocktails of the Caribbean and the recipe books of famous Tiki icons like Don the Beachcomber in the form of Allspice Dram.
Allspice dram is a common ingredient found in tons of Tiki cocktails, where it is used to bring a flavor of warm baking spice and hints of bitterness to the often sweet cocktails. For years, Allspice Dram was hard to find in the United States except at the classic Tiki bars and some very well stocked liquor stores. With the recent revival of the Tiki scene, Allspice Dram has made a comeback and more recipes are calling for the spicy bitterness of Allspice Dram.
While we could buy Allspice Dram, its fun to make our own blend (it is kind of our thing) and make our own homemade Allspice Dram. Making it homemade let us tweak the spice mix and bring in a bit more cinnamon flavor (or other spice flavors if you are into anise or nutmeg.) Plus making our own let save a little bit of cash (off the shelf bottles tend to be pricey as they are rare) which we could then spend on more rum!
This was really pretty easy to make, the hardest part probably was the waiting for the spice mix to full infuse the rum used as the base and remembering to give the bottle with the infusions a shake once a day. It is cool to see the rum change colors as the allspice gives up its essential oils, but avoid the temptation to take a taste unless you want to make yourself pucker! Allspice by itself is very bitter (which is why it is such a unique flavor component.)
Until you add the sugar syrup at the end, this mixture is really bitter and will completely dry your mouth out (think about the worst case of cotton mouth you have ever had!) The dram needs sweetness to help counter the dry bitterness of the raw spice mixture. This is another place you can experiment, as different types of sugars (we used simple brown sugar, but demerara might be really good) can change the flavor of this as well. You can also tweak the amount of syrup you add to help get your desired taste. Once the brown sugar syrup is added in at the end, it brings everything into balance and lets you get a great spicy flavor!
If you are a Tiki fan, you totally need to make this recipe so you can be sure to have this spicy super star in your homebar! Cheers!
- 1 cup white rum
- 1/4 cup whole allspice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- Grind the allspice berries in a spice grinder. You want coarse, large pieces and not a fine grind.
- Place the crushed allspice in a glass jar and pour the rum over.
- Seal and shake well.
- Let this steep for 4 days, shaking once a day.
- On day 5, place the cinnamon stick in.
- After 7 more days, and 12 days total steeping, strain out the solids through a fine-mesh strainer. Then strain again through cheesecloth or a coffee filter into another glass jar.
- Heat water and sugar on stove over medium until boiling, stirring to dissolve, about 5 minutes.
- Let the syrup cool, then add it to the strained allspice mixture.
- Shake and then let rest in the fridge for two days before using.