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About 120 years ago, when I went to college for a while near San Diego, a few of us decided to go skiing for the first time. And, for me, it was the last time. Color me the least athletic of the group, so the idea of skiing was much more appealing than the terrifying reality.

You see, at that age, the brain hasn’t quite jelled so, as a college kid, thinking a situation through isn’t really an option. You just go for it. I suppose that’s the reason I didn’t research simple things like the ski lift. If I had, then I would have been prepared when I saw that the darn thing didn’t stop to let you on. Really? I’ve got wooden slats anchored to space boots and I’m supposed to nimbly maneuver my posterior onto a Ferris wheel- like contraption without incident?

When, to my horror, I saw the chairs seemingly whiz by, I kept letting people get in front of me in line so that I could assess the situation, and figure out how to climb on without killing myself or, worse, embarrassing myself to death. College, remember. Everything is a big, overblown deal.

Finally, when I felt that people were staring at me because I was in line so long, I just threw caution to the wind and took my place and waited like you do when playing double jump rope in elementary school. You can go now. No, now. Wait, ok, now! And, so, I slid onto a moving chair as I noticed everybody else doing and, not surprisingly, no one got on with me. That was unfortunate, because as soon as my rear hit the seat, my right ski popped off of my boot and dangled by a loop around my ankle. I can’t tell you how unprepared I was for that to happen. While getting on the lift was a big fear, wondering how to get off was even more frightening, and now that I had a renegade ski my brain went into overload. I couldn’t reach down to try and fix it because there wasn’t a retention bar. And the lift was gaining altitude, which I suppose makes sense given its name.

I swear this is true. When I thought that the situation was getting even more bleak, an angel landed on the seat next to me. OK, so he was, in all probability, not an angel. He was, in fact, a guy working on the lift who saw that I clearly had an issue, so he managed (I have no idea how) to get onto my chair. He promptly secured my ski back onto my stupid boot and, after I thanked him profusely, he answered a very important question: How do I get off of this thing? He told me to simply slide off when I felt the ground under my skis. And, then, he hopped off or disappeared. I really don’t know, but I was alone when I got to the top of the hill and, with my heart in my throat, I slid off. On my derriere. I think it probably took me two days to finally make it down the hill. All the while, those vile 6-year-old kids were zipping by me.

When I finally hit solid ground, I quickly made my way to the lodge where I could relax with a hot chocolate and watch all of the skiers glide down the hill as if they were having a grand time.

I still don’t ski, but I do like ski lodges, especially now that the hot chocolate has been replaced with a lovely, smooth hot buttered rum.

When it comes to hot buttered rum, years ago, I used to buy the batter in a little plastic tub, but that’s just silly when it’s so easy to make, and you get to control the ingredients. A homemade batch of spicy batter makes a terrific gift, and it’s even better if you throw in a nice bottle of rum.

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The batter keeps for months in the fridge, so you just have to make it once and it should last until spring thaw. Hot buttered rums make perfect finales after a holiday meal. I’ll give you a fairly basic, traditional (sort of) recipe, and you can play around with it if you like. For instance, you can add any kind of citrus zest to the batter. Orange if often used, but so is lemon and even grapefruit. And while, traditionally, the mix is served with boiling water and rum, you can substitute hot cider, coffee and even chai tea for the water. At this point, it’s more of a grog than a hot buttered rum, but let’s not quibble.

I’m going to ask you to try something a little different, and you should trust me on this, but it is optional. Add a fat pinch of cayenne pepper to the batter. I’m not kidding. The faint hint of heat cuts through the sweetness of the drink. You’ll hardly notice it, but I think you’ll appreciate the extra zing. After all, it’s not unusual to have black pepper or some other heat source when making gingerbread cookies. It’s not that big of a stretch. If you’re afraid to add it to the whole batch, just put a tiny pinch in a single serving and see what you think. Tell me if it’s not fantastic.

This recipe is so simple. Place all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix with a beater as if you were creaming sugar and butter for a cake batter. However, it won’t be that wet or smooth. It’ll resemble a graham cracker crust. Creaming the ingredients keeps the butter from separating when you add the hot water and rum. An oil slick on top of a hot buttered rum is terribly unappealing.

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Hot Buttered Rum Batter

In a medium mixing bowl add:

1 box (1 pound) dark brown sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (I beg of you not to use margarine.)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste

Pinch of kosher salt

Fat pinch of cayenne pepper (Optional but highly recommended.)

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Beat with an electric mixer on medium for about 1 minute, then raise the speed to high and beat 2 minutes more.

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You can see that the mixture is crumbly, and that you can easily smooth it out. 

Pack in tightly sealed containers and store in the refrigerator.

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To make a hot buttered rum, place about 1
heaping tablespoon of batter in an 8-ounce mug, add about 6 ounces of boiling water, and mix well to dissolve the batter. Add about 1 1/2-ounces rum. Serve hot.

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A word about the rum. You can use any rum you like, but Jamaican is traditional. I happen to love the lush flavor of Appleton Estate.

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