Recipe: DIY Allspice Dram

I’ve been on a bit of a tiki cocktail kick recently, and one result of that minor obsession is that I’ve been exposed to some different ingredients and liqueurs that I otherwise might have simply passed by without a second thought in the local liquor store. One of those concoctions that I’ve been experimenting with recently is something called an “allspice dram”. While a store bought version happened to be available in my city, I figured I would try my hand at making my own at home.


Originally a Jamaican invention called the “pimento dram” (due to the allspice berries coming from a pimento tree), the allspice dram is a liqueur that uses dried allspice berries and other spices to flavor a rum base spirit that is then sweetened with simple syrup. The spirit was popularized and mass produced by the Jamaican rum company Wray & Nephew starting around the beginning of the 20th century and was used in a few popular cocktails, but its popularity really took off when the tiki craze of the 1930’s and onwards discovered the spicy and unique flavor and began more widely using the liqueur.

This is one of the key elements in my current favorite tiki cocktail the Three Dots and a Dash, but it can be found in numerous other recipes as well. You can even serve this on its own like a measure of any other digestif.




Step One: Crush some Allspice Berries

The goal of this little science experiment is to infuse the white rum base with as much allspice flavor as we possibly can. We do that by crushing up those allspice berries, which increases the surface area of those dried berries available for the rum to interact with as well as releasing some of the interior flavors from the berries.

I started with about one cup of allspice berries, put them in a mortar, and then used the pestle to crush those berries against the stone by pressing down firmly and rotating the tool in my hand. We don’t want them to be ground to a fine powder — just enough to crack open the berries.

This is what the berries looked like when I was done. Note that there are still plenty of shells visible and it’s not just a fine powder. We don’t need to go crazy here.

Step Two: Soak Crushed Berries in White Rum

Of all the steps, this is the one that took the longest period of time.

Take your crushed berries, add them to a mason jar, and then add two cups of white rum to the jar. It can be any white rum you want, but the key here is that we want a somewhat neutral rum since the allspice berries are intended to be the star of the show. I’d recommend Bacardi Superior for the job, solely because it’s a cheap and inoffensive white rum that doesn’t have very strong flavors of its own.

Once you’ve added the components together you are going to let this jar sit for ten days. If you feel the urge, you can give it a shake about once a day, but otherwise you just have to wait patiently. It takes time for the flavors to properly infuse.


Step Three: Add Cinnamon

On the tenth day, grab two raw cinnamon sticks. Break them up and add them to the jar. Give it a shake, and let the jar sit for two more days.

In some other recipes, they recommend adding the cinnamon about two days earlier and only doing one stick, but personally I think a little more time in the bottle for the allspice and a heftier helping of cinnamon leads to a better flavor profile. Feel free to try out your own variations at home! Experimentation is half the fun here.

Step Four: Filter Into Bottle

Once your concoction is properly infused, it’s time to actually turn this into a drinkable liquid. The first step is to remove the larger solid chunks, leaving behind only the properly infused (no longer white) rum.

Some online recipes recommend using a coffee filter to strain stuff out. It works, and it will definitely keep all the solids out of your final bottle, but I ran into two problems. First, it’s a slow and annoying process that takes forever. And second, the filter has the potential to remove some of the flavors that we wanted in the first place.

I swapped pretty quickly to a simple kitchen strainer that I linked in the materials list above. It let some small solids through, but I haven’t noticed any negative impact.

In the end you’re left with this muck that’s as spicy and fragrant, and a bottle of brown liquid.


Step Five: Make Simple Syrup and Add to Bottle

The last step here is to turn this infused rum into a proper liqueur, and that requires some added sugar. So what we’re going to do is create a simple syrup using brown sugar and then add that to the bottle.

Some people think a 1:1 mixture of sugar and water is the right call, but I think the better option is a 2:1 mixture — two cups of sugar to one cup of water. It’s a little bit more viscous and doesn’t dilute the final liquid as much. Heat the sugar and water over a stove and stir until it dissolves, then let the mixture cool for a couple minutes before adding it to the bottle with the infused rum.

Once everything is in the bottle, let it sit for a couple days and then enjoy!

I find that things taste better when you’ve put the time and effort into it to make them yourself. In this case, the allspice dram really shines in this cocktail and makes it even more delicious than usual. Let us know in the comments if you give this a try, and what cocktails work best for you!


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