When I was growing up, my dad was not only my hero but also the light of my life. He was a real man: strong, smart, generous, kind, charming and the most hilarious person you could ever know. Funny thing is, as we grow older and reminisce about the crazy things that my dad used to say and do, it turns out that he was probably a little more like a criminal than we realized when we were kids. Like the time that he raffled off my grandmother’s fur coat without her knowledge. Lucky for my grandmother, he fixed the raffle so that the winner was one of his friends, who would put the coat back in her closet before she realized it was missing. See? Criminal!
On Christmas one year, we were hosting our annual Open House. As the day turned to evening, Dad decided to re-stoke the fire in our living room. Our living room had a big picture window directly across from the fireplace, and the lights from the tree were so pretty reflected in the glass panes. Dad cleaned out the ashes from our earlier fire and took them across the street to dump them in the woods as he always did. He came back and built a big, roaring fire. Half an hour later, as my mom sat on the settee, she remarked how beautiful the Christmas lights and fireplace were aglow in the reflection of the big picture window. Then we heard the sirens. The fire engine sirens. The fire engines that were rushing to put out the fire in the woods across from our house. As we all ran outside to watch, Dad stood among the neighbors and I heard him say, “Now, what kind of asshole would set fire to the woods on Christmas night? That guy oughta be shot!”
There was not a single neighbor in that crowd that thought for a minute that Dad was the culprit because that was who he was in a nutshell. He was a bad boy to the core, but so funny and charming that he could not only get you to give him the shirt off your back, but you would throw in the pants, too.
This Christmas, seven years since he passed away, I know that many hours will be spent in front of my own Christmas tree looking at the lights reflecting in the window and telling stories about Dad’s antics. Those stories are so great, they deserve a special holiday drink. One that warms your soul just as those memories do. This is the best hot buttered rum I have ever made, without question. At the beginning of the season, I will whip up a big batch to keep in my freezer, making steaming mugs of this delicious warm cocktail as friends stop by for love and laughs.
For all of you, I hope this holiday season is full of memories, old and new, innocent and maybe even a little criminal. Miss you, Dad.
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, Food Network
Hot Buttered Rum
10 to 12 servings
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Bottle dark or spiced rum (personally, I prefer spiced rum)
Whipped Cream (optional)
In a bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Refrigerate until almost firm. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into 12 small mugs. Pour about 3 ounces of rum into each mug (filling about halfway). Top with boiling water (to fill the remaining half), stir very well, top with whipped cream, and serve.
Freezer directions: Roll butter mixture into 12 balls, and flash-freeze on a tray. Once frozen, store butter balls in a freezer bag.