A Hot Catalan Cocktail for Halloween

If you are looking for an interesting beverage for your Halloween party, gentle reader, or indeed any evening when the air is chilly, allow me to suggest a Catalan concoction which is not only extremely tasty, but also very festive. Along the Costa Brava in Catalonia, fishermen gathered around the fire on the beach in the evenings came up with a rather strong brew called a “rom cremat”, which literally means “burnt rum”, but is more commonly simply referred to as a “cremat”. Dating from the 19th century when Catalonia was heavily involved with business dealings in Cuba, the drink was easy to prepare outdoors, warming, and potent enough to lubricate the vocal cords for the singing of sea shanties known as “habeneres” after La Habana – which are usually about immigration to Cuba, pretty girls left behind in port, adventures during the Spanish-American War, and so on.

The cremat is a mixture of rum, espresso, cinnamon, sugar, lemon peel, and coffee beans, at minimum, although there are optional additions such as brandy (which I add), aguardiente, and so on. The preparation is fairly straightforward, but involves setting the drink on fire for a considerable length of time; culturally speaking, this is in keeping with the Catalans having a thing for pyromania. Naturally, dear reader, this would make a very fitting and impressive display for your Halloween party. Just make sure to do this outside, away from anything flammable, and keep an eye on it with a garden hose or bucket of water handy.

Below follows a pretty basic recipe that I particularly favor. Those interested in the variations available should be able to find numerous English-language versions of how to make cremat on the internet. NOTE: when choosing the alcohol for the dish, do not get the top shelf stuff; this is a burnt drink, so you want a high alcohol content, and any subtleties of flavor in the unadulterated liquids will be completely lost during the burning process.

– 1 bottle of dark rum
– 1 bottle of brandy
– 1/2 cup of espresso
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar (to taste)
– 3 cinnamon sticks
– the peel of 1-2 lemons
– 6-8 coffee beans (optional)

Add everything EXCEPT the espresso into a shallow earthenware casserole dish (you can also use a stockpot or Dutch oven if it is flameproof and not coated with a non-stick material), and warm it on top of the stove until the mixture is fairly warm, like bath water temperature. You need to do this or the sugar will not melt and the liquor will not ignite. Taste the mixture and add some more sugar to taste, if you wish.

Now take the dish off the stove, take it outside, and set the mixture alight. You may need to use several long matches or a long kitchen lighter to get it going. Do NOT leave the mixture unattended. EVER.

Purists believe you should allow the mixture to burn for 10 minutes: no more, no less. This allows the flavors to develop through caramelization. You may stir from time to time if you wish, but use a metal spoon or spatula with a long handle to keep you away from the flames.

Practically speaking, apart from the 10-minute rule, when the mixture has reduced in volume about 1/3 to 1/2 it is ready to serve. Put out the flame quickly by smothering it with a metal saucepan lid or, if you have big lungs for it like I do, just blow out the flame. Then add in the espresso, stir, and ladle the finished drink into cups.

Bon profit!!!

6 thoughts on “A Hot Catalan Cocktail for Halloween

  1. Pingback: How to prepare Rom Cremat | InfoCatalonia

  2. Pingback: CW252: CNMC, Cuba, and Midnight Mass | SQPN: Catholic WeekendCW252: CNMC, Cuba, and Midnight Mass - SQPN: Catholic Weekend

  3. Pingback: Nit de L’Havanera: Sea shanties and flaming rum | cocktailswoutborders

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  5. Reblogged this on Susilawati The Singer and commented:
    Gracias, William Newton, for this particular post. It led me to your web log, “Blog of the Courtier”. Yesterday I learned of the passing of a fine friend, Siti Laila Dempster of Jakarta, peace upon her soul. In starting to scribe this morning, reflecting on parts of Laila’s life that had touched mine, her “rom cremat” recipe raced to the fore. Having forgotten its name, the ensuing internet search led me to your post. A singer, I was with Laila preparing for a performance when she exuberantly insisted on preparing my voice by offering me the special “fisherman singer’s” choral cup. It was a unique experience, along with listening to Laila’s silken stories of her youthful travels, having had a father in the foreign service. They had traveled widely, as is the case in such work. No doubt there’d been drawbacks, as such families in service know; but Laila’s inherent sense of the international, from the inside, out, was life-treat to experience.
    (During the 1990’s, whilst living in London, I had the occasion to be introduced to Laila’s father. Meeting him felt rather like encountering a John Le Carre character, or, even the author himself.)
    Lailah, a talented portraitist and painter, happened to be one who enjoyed my singing. Her spontaneous support towards me at that “rom cremat” (created on a hotplate in her then adorable digs off Jalan Fatmawati, Jakarta, ) time remains in the forefront of my musical memories.
    Laila’s generosity of spirit was truly alive. On the same visit, she connected me with the late dress designer, Laura White, whose creation I still have. (Others were worn by the lively Latifah Myerson, as well as Roswita Willecke).
    On a subsequent visit to the guest house in the compound wherein Laila lived, she offered me a room kitty-cornered from hers, under the same roof, and to share the cost of the indispensable services of her maid.
    The life lessons learned in Sofia Bohdanowicz’s award-winning film “Maison Du Bonheur” resonate with me in remembering past times near Laila Airlie Dempster.
    Insightful daily routines, consciously conducted, with grace, joy, and infusions of humility and gratitude, are with me in remembering the late Laila, may God rest her soul.
    Merci bien, and gracias a Dios.


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