What Is Pimento Dram?

An Allspice-Flavored Liqueur That's Essential for Tiki Cocktails

Pimento Dram in highball glass

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Pimento dram is an herbal liqueur with a rum base that is flavored with the distinct taste of allspice. Also called allspice dram, this is not a mixer that you'll find too often as you explore cocktail recipes. However, its dark spice is essential to many of the best tiki cocktails as well as cool-weather drinks. Adding a bottle to your bar is sure to elevate your drinking experience.

What Is Allspice (or Pimento) Dram?

This liqueur goes by two names because of its main ingredient. Allspice is the berry of the pimento tree. The plant's fruit is also called Jamaican pepper and is the same pimento that is popularly stuffed into olives. The allspice berry is harvested and dried, making an appearance as a spice in Caribbean, Middle Eastern, and Latin American cuisines. In the drink world, allspice is often paired with other warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla in drinks like mulled wine.

Allspice dram originates in the tree's native Jamaica. According to Ted Haigh's "Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails," it was originally called pimiento in Spanish and became known as allspice when the English got ahold of it.

The liqueur is made by soaking allspice berries in a rum base, which is then sweetened. Today, allspice dram is made in relatively the same manner. The flavor is best described as a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. The amber-colored liqueur can be stored like other liqueurs (no need to refrigerate open bottles).

History

Allspice dram became a relatively popular liqueur across Europe and in America. It was bottled commercially, most famously by the Jamaican rum company Wray & Nephew. Drinks from the early 1900s like the winter cocktail and the lion's tail (a 1930s mix of bourbon, allspice dram, lime, simple syrup, and aromatic bitters) showed off the unique taste of this sweet-spicy spirit.

During the mid-20th-century, allspice dram really found its place in the bar. This was due largely to its use by tiki bar pioneers like Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber. Allspice dram was a natural complement and added a spicy background element to a number of rum cocktails. It began popping up in new renditions of cocktails like the Navy grog and planter's punch.

Unfortunately, there was a time around the 1980s when pimento dram production ceased almost entirely. It was nearly impossible to find in the United States and many bartenders and drinkers attempted to make their own version. That has since changed. A renewed interest in reviving old cocktail recipes over the last few decades increased demand for such seemingly forgotten liqueurs. Eventually, a few companies released new bottlings of allspice dram.

Brands

Allspice dram may not be on every liquor store's shelf, but it is getting easier to find, especially if you shop online. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram from Haus Alpenz was among the first to come onto the market and it remains a favorite brand. You can also look for bottles of The Bitter Truth Pimento Dram and Hamilton Jamaican Pimento Dram.

Cocktails

When you add a bottle of pimento dram to your bar, you'll discover interesting new ways to use the liqueur. Not only can it work out in tiki-style cocktail, but it's also useful in cool weather cocktails. You can even add a splash to your afternoon coffee for a spiced sweetener.

Allspice dram mixes best with rum; whiskey (particularly bourbon) and gin are great pairings for it as well. Don't be afraid of mixing it with other spices like caraway, cinnamon, and ginger as the complexity of these drinks can be very charming.

For inspiration, try allspice dram in a surprised cocktail in which the liqueur is paired with rum, the caraway-flavored kummel, and orange juice. A remake of the poinsettia punch places it against gin, Chambord, cinnamon, and three different bitters for a festive delight. It also plays a role in the cranberry fresh punch where it offers an intriguing complement to the gin's juniper.

Then, when you really want to play around in the bar, you'll want to try the Marriage of Figaro. This innovative recipe begins with fig-infused bourbon, adds the artichoke-kissed Cardamaro, and just a touch of allspice dram. It's a fascinating experience, to say the least.

Make Your Own

If you're a fan of DIY mixers, you might enjoy making your own version of allspice dram. Since the only flavoring ingredient is allspice, it's not a difficult homemade liqueur. It is best to pick up a commercial bottle so you're familiar with the taste you want to emulate.

Use rum as the base for your allspice dram; Jamaican rums are a natural choice, though some people prefer light Puerto Rican rum or dark demerara rums. You'll need about 1/4 cup of whole allspice berries for each cup of rum and the berries need to be crushed or ground into large pieces. Combine the rum and allspice in a jar and seal it up to infuse for between 10 and 14 days before straining out the allspice.

To make the infused rum into a liqueur, make a simple syrup. Use either raw or brown sugar to give it a deep flavor base and mix the syrup at a ratio of two parts water to one part sugar. Once your syrup cools, add it to the rum infusion, sweetening it to suit your taste.

Some homemade allspice dram recipes include cinnamon sticks, cloves, or coarsely ground nutmeg as well. This does add to the flavor's complexity, though is not necessary. If you do add these ingredients, keep in mind that the cinnamon and clove do not need to infuse as long as the allspice. Add them after the first week and you should get a nicely balanced flavor.