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Local Libations: Celebes Dream – a Spiced Rum Cocktail

2011 October 21

By Sarah A. Maine

Ingredients for Celebes DreamSunnyside, NY – Today is the first real cold day of the season in New York; Boreas is turning to face us, chasing all thoughts of summer away.  The temperature is hovering in the fifties, the sky is a dull grey, and a chilly wind whips around corners – startling pedestrians and snatching the leaves off the trees with purpose and even a little urgency.

On days like this, when we leave the house wearing one too few layers, it’s not uncommon to turn to warm liquids and comfort foods – nourishment to soothe our bodies and our minds.  The scent of cinnamon and cloves are freighted with nostalgia.  In the US, spiced aromas call up memories of Autumn holiday feasts, associations which I share.  But these spices warm me in another way too – they remind me of a childhood lived on the equator – in the very cradle of the spices themselves.

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The layers of spice in Brianna’s Pumpkin Spiced Russian called to me, offering a tonic against the prickly fingers of fall.  When I open a jar of cloves, the scent transports me to a garden bursting with cloves trees, their leaves tipped with pink, a gentle perfume wreathed on the hot and humid air.

When I say spiced rum cocktail, I mean it.  You can tone it down by using refined sugar and a white rum in place of the demerara sugar and black spiced rum that I use here.  I went whole hog on the spices to maximize their warming effect on my body and on my imagination.  I use them in food and drink to fight against the grey, and to evoke the sensory overload of the place where I grew up.  The plum compote adds a New York end-of-summer note, but you can use whatever fruit you like.  I made this compote a couple of weeks ago with the last plums of the season from Red Jacket Orchards.  I think pear could work well, so would guava.

I also need to come clean about the rum – there was no organic option at the liquor store near my house, so I went for the one that caught my eye.  How could I not choose the bottle with the giant kraken on the label?

Celebes Dream

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Active Prep Time (for drink): 2 minutes

Yield: 1 cocktail


For the compote*:

  • 1 quart plums, pitted and diced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 3 Tablespoons honey (add more depending on how sweet you want it)
  • *makes about 1 1/2 cups

For the Simple syrup*:

  • 1 cup demerara sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 10 cloves
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • *makes about 1/2 cup

For the cocktail:

  • 2 oz spiced rum
  • 1 oz cinnamon & clove spiced simple syrup
  • 1-2 Tbs Plum ginger compote
  • Soda water


  1. For the compote: combine the pitted diced plums, minced ginger, water and honey in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently for about 15 minutes until the fruit breaks down into a thick sauce.  Transfer to a storage vessel and set aside to cool.
  2. For the simple syrup: combine sugar, cloves, cinnamon sticks and water in a pan.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat until the mixture is at a constant simmer.  Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Simmer for 20 minutes, decant into a jar and set aside to cool.
  3. For the cocktail: in a shaker combine 2 oz black spiced rum, 1 oz simple syrup, 2 Tablespoons plum ginger compote and a few cubes of ice.  Shake!!
  4. Strain into a highball glass, add a couple pieces of ice and top with soda water.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick, kick back and let the spices warm your body and your mind.

Celebes DreamSarah A. Maine is a Co-Founder & Editor of RecipeRelay, on most Sundays she can be found spreading the good news about organic produce at the Monkshood Nursery farm stand at the Jackson Heights Greenmarket in Queens, NY.