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Take A Virtual Vacation With These Warming Holiday Cocktails Inspired By Barbados

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Photo of the Hot Bajan Holiday cocktail by Krista Simmons/LAist
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All of this chilly weather may have you wishing you could just click our heels and be on a beach somewhere. Preferably a beach with beautiful people, Bajan music, stiff rum cocktails, and warm, crystal clear waters. Rather than wistfully fantasizing about jetting off to Barbados—which we admittedly have been doing since returning from the Food, Wine and Rum Festival—we decided embrace to embrace the winter, taking some of that island inspiration into the kitchen to make spicy seasonal cocktails.

The rum of Barbados is most distinct for its character: It's sexy and smooth, but also has some of the spices that are quintessentially Christmasy, like allspice, clove, and cinnamon.

"Our rum gets you sweet," said Chesterfield Browne, the ambassador for Mount Gay Rum, as he lead us through the distillery's sugar cane fields in Saint Lucy. And who doesn't want to be a little sweet this time of year? It's certainly better than being a scrooge. The holiday rum cocktails we crafted will help you do just that.

The first is a twist on a Mexican hot chocolate that uses traditionally Bajan ingredients. The key to this warming sip is the Scotch bonnet pepper, which adds the fiery heat to the country's bangin' Bajan hot sauce which gets slathered on grilled flying fish (the national dish of Barbados) and "cutters," or sandwiches made on salt bread stuffed with fish, lettuce, tomato, and sometimes cheese and egg.

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Both drinks we created also use plenty of clove, which is used heavily in Bajan seasoning and island cooking.

The second drink is a riff on a classic Caribbean cocktail, the Dark and Stormy. We used West Indian orange bitters to harken the scent of a pomander, as well as spicy ginger beer that you'd find in Barbados. Naturally, the the main ingredient in both cocktails is rum. Mount Gay Rum to be exact.

Mount Gay is the oldest rum distillery in the world, being founded in 1703, and the pride of Barbados. Their rum is made with molasses, which gives it that deep, rich, caramelized flavor that tastes so wonderful in warm cocktails around the holiday months.

We chose to craft our holiday drinks with Mount Gay's new Black Barrel rum, which is aged in bourbon barrels, lending that toasty, deep flavor that whiskey-fiends will love. But even if you're not a spirits nerd, these sips will get you into the holidays spirit, and have you happy to be right where you are.

Here's how they're made:

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Hot Bajan Holiday

For cocktail:

2 tbsp organic cocoa powder
1 cup whole milk
1 oz Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum
1 oz Bajan spiced simple syrup (see recipe below)
cinnamon stick for garnish

For Bajan spiced simple syrup:

3 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, halved, deveined and deseeded
1 stick cinnamon
3 whole cloves
1 star anise
1 tbsp fresh orange juice

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To make the simple syrup, combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a low boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and continue to stir until the sugar has dissolved. (We are making a 3:1 simple syrup for this recipe so that it's sweet enough to sweeten the hot cocoa without adding more sugar.)

In a separate small pan, combine cocoa powder, milk, and Bajan spiced simple syrup over low heat, whisking continually. Once the mixture has become piping hot just before boiling, add rum and whisk. Remove from the heat carefully pour into a mug. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

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Photo of the Dark and Stormy Winter by Krista Simmons/LAist
Dark and Stormy Winter

1 oz Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum
1 oz unfiltered spiced apple cider (we used Trader Joe's brand)
.5 oz spicy ginger beer (like Bundaberg or Reed's)
2 dashes Fee's West Indian Orange Bitters
candied ginger to garnish

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Combine all ingredients except for ginger beer in a Boston shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into coupe glass, top with ginger beer, and garnish with candied ginger. Cheers!