JM | Nov 24, 2022

5 ways Jamaicans use rum during Christmas

Tamoy Ashman

Tamoy Ashman / Our Today


With the Christmas period fast approaching, rum purchases in Jamaica are likely to rise, given the many different ways that we use the substance to spice up the holiday season.

Alcohol is a big part of Jamaica’s culture, most commonly used at celebratory events.

Among the list of spices and seasonings – such as all purpose, thyme, scallion, onion and more – for some households, alcohol is the secret ingredient used to give a dish or even pastry that special touch.

In fact, some of these practices require rum to be purchased at least a month in advance, so that the flavours have time to marinate.

If you are feeling the spirit this Christmas, but you do not know how to incorporate alcohol into your meal prep, here are some ways Jamaicans use rum or alcohol, especially during the holiday season.

1. To make sorrel


If you have not yet purchased some sorrel at the market, then this is your reminder; because there is no Christmas without sorrel.

Sorrel is a deep purple plant that is picked and boiled in hot water, along with ginger, cloves and pimento.

It is then left to brew for a few hours and the sorrel blossoms are strained, leaving behind the rich purple liquid. The mixture is sweetened with sugar and flavoured with Wray and Nephew rum and red label wine after at least four hours.

At the end, you are left with a beverage that will have you beating your chest and whispering “ginjah”.

2. Baking Christmas cake

Jamaican Christmas fruit cake. (Photo:

The preparation process for Christmas cake starts at least three months before the holiday, where cherries, currants, prunes, raisins and orange peels are soaked in wine and rum, preserved in airtight jars.

Soaking the fruits in rum enhances their flavours, making the pastry even more enjoyable.

The soaked fruits and its juices, cinnamon, vanilla extract, nutmeg, sifted flour and browning or molasses are then mixed together to form a batter.

After baking, some Jamaicans also love to ‘sprinkle’ some more rum on top of the cake, to keep it moist, as well as to give it an extra kick.

3. To cook meat

Christmas dinner in Jamaica is always highly anticipated, mainly because of the different types of meat that will be present.

On an ordinary day, or even any other holiday, either chicken, curry goat or jerk pork is made. But, on Christmas day, Jamaicans make all three or even more.

To spice up the dish, rum is often added, especially to jerk chicken or jerk pork. The liquid is either marinated overnight with the meat and other spices used to season the meat, or it is brushed on during the cooking process.

Either way, there is 90 per cent change of rum being in at least one dish you eat this holiday season.

4. To soothe the body

Are you feeling sick around the holiday period but you do not want to miss out on the festivities? Well, if you have some white rum, Jamaicans will tell you to use it and “sap” down your body.

Though it is not specific to the holiday season, Jamaicans often use rum for ailments or a fever, when there is no rubbing alcohol around.

The sick person would be rubbed down with the rum from head to toe and asked to inhale some as well. Some might even be poured in the middle of your head or ‘mole’ to help with a cold.

Next, they would wrap them in a sheet, and wait for them to “sweat it out”.

5. To preserve food and beverages

That delicious Christmas cake and rich sorrel only comes once a year, so it is expected that we want to savour the moment as long as we can.

Well, rum can be used to preserve that cake, months after it is baked. In fact, most Jamaican wedding cakes are fruit cakes, and the top tier is often kept and ate on the couples one year anniversary.

Rum is also good for preserving sorrel, though it might not last as long.

Either way, if you wish to keep these delicious treats for as long as you can, use some rum.


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