The Improved Fruitcake

We all hate fruitcake. It’s the Nickelback of desserts, nine out of ten Americans would rather eat the coal in their stockings than these fruit-riddled Christmas-ruiners, and Republicans and Democrats both agree that it’s basically a crime against holiday humanity (I have zero data to back this up, but like, duh).

Fruitcake for the Improved Fruitcake Cocktail

But what if there was a way to salvage the fruitcake? After all, it’s made of sugar, spices, candied fruit, butter, rum, and brandy. We LOVE those things.

As you might have already guessed, my solution to this problem is the same as it is for most problems: WE SHOULD ADD MORE ALCOHOL. Perhaps we’ve just been serving the fruitcake in the wrong form all these years: it was never meant to be a cake. It was meant to be a cocktail.

So I played with the proportions, bought the most garish green cherries I could find, and set forth to make a fruitcake to end all fruitcake.

Since it’s not a fruitcake without butter (and because rum is in fruitcake anyway), I decided to make this cocktail a riff on a Hot Buttered Rum. And because fruitcakes often contain candied pineapple, choosing the rum was no challenge: it could only be Plantation Pineapple. Fruitcakes are also often laced with brandy, so I paired the Plantation Pineapple with some Pierre Ferrand cognac.

In order to further mimic the original, I had to incorporate the fruitcake’s other iconic flavors: candied fruit, rich spice, and nuts. I did this by making a syrup with classic candied fruit, mulling spices, and sugar, and then added some black walnut bitters.

Syrup for the Improved Fruitcake Cocktail

Finally, after adding the liquor, syrup, bitters, and butter, I poured in hot (but not boiling) water, plopped on a garnish, and took a sip to see if the fruitcake worked better in liquid form.

It was a Christmas miracle. Mom, I hope you’re ready: because finally, FINALLY, I’m down to fruitcake with you this year.

Improved Fruitcake

Improved Fruitcake


  • 1 oz Pineapple Plantation Rum
  • 1 oz Pierre Ferrand Cognac
  • 3/4-1 oz fruitcake syrup* (depending on how sweet you’d like it to be)
  • Pat of butter
  • 3 dashes of black walnut bitters
  • Fill to brim with hot (but not quite boiling) water


Place rum, cognac, bitters, syrup, and syrup in a heat-proof mug, then pour in the hot water and stir briskly. Garnish with candied fruit and orange peel then serve.

For the Syrup:


  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of candied fruit (green and red cherries ideally)
  • 2 T mulling spices
  • 1 cup of water


Add water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and gradually begin adding sugar and stir until it is completely dissolved. Reduce heat further, add fruit and spices, stir, and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat, strain out the fruit and spices, and then allow to cool to room temperature before use . Store the remaining syrup in a glass container and use within five to seven days.

Happy Ho-lit-days!

For more original cocktails and tips on where to drink in California, check out @spiritedLA on Instagram. Tag me in your holiday recipes, I’d love to see what you’re up to!

Improved Fruitcake Hot Buttered Rum Holiday Cocktail
A toasty warm rum cocktail that redeems everyone’s least favorite holiday dessert: the fruitcake!


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