bay rum

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I’m trying out a Christmas experiment, and if you want to experiment, too, you’ve got just enough time to play along. I’m taking a whack at making homemade bay rum, or some approximation of it, to give as Christmas gifts.

(In the unlikely event that my brother B or my brothers-in-law are reading this: Surprise! Merry Christmas!)


Now, when I say “homemade bay rum,” what I mean is “ersatz bay rum.” True bay rum contains the essential oil of Pimenta racemosa, not bay laurel, the leaves typically used in household recipes.
Nonetheless, some of the recipes I found online recommend trying kitchen bay leaves, and since the original contains citrus and spice oils, I thought it might make a pleasant (if utterly inauthentic) aftershave. I cobbled together the most plausible-sounding recipes for homemade bay rum and decided to give it a whirl.

I’ve got a jar of the infused vodka base nearing the two-week mark right now, and it smells pretty darned good. I’ll let you know how the final product looks and smells, and I’ll ask the recipients for feedback to refine the recipe. In the meantime, if you want to gamble along with me, you have ample time to get it steeped before Christmas.

update: the bay rum looks and smells great! It’s a deep amber color, with a heady spicy scent. I splashed a little of the strained vodka tincture on my hands and gave a good sniff; it smelled so great that I decided to bottle it as-is instead of adding the witch hazel. I was surprised to discover that, though it’s bracing, it doesn’t sting, not even when it got into a cut on my finger. It should make nice aftershave!

utterly inauthentic bay rum

In a sterile, wide-mouthed glass jar, place
– a handful of bay leaves, crushed
– 6-8 whole cloves
– 2 allspice berries
– zest (no pith) from 1 lime, 1 lemon, and 1 orange
– 2 quarters of one whole nutmeg

and cover with

– 2 c. vodka

Let steep in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks.

Strain through a sieve lined with coffee filter or cheesecloth*, and mix with

– 2 cup witch hazel

and decant into a glass bottle. I’m using a small dark green bottle that formerly held vermouth, sterilized and sealed with a cork.

* I’m wondering if I should bring the alcohol to a boil after straining, to take some of the sting out of the final aftershave. Any opinions?

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