What exactly is allspice dram?

Contrary to popular belief, allspice isn't a blend of multiple spices — it's a flavorful, single-source "kitchen superhero" named for its sweet, savory, and warming notes that evoke a trio of spice-rack staples: cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon (via McCormick & Company). But what solidifies superhero status more than the ability to create a versatile liqueur that's a must-have addition in everything from tropical cocktails to Caribbean cuisine? 

Enter allspice dram (also called pimento dram), a once hard-to-find ingredient in the United States that's now more widely available and, with a little patience, can even be made from scratch at home (via Serious Eats). Allspice dram offers sweet and spicy notes to the recipes it's added to, but promises not to be too sugary or too bitter. What more could you want in a liqueur?

The origins of allspice

According to the University of the West Indies, allspice berries are harvested from the pimento tree, named after the Spanish pimienta, which means pepper or peppercorn — a nod to its feisty flavor profile. The university explains that the tree has been continually produced in Jamaica since its identification in 1509 and remains something of a national spice for the small Caribbean island. No wonder, then, that allspice dram remains a key ingredient in food and beverages from the region, including rum punch, tiki drinks, jerk chicken marinades, and the classic bourbon-based cocktail Lion's Tail (via Haus Alpenz).

How is allspice dram made — and used?

Serious Eats outlines a straightforward process for the home mixologist to craft allspice dram from only a few ingredients — rum, crushed whole allspice berries, a cinnamon stick, water, and brown sugar — and a bit of time (12 days steeping). Meanwhile, artisanal manufacturers of allspice dram may toss in complexity-boosting components like molasses or lime (via Liquor.com). 

Whether homemade or store-bought, Haus Alpenz notes that, in addition to its usefulness for summertime libations that evoke the irie spirit of the islands, its spicy properties make a great addition to a host of winter warmers (think mulled wine, toddies, and coffee-based beverages), or even drizzled into whipped cream for a boozy dessert topping. In other words, true to its Caribbean roots, allspice dram offers a welcome flavor escape year-round.