Why Your Cocktails Need Popcorn

It’s more than just a bar snack or garnish

July 21, 2023 6:15 am
Rum Com drink at Jac's on Bond, which features popcorn
The Rum Com drink at Jac's on Bond, featuring a popcorn-infused rum
Max Flatow

A few years ago I experienced an almost child-like joy (I say “almost” because I’m an adult and it involves alcohol) when I encountered a popcorn-influenced drink. I was touring a Virgin Voyages cruise ship when I discovered a Popcorn Old Fashioned at an onboard restaurant called Razzle Dazzle. Essentially, it was the classic whiskey cocktail served in a hard-plastic popcorn bucket and covered with kettle corn. 

It was divine. It brought back the joys of going to a movie theater and eating a giant bucket of processed popcorn alongside a sugary drink (my experience was one year into COVID — I was missing things). The whiskey base just added a nice buzzy twist. 

Admittedly, the popcorn for the Popcorn Old Fashioned was just there as an aesthetic and for aroma. But it turns out — shocker — a drink that has a corn-based liquor (bourbon) can be enhanced by adding more (pop)corn. And as someone who loves the tasting note of “salted caramel butter popcorn,” it doesn’t hurt to get literal to achieve that flavor profile.

Fast forward a year and a half, and I finally found a more elevated popcorn drink at a bar called Jac’s on Bond in Manhattan’s NoHo district. Recently opened in an 1831 townhouse by Authentic Hospitality (Pebble Bar, Ray’s, Bar Calico and Georgia Room), Jac’s serves a Rum Com, a popcorn-infused rum tipple that offers up instantly recognizable buttery, sweet, toasted and slightly nutty popcorn notes but now rounded out in a more balanced drink.

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And it involves a lot more than pouring kettle corn over bourbon.

“For this drink, the popcorn infusion involves a 24-hour cold infusion of lightly buttered and salted popcorn,” says Jac’s on Bond head bartender Trevor Easton Langer. “It’s really a strong popcorn flavor. You’ll end up with the richness and salinity from the butter and salt, but this specific infusion isn’t a nuance. It’s more of a what you see is what you get.’”

The bar team at Jac’s on Bond, including Trevor Easton Langer (second from left)

The real question is why more bartenders haven’t tried to utilize popcorn as an infusion, given the snack’s ubiquity at bars. “Something like popcorn probably isn’t used as much because it’s either not on one’s radar or could be considered too divisive,” Langer admits (the concept has been done well and even won awards, but popcorn is more often seen as a garnish).

That said, Langer himself doesn’t find the use of popcorn overly precious or divisive. “Sometimes you have to throw things at the wall and see what sticks,” he says. “If you like popcorn and think some flavors mesh well with it, give it a go in your drink.”

Rum Com

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook Time: 5 mins

Total Time: 10 mins

Servings: 1

  • 2 oz popcorn-infused Diplomatico Reserva Rum
  • 1 oz Cocchi Dopo Teatro
  • .5 oz Roots Kanela Tentura
  • Pinch of Maldon Salt
  • Instructions
    1. Stir, strain and serve up with skewered popcorn 


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