Hot & Sweet: Ghost Chili and Spiced Rum Syrup

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I’ve been having a lot of fun doing ghost chili related recipes lately, and apparently it has been gathering some attention. My ghost chili and mango hot sauce recipe was the first post on this blog to hit 100 views in under six hours (by the way, thank you for that, dear readers) and people have generally started to chime in with nods of approval or ghost chili recipe suggestions and challenges. Again, thank you!

One of the most frequent requests I’ve been getting lately, and actually the first request I got at all (jokingly, I might add!) is “wow, I’d love to see one of those in a dessert application!” Well, without giving too much away, I just might have something coming up for you in the near future… But until then, allow me to actually give you one of my favorite sweet applications for the famous Ghost Chili. It’s another Johan original:

Ghost Chili and Spiced Rum Syrup!


Ghost Chili and Spiced rum syrup batch #1Experimental batch #1 – First go at Ghost Chili Spiced Rum Syrup

Ghost Chili syrup was actually a concept I came up with years ago in an effort to examine if the blazing heat from ghost chilies along with their fruitiness could add a nice touch to a pretty standard simple syrup.

Simple syrup? Simple syrup is a name given to a syrup that’s, well, simple, as it is made from only sugar and water. Two parts sugar to one part water to be exact. The sugar and water are heated together until the sugar dissolves, creating a liquid sweetener perfect for cocktails.

It happened during a “I don’t really like sweet things” phase I was going through, where I wanted my desserts or sweet treats to have a different kind of appeal than just sweetness. I found the syrup a nice mix between hot and sweet and started using it in drinks, the rare dessert, ice cream, oat meal (not really!) and pretty much everything else under the sun.

Making ghost chili syrupMaking ghost chili syrup is easier, and less scary, than it looks!

The idea of adding spiced rum eventually came about from, well, my year-long love affair with premium rums. I’m what you’d call a rum aficionado, I suppose. I keep a steady stash of at least ten premium rums on hand and I use them for various applications. Most for sipping, some for mixing, a few I even use for cooking, including a great little spiced rum from El Dorado Rum.

Not your friendly neighborhood Captain! Spiced rum, if done right, is made by allowing various exotic spices to steep in quality aged rum, imparting both flavor and color to the finished product. It’s a far cry away from what the marketing department would want you to believe a spiced rum is (*Captain Morgan*cough*). Just as Bacardi is about as far from a “Superior” rum as you can go.

Spiced rum has a nicely warm and sweetly exotic spicy profile to it that I figured would go really well with a bit of heat from a ghost chili. So, about a year ago, my first batch of Ghost Chili Spiced Rum syrup (known amongst nostalgic foodie friends as Experimental Batch #1) was cooked up to rave reviews. This past weekend, with a ton (okay, a pound, really) of ghost chilies at hand, I decided to take the trusted old recipe for another spin, this time upping the heat a little bit.

The heat part of the syrup equation actually comes not from adding chili to the syrup, but by infusing flavor by leaving the chilies to steep in the syrup while it cooks. That means you’ll have plenty of ways to adjust the heat of your finished syrup:

You can either adjust the amount of chilies you use, you can adjust how you use them: Leave whole for less heat, cup open for more heat, cut into pieces for even more heat, it’s all about surface area. And finally you can adjust how long you let them steep in the syrup while cooking. Longer contact equals more heat. How much you use is pretty much up to yourself and your tolerance.

From my experience, though, one ghost chili adds a nice and noticeable bit of warmth while three add a serious punch and, if left to steep long enough, quite a (not unpleasant) burn. I wouldn’t go more than three. I invite you to try out the recipe below for yourself and find your own perfect heat level, it’s a lot of fun, and the applications are endless!

Ghost Chili and Spiced Rum Syrup

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 21 minutes
Author Johan Johansen


  • 800 grams of unrefined cane syrup
  • 300 ml of water
  • 100 ml good spiced rum
  • 1-3 ghost chilies 1 for mild, 3 for very hot


  1. Remove stems from chilies and cut in half
  2. In a heavy bottom pot, combine sugar, water, spiced rum and chilies
  3. Put pot on low heat and stir occasionally as the temperature rises
  4. Flavor and heat from chilies will infuse quickly. Taste frequently and once hot enough, evacuate and discard the chilies
  5. Keep stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved and liquid comes to a simmer
  6. You must now make a choice: You can keep simmering for a while to boil off some of the alcohol or use as is. This depends on personal preference and the rum used. Taste mixture, if it’s harsh and alcoholic simmer for a while and try again.
  7. Once satisfied, kill the heat and pour onto bottles and jars. This stuff will pretty much keep forever, it’s mainly sugar.

Recipe Notes

If you do decide to simmer mixture to boil off some of the alcohol, make sure it and that it does not rise above a simmer and start boiling violently. If temperature gets high enough, the sugars might crystallize.

The finished syrup! In all its glory!Experimental batch #1 – First go at Ghost Chili Spiced Rum Syrup

As for applications? Well, you can use this in place of sugar or syrup in many tropical desserts. It goes well with vanilla ice cream. You can use it in hot chocolate, maybe together with some orange liqueur for a spicy hot cocoa, or check out my orange chili chocolate mousse experiment. The sky’s the limit! Need more ideas? Well, as I said, I may have something coming up. Stay tuned!

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Leave a Reply!