Insider: Hot Rum Cow

by Stine Fantoft Berg in May 2016
Food & drink

For its latest issue, booze magazine Hot Rum Cow travels back to the time of monks, mead and magic to uncover the origins for good drinking. We asked editor Simon Lyle to share the team’s creative process, which this time around included shaking up the masthead, uncovering 17th-century bloody buttocks, and getting just a little bit drunk.


In the making of this issue we…

Snake wine and perry. We have a revolting bottle of Chinese snake wine, which contains two dead snakes consuming each other. It’s probably years out of date and tastes like black bean sauce. Anyway, we coaxed a new team member into trying that. We generally run one big tasting session per issue so that we can sip stuff and pretend that we know what we can smell and taste in it – like real drinks journalists. This time it was perry producers who had to suffer our inexpert judgement.


Listened to
Prog and Rap Caviar. The issue was unofficially known as The Medieval Issue because it featured even more monks than usual, but we couldn’t tell our ad sales guru this because it’s probably the least commercial theme you could hope for. Not wanting to listen to Greensleeves and other ‘hey nonny no’ medieval tunes on a loop, the closest fit we could find was prog – Jethro Tull, Focus, that sort of thing.

The period was marred by a terrible playlist called Rap Caviar that everyone hated while assuming someone else liked it. We’ve agreed never to play it or speak of it again.

Were inspired by
David LaChapelle’s Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow portrait inspired the opener for our medieval banquet feature. A brilliant day’s shooting at Law Castle, West Kilbride.


Argued about
Breaking the masthead. The cover’s often a slow process and the main bone of contention was whether or not we had the confidence in the masthead to cock it up and assume people would still recognise the mag and buy it. What’s odd is that there was not as much debate about whether or not it was a good idea to feature St. Columbanus, Boris Yeltsin, a toucan and a pirate being sucked into a time machine in a hot tub. Maybe there should have been.


We sacrificed the cow from the masthead in the end.

How to open your bottle of Champagne using a big sabre. How to brew your own medieval ale. How to gild a mallard. Just the big, important life skills that we specialise in really.


Were excited about
Finding new creative folk to work with. There’s nothing better than sending out a brief for pics, illustrations or writing and seeing how that’s been interpreted when it comes back. For Issue 10 we worked with five illustrators we’d never used before.


Couldn’t stop laughing at
The 17th-century drinking game bloody buttocks, which was brilliantly illustrated in our feature by Owain Kirby. Royalist drinkers would demonstrate their loyalty by stabbing themselves in the bum and drinking the blood. We do not have very sophisticated senses of humour.


Were most pleased by
A nomination for cover of the year in the PPA awards where we are up against the likes of Shortlist, The NME and The Economist in a public vote. We don’t want to beg but you absolutely must vote for us this instant and every day thereafter until the competition closes …

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