I crave warmth in all things as we enter the dark rainy season and winter officially approaches. The down comforter comes out of the closet, there’s a fire in the hearth every evening and it’s the ultimate pleasure to wrap chilly fingers around a nice warm drink. The shaken, stirred and on-the-rocks cocktails will be off the menu, for the most part, until spring. This is the time of year to indulge in something a little sweet, comforting and toasty.
These are obviously not drinks you have with a meal, or even before. They are more like dessert, or a nice nightcap before bed. They may not be the most sophisticated drinks, but like a puffy down parka, they do what they are supposed to without a lot of flash.
The base for most warm holiday cocktails — hot chocolate, coffee or tea — offers endless opportunity for creating the drink that’s going to hit the spot for you.
Coffee drinks are a fantastic way to end a meal and many kinds of liqueurs and spirits, from Irish whisky to flavoured vodka to schnapps, can be used. Just make sure that some form of sweetener (such as brown sugar syrup) and something creamy (such as Baileys or whipping cream) are also part of the mix. Something as simple as black coffee with Van Gogh Dutch Caramel vodka, a splash of cream and a bit of sweetener to taste can be sublime on a cold winter night. Let your imagination go wild.
If you start with a sweet, creamy hot chocolate base, your approach should obviously be a little bit different.
There are still endless possibilities for adding a kick to this winter favourite. Simply combining hot chocolate with a shot of dark rum lets the chocolate flavour shine; at the same time, it enhances it with the caramelized sweet notes of the spirit. Vanilla, peppermint and orange flavours are all easy to add via liqueurs and flavoured vodkas. Want to go with a theme? How about spicy Mexican hot chocolate with a shot of aged añejo tequila?
The Hot Toddy
There are many versions of the hot toddy out there. Perhaps your family had its own recipe that was trotted out to “cure” a cold? Because of all the regional and cultural variations, it’s hard to stylistically pin down what constitutes a typical toddy. Some are made with tea; others with warm ginger ale or just hot water.
The other ingredients generally relate to the “cure” part of the drink: honey to sooth a sore throat, citrus for the vitamin C and booze to, well, make you feel better. Spices such as clove or cinnamon are also common, probably added as much for taste as anything. I have my own version that’s simple, delicious and comforting — everything a hot toddy should be.
Mull It Over
Though it’s not exactly a “cocktail,” mulled wine is a perfect warm drink for the cold months, especially if you’re hosting a holiday party. Though you can find recipes with lots of ingredients, making mulled wine need not be overly complicated.
Start with a fruity, full-bodied red (Merlot or Syrah), add bourbon or brandy judiciously and then drop in some common spices such as cinnamon, anise and cloves. Heat until warm (but not boiling) and serve in mugs.
Of Good Cheer
These delicious winter cocktails are perfect for warming the heart — and after a brisk wintry outing, your poor frozen fingers gripping that warm cup will thank you.
Bourbon Hot Toddy
Courtesy of Adem Tepedelen
There’s obviously been no medical evidence to suggest that a hot toddy will cure the common cold or flu, as was the belief when the drink was invented in the late 19th century. But it will make you feel better, even if you’re not under the weather. My version, which originally appeared in Fine Cooking magazine, uses simple, everyday ingredients, but its warmth, spice and lemon-tinged sweetness offer a welcome glow.
• 3 tbsp bourbon
• 1 tbsp honey
• 2 small lemon wedges
• 3 whole cloves
• 1/2 cup boiling water
Add the bourbon, honey and juice from one small wedge of lemon to a mug. Poke the three cloves into the rind of the other wedge and set aside. Pour boiling water into the mug and stir well so that all the honey dissolves. Add the clove-studded lemon wedge and let steep for a couple minutes before drinking.
By Adem Tepedelen