There’s absolutely nothing wrong with mixing up some whiskey, lemon, cloves, honey, and cinnamon — otherwise known as the hot toddy. But hot winter cocktails are not limited to the toddy alone. For generations, men and women around the world have crafted libations for the colder months from vodka, rum, gin, and just about every other liquor or liqueur. If you find yourself in a mood for a warm fortifying cocktail on a cold winter’s night but want a drink that’s a bit more adventurous, there are plenty of excellent options. It’s only as difficult as picking your favorite spirit (or finding a new one) and proceeding from there.
To venture out into different territory, and to provide you with some hot alcoholic drinks to get you through winter, we spoke to a squad of New York City bartenders and asked them to share their hottest hot cocktail recipes. From variations on the classic hot toddy and the best damn boozy hot chocolate you’ll ever try to a fancy mulled wine and rum punch that really packs a punch, here are seven warming cold weather cocktails to try.
1. The Hot Teddy
Created by Amir Babayoff for Ophelia, NYC
Remember when your mother told you never to play with fire? Well, you’re going to need to disregard that bit of advice in order to make this next level hot toddy. Amir Babayoff, head bartender at Ophelia in New York City, starts with the rich and layered Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon and adds a touch of French fortified wine for added complexity. Next, some Pineau des Charentes is brought in to bring out the softer part of the drink thanks to notes of peaches, prunes, plums and toasted nuts. Next comes caffeine-free orange and ginger tea. He adds Panella (unrefined sugar cane) with a blend of five winter spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom to finish it with a sweet complexity. Is it an easy cocktail to whip together? Definitely not. But the end result is very much worth the effort.
1.5 oz Barrell Whiskey
0.5 oz Pineau De Charente
0.5 oz Lemon Juice
0.75 oz Island Syrup
5 oz Hot Water
1 Ginger/Orange Spiced Tea Bag
Directions: Prepare two copper mugs with hot water. Empty one and add 5 oz Hot Water, Tea Bags, Syrup, Lemon Juice and Bitters. Add Bourbon and Brandy to Mug #2 and rinse. Light Mug #2 on fire and pour from mug to mug. Pour into a Snifter and garnish with Cinnamon Stick, Orange Peel and Star Anise.
2. Spiked Mexican Hot Chocolate
Created by Anthony Henirquez for Lumaca, NYC
Boozy hot chocolate is a pretty unbeatable winter drink. This version is a lighter, spicier play. “The traditional Italian hot chocolate is usually a rich and indulgent treat that’s perfect for a cold day,” says Anthony Henriquez, Beverage Director at Lumaca in New York City. “But it might not be the best before or after a meal.” This version removes the heavier ingredients and the allspice. The remaining cinnamon and chili flavors blend well with the caramel notes of tequila (they use Chamucos). Topped off with some freshly roasted marshmallows, it’s enough to make you forget about the cold for a few minutes.
3 cups hot milk
3 tbs cocoa powder
3 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tbs cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 oz Chamucos Tequila
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a snifter, garnish with two roasted marshmallows.
Created by Shigefumi Kabashima, owner at NR, Manhattan N.Y.
Now, this drink is not for novices. But for those accustomed to using a flame or amateur mixologists ready to raise their game, the Nightcap is worth the effort. Maybe keep a fire extinguisher handy. “When creating this cocktail, we knew we wanted to include absinthe but wanted to experiment with chartreuse since it’s high-proof and knew it would add a very rich, floral flavor” says NR bar owner, Shigefumi Kabashima. “We heat an iron rod over a flame to mix the cocktail with in order to cut the edge of the chartreuse and burn off some of the alcohol.” The drink also has butter, which caramelizes and adds to the cocktail’s rich flavor.
1.5 oz. Green Chartruse
.5 oz. Lemon Juice
.25 oz. fresh ginger
.25 oz. honey
.5 oz. water
5 dashes Absente Absinthe
Directions: Combine all ingredients except for butter in a small heat-proof vessel and carefully heat iron rod over a flame for about one minute. Once the iron is heated, stir the cocktail ingredients carefully in heat proof vessel. Remove rod from and pour into heat-proof cocktail glass, and add in teaspoon of butter.
4. Mulled Wine
Created by Marshall Minaya, Beverage Director for Valerie, NYC
Mulled wine is a classic winter warmer. This one is fortified with a bit of brandy for an extra kick. “I believe that the Mulled wine we make at Valerie just hits the mark for the season,” says Marshall Minaya, Beverage Director for Valerie in New York City. “With a little fresh ginger, apple brandy, and the constant temperature it is what we want to serve you to warm you up.”
1 (750ml) bottle Cabernet-Sauvignon
½ cup Chapman’s Apple Brandy
1 Orange (sliced)
6 whole Cloves
3 Cinnamon Sticks
3 Star Anise
3 Whole Allspice
¼ cup Honey Syrup
¼ cup Ginger Syrup
Directions: In a medium sauce pot, bring all ingredients to a simmer (not boil). Reduce heat and leave for 10 min. Cool, and store in Cambro. Pour 5oz from thermos into mug. Garnish with a dehydrated lemon wheel and grated cinnamon
5. Hot Fig-Rum Punch
This Hot Fig Rum Punch created by Ryan Gavin, Bar Manager, Gran Tivoli & Peppi’s Cellar, has an old-school winter vibe that compliments the season. That was intentional. “I wanted to showcase the versatility of tropical flavors in how they combine well with the more traditional seasonal ingredients such as ginger and fig,” Gavin said. While he says that the punch is warming and wintry, he says the fruity notes from the rum and pineapple “evoke festivities of an exotic nature.” Damn right they do.
.3 oz. Fig Vin Cotto
.5 oz. Pineapple syrup
.3 oz. Lactic Acid Solution (10%)
1.5 oz. Santa Teresa Rum
4 oz. Hot water
1 oz. Ginger turmeric teabag
Heat on steam wand
Directions: Build and server in a footed 6 oz. glass. Garnish with a quarter fig on skewer
6. Coffee & Cream
Created by Ryan Gavin for Gran Tivoli and Peppi’s Cellar
Spiked coffee makes a great pick-me-up for the colder months. Gavin’s Coffee & Cream is a decadently delightful variation with a chilled sweet vanilla cream crown that floats on top of the drink. “We were aiming for some sort of elevated Irish coffee style of drink that would show off not just the delicious espresso but some nutty and rich notes from the brandy and Vin Santo,” Gavin says. “By adding the Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur, we were able to elevate the natural coffee flavor and bring the sweetness up to that magical point that is lip smacking, but not too syrupy.”
.75 oz Brandy
.75 oz Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur
.175 oz Vin Santo
1 oz Espresso
2 oz Hot Water
.75 Vanilla Cream
Glass: Footed 6 oz
Directions: Build and layer all ingredients in a footed 6 oz. glass. Garnish with cacao and bee pollen.
7. The Rum Hot Toddy
Created by Kenneth McCoy, available at The Rum House, NYC
Simple and sweet, this Toddy variation is anchored with some stellar spiced rum for an added layer of warmth. “We make our Hot Toddy using Santa Teresa 1796 Rum,” says Kenneth McCoy, chief creative officer of the Rum House. “It’s rich, smooth and has hints of warming spices, that added with a hint of honey, fresh ginger and cinnamon is perfect for a winter warmer on a cold evening.”
2 oz El Dorado Spiced Rum
.25 oz fresh lemon juice
.50 oz Demerara syrup
Hot water from a tea kettle
1 orange peel
1 lemon peel
Slice of fresh ginger
Directions: Fill your Toddy glass with hot water from the kettle and cover the top with a plate to keep warm while preparing the drink. Place lemon peel, orange peel , cloves, fresh ginger and Demerara into a mixing glass use a muddler to lightly extract the juices from the zest’s and ginger. Add rum and lemon juice stir with a bar spoon. Dump water from your Toddy glass, and double strain the cocktail to remove the pulp. Add 3-4 ounces of hot water on top of liquid and garnish with a cinnamon stick.