Food & Drink

3 hot winter beverages from Howard County mixologists to spice up your next outdoor gathering

Mulled Apple Cider, made by John Aguilera, co-owner of Ellicott Distilling Co., can be made with brandy or rum. The cider is spiced with star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, and may be garnished with an apple or orange slice.

Nothing warms a cold winter’s night like a hot beverage. We’ll always hold a place for those packets of apple cider you can brew in the microwave, but some nights call for something a little more special.

We sought out three Howard County mixologists to help upgrade our winter beverage game. Below, find their recipes, from a spiced chai cider to a tropical take on a hot toddy. All three beverages can be made with alcohol or without. Either way, these drinks are just the thing to heat up your next al fresco get together, or just a quiet night at home.


Don’t burn your tongue.

Ellicott Distilling Company’s mulled cider

If you missed the arrival of Ellicott Distilling Company to the historic Main Street during the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps you caught co-owner John Aguilera slinging their mulled cider at an event around the area. A customer favorite, the beverage “sells out pretty quick,” said Aguilera. “I think when you put cinnamon in anything it’s really good.” Make it an adult beverage by adding the company’s own bottle of brandy, which is made with sweet moscato grapes. Customers can also order it at the distillery’s upstairs cocktail bar, which boasts two outdoor patios.


Mulled cider with rum or brandy


1 gallon unfiltered apple cider (multiply/divide appropriately depending on size of party)

1 large orange, cut into 1/4-inch slices

3 cinnamon sticks

4 star anise (optional)

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 tablespoon whole allspice


1 inch ginger root, sliced

For serving:

1 1/2 cups Ellicott Distilling Co. Brandy or Rum (Add 1 oz. of the spirit to bottom of a 12 oz. cup)

Orange slices, apple slices or additional spices (optional)


1. To large pot or Dutch oven, add apple cider, orange slices, cinnamon sticks, star anise, whole cloves, whole allspice and ginger root. (If you have a spice ball, add clove and allspice to that. It’s easier cleanup afterward.) Bring mixture to 140 degrees. Stir occasionally.


2. Using Ellicott Distilling Co. Brandy or Caribbean Classic Rum, add 1 oz. of the spirit to bottom of a 12 oz. mug. Fill the rest of the cup with the hot spiced cider. Garnish with orange slices, apple slices or spices, if you desire. Serve immediately. Enjoy.

A "Tropical Toddy," made by Gabriel Rosas, bar manager at Trifecto in Clarksville. The hot drink is made with spiced rum, tamarind simple syrup, ginger simple syrup, and muddled orange, then topped with grated cinnamon.

Trifecto’s tropical toddy

“I like hot toddy-style drinks in the winter,” says Gabriel Rosas, bar manager at Clarksville’s Trifecto, the coffee/juice/cocktail bar that anchors the Clarksville Common Kitchen. During colder months, Rosas is also a fan of ginger for staving off sickness. Here, he gives the toddy a gingery and tropical twist by using homemade ginger and tamarind syrup. Make your own using tamarind paste, easy to find at most international grocery stores, he says.

Tropical toddy


1 oz. tamarind simple syrup (instructions below)

1 oz. ginger simple syrup (instructions below)


1/2 orange or lemon, muddled and strained

8 oz. hot water

1 oz. rum, if desired

Dash of cinnamon


1. To make the tamarind simple syrup, combine one part tamarind paste with two parts sugar and water, then boil, simmer and strain twice. Let cool. Tamarind syrup may be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator.


2. To make your own ginger syrup, follow the same instructions but use a 1:1 ratio of grated fresh ginger, sugar and water. Let cool. Ginger syrup may be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator.

3. Mix together with muddled orange or lemon, add hot water and rum, if desired. Add dash of cinnamon on top.

"Flannel and Spice," an Apple Chai Latte prepared by Selina Peterson, the bar manager at the Rathskeller in Elkridge. Almond milk and dark rum are added to Chai tea steeped in apple cider, and before serving the warm drink is dusted with cinnamon.

Rathskeller’s Flannel ‘n Spice

Elkridge’s Rathskeller has a new owner and menu. One addition is bar manager Selina Peterson’s grown-up take on an apple chai latte. Peterson makes hers with almond milk, but you can use any type of milk just as easily. Use a milk frother to give it a nice foamy top, and keep an eye on the milk while it heats up to avoid overheating or burning. You can also find it on the menu at Rathskeller, which offers abundant outdoor seating in the restaurant’s biergarten, formerly the site of the local jail.

Flannel ‘n Spice

Ingredients: Serves 1

1 chai tea bag


1/2 cup apple cider

2 oz. Tiki Lovers dark rum

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2/3 cup almond milk (or milk of your choice)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. Heat milk and apple cider on the stove over medium/low heat in a small saucepan. Stirring occasionally.


2. Add the tea bag and steep for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Pour into the shaker with rum. It will be hot so shake carefully. Or if you have a milk frother, use that.

4. Pour into mug and top with ground cinnamon to garnish.