It's been cold out there lately. Really, really cold. Really. Don't be fooled by the recent thaw: all ground hogs in the area are still sleeping off New Years Eve. Last week, it was so cold that hot water tossed into the air turned into snow before it touched the ground. That's cold enough to get into your bones and into your brain and get you thinking things ... strange things: Could this boiling water effect could be put to work with other liquids? Can I make it snow coffee? If it were cold enough, could we make red wine snow banks, a sort of arctic counterpoint to those red wine spas in Japan? How about snowboarding on fresh green tea powder?
And while we’re on the track of a somewhat ludicrous wintertime fantasy, we might consider how we’d like to warm up after falling half a dozen times on the faintly viridescent ski slopes. How about something to slake the thirst and warm the bones, say, brandy run up the mountain in a tiny barrel about the neck of a dedicated and frost hardy St. Bernard? We can toast each other with K-9 delivered libations sipped from cups carved from ice as in those enchanting Scandinavian ice hotels …
Of course, St. Bernards never actually carried liquor around their necks and a ski slope of green tea slushy would probably disorient the human visual system in some nauseating fashion we cannot yet anticipate. Therefore, I suggest we get back to reality and the problem at hand: finding some decent liquid company for what remains of winter.
Thankfully, there are some great drinks that are up to the task.
Winter warmer libations come in several categories, the basic warming beverage, the enhanced warming beverage, and the warmed warming beverage. Basic beverages are not mixed drinks, but rather beverages that warm and go well with the rich foods often served on dark winter evenings. We’re talking rich beers like German Bocks or Belgian Tripels or hearty red wines like Syrah or Grenache. A nice port will do nicely as well and one should never underestimate the ancient charm of spiced mead, served chilled or warm. Also, Whiskey, Whiskey, Brandy, Cognac, Rum, Vodka, Tequila or a smoky Mescal, served in a snifter. Neat.
Then there are the warming beverages enhanced by mixing. Here we find many of the great classics of the cocktail world: the Manhattan, the Negroni, and the recently resurgent among drink geeks, the Rusty Nail. Then there are things like Eggnog, hardly an elegant classic, but entirely functional and delicious.
2 Parts Rye Whiskey (or Canadian Club, or Bulleit)
1 Part "Italian" Vermouth (the red kind)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir and strain into a glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry if you can, a maraschino cherry if you must. Variations abound: exchange the Rye for Scotch for instance, and you have a Rob Roy.
A glass of eggnog
Rum, preferably dark, or aged at the least.
Pour the eggnog and add rum to taste. You can make your own eggnog of course, but – trust me on this – it’s a lot like sausage making. Go with some good store-bought and leave the ingredients of the nog a mystery. Also, don’t look at the caloric information. Consider it the equivalent of “looking down” while crossing a deep gorge by rope bridge.
2 Parts Scotch Whisky
1/2 Parts Drambuie
Combine the booze in a glass, add ice, stir, sip and repeat.
The Rusty Nail can be surprisingly complex for the unprepared. Drambuie, a liqueur made with Scotch Whisky, is teeming with anise, heather and other floral flavors, all with a honey-like sweetness. The key is to choose a good and smoky, peaty Scotch to balance things out. Johnny Walker Red or another decent blended whisky is ideal. Save the delicate highland single malts for sipping on balmy summer evenings.
1 Part Gin
1 Part Campari
1 Part Italian Vermouth
Combine ingredients with ice, shake, strain and garnish with an orange twist. Make sure to twist and pinch the zest over the glass so that those little zit-like vesicles containing the aromatic citrus oil release their goodness – if you watch the drink surface carefully, you’ll see the oils as they impact the surface.
There are some that will object and say that the Negroni is a summer cocktail. They would be wrong. The Negroni is an all-weather cocktail and for that matter, so are most of the great classic cocktails. There is no reason why a good Manhattan cannot cool your brow in the shade of the summer porch as well as it warms your core before the fire in the winter. Some things are “classic” for a reason.
We come last to the warmed warming beverages and here we reach a place where things get a little weird. All sorts of ingredients get used, from butter to cigar smoke, and it's sometimes difficult to tell if you're supposed to drink from a glass or eat with a spoon.
2 ounces Irish Whiskey
A cup of coffee, roughly 6-8 ounces
2 teaspoons sugar
Combine whisky, coffee and sugar in a glass mug. Stir. If your fingers are warm and nimble, a questionable proposition if you’re making Irish Coffee, whip the cream and layer on top of the coffee. Otherwise, nuke the cream for a few seconds to warm it, invert a spoon – convex side up – and gently pour the cream over the top of the spoon so that it floats atop the black elixir beneath. Drink and write lyric poetry in an old moleskin.
Hot Buttered Rum
2 ounces dark rum
2 teaspoons sugar
A pat of unsalted butter
Dissolve sugar with splash of hot water. Add rum. Add butter. Add hot water, stirring, to taste. It’s a New England thing.
1 bottle Ruby Port wine
2 tablespoons sugar
Zest the lemon, avoiding pitch. Juice the lemon. Combine zest, juice and port in a pot and heat while stirring until sugar is dissolved. Separately, boil 1 cup of water. Add the boiling water to the pot, strain into a pitcher and serve. Or, just slop it into your cups.
Hot Milk Punch
2 ounces of some dark liquor, rum, whiskey, whatever really
1 teaspoon sugar.
Heat the milk. Mix the booze and the sugar. Add to the warm milk in a mug. Top with cinnamon or nutmeg or both. Sip, then sleep.
Cigar Milk and Tequila hot Chocolate
This last one is a bit of an advanced project best explained by "Four Hour" franchise author Tim Ferris. Basically, you're going to infuse milk with the flavor cigar smoke, make a fancy cup of hot chocolate with it and then adding tequila and Fernet-Branca. This is much more delicious than it sounds, but it does involve burning tobacco so your enjoyment may very.
Reach staff writer Jon Kelvey at 410-857-3317 or firstname.lastname@example.org.