6 Easy Warm Winter Cocktail Recipes

Ladies and gents, I believe it's finally time we put the Game of Thrones saying, "Winter is coming," to rest. That's because winter came long ago to California. So much so that many California ski resorts surpassed last year's snowfall totals before the beginning of 2016, AND, we've been having frost warnings in Los Angeles. You guys, FROST warnings!

Needless to say, it's high time for a round-up of warm winter cocktail recipes. No, pouring whiskey into your coffee doesn't count as a cocktail. Furthermore, there are a lot of great warm cocktail recipes that go beyond your traditional hot toddy and hot buttered rum cocktail. Best of all, many great hot cocktail recipes include ingredients you probably already have at home, like apples, cinnamon, lemons, and naturally, chocolate. Plus, warm cocktails are easy to make in big batches, often much easier than your everyday cocktail recipes (no cocktail shaker required). But do remember, however, that these are warm cocktails, not boiling cocktails, so don't go boiling your top-shelf bourbon.

Below you'll find a few of my favorite warm winter cocktail recipes I'm making this winter.

Honey Bourbon Apple Cider

  • 2.5 oz. hard apple cider
  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Couple of thin red apple slices.

I originally wrote about this warm apple cider cocktail last year, and liked it so much that I've brought it back. The inspiration came from Hello Natural, which did a very similar cocktail recipe, featuring ingredients which if you don't already have in your house, then you should. It's kind of like your next-level hot toddy, with the addition of hard cider. I would recommend playing with some different types of dry and sweet ciders to see which you like the best. I've used Stella Artois Cidre in the past, though this past week I went with Strongbow Gold, which is a nice balanced hard cider. To make it, you'll add the cider, honey, cinnamon stick (or some dashes of cinnamon), and apple slices to a small saucepan and heat, but only enough to warm and not boil. Pour the warm mixture into a glass and add bourbon and enjoy.

Hot Apple Pie Punch

  • 10 oz. hard apple cider
  • 4 oz. bourbon
  • Ginger beer
  • Several Cinnamon sticks
  • Half a lemon, sliced
  • Several thin red apple slices
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 tbsp. honey

So I actually stumbled upon this recipe while making the above honey bourbon apple cider recipe. And it may actually be my favorite new warm cocktail recipe. The ginger beer was a late addition, as it seemed like there was just something I could add to amp up the flavor. And Bundaberg ginger beer was it! For this warm cocktail recipe, I made a big batch, quadrupling the servings. As such, you may want to give or take from the numbers I include above based on how sweet, cidery, and bourbony you want it. To make it, I added everything but the ginger beer and bourbon into a saucepan and heated on a low temperature. While it was heating, I pressed the lemon and apple slices with a muddler to release the juices. I then removed from the stove and topped with bourbon and ginger beer (which for this serving, amounted to about three to four ounces). What I found, however, was that the longer I let it sit and keep warm, the more flavorful it became. This may be my new go-to winter cocktail.

Southern Cinnamon Hot Cider

  • 4-5 oz. hard apple cider
  • 2 oz. cinnamon whiskey or moonshine
  • Couple cinnamon sticks
  • Couple apple slices

This is quite possibly the easiest warm cocktail on this list. Alright, so perhaps we're using up a lot of your apples and cinnamon sticks so far, but they're so good for warm cocktails. For this, you're making it similarly to the warm cocktail recipes above, except you're using a cinnamon whiskey or moonshine in place of the bourbon. This particular winter cocktail doesn't use a sweetener, so if you want some sweetness to it, perhaps use a sweeter hard apple cider, or add a little honey or agave to taste. To make it, you'll add cider, cinnamon sticks, and apple slices to a saucepan and warm. Press the apple to release some of the juice and then pour into a mug and top with a cinnamon-flavored whiskey or moonshine. This, too, is a great winter cocktail to make in a big batch.

Atholl Brose

  • 18 oz. Scotch (preferably a Scotch blend)
  • 4 oz. steel-cut oatmeal
  • 5 oz. heavy cream
  • 2 oz. honey

Naturally, with my ancestors being from Scotland, I had to include at least one Scotch drink, and this one is steeped (literally and figuratively) in Scotch history. Legend has it that Atholl Brose dates back to 1475, named for the 1st Earl of Atholl, who is said to have defeated the Highland rebellion leader by spiking his water with honey, whisky, and oatmeal, making him easier to be captured being a little tipsy. Centuries later and it's endured the test of time. The addition of cream, however, has become a part of it for more festive occasions, such as New Year's Eve. While the measurements and instructions of Atholl Brose have certainly evolved over the centuries, this particular recipe (and photo) comes from Saveur. You'll begin by stirring the Scotch and oatmeal in a bowl and covering with a cheesecloth or paper towel and letting it sit for 24-48 hours. Strain the mixture into a saucepan before adding the heavy cream and honey and heating. Serve in heatproof glasses and then you have your own cream whiskey.

Hot Navy Grog

  • 1 oz. dark rum
  • 3 tbsp. runny honey
  • .25 oz. lime juice
  • 2.5 oz. boiling water

I've written about the Navy Grog before, which is one of my favorite drinks to make, in part because it's so simple and delicious, but also because it's one of the first proper cocktail recipes. As the name presumes, the grog has its roots in the Navy, when sailors were given rations of rum, and then given the chance to purchase sugar and lime to enhance what was a very strong, and sometimes repugnant, drink on its own. The Navy Grog cocktail is often served cold with ice, but simply replace the cold water with boiling water and you have a delicious winter cocktail. This particular version of the Navy Grog comes from one of the foremost cocktail guides, Difford's Guide. To make it, simply place honey in a warmed glass and add the rest of the ingredients and stir until the honey has dissolved. And that's it! (Photo by Dita Margarita on Flickr).

Kyoto Nights

  • 1 oz. Japanese whiskey
  • 2 oz. hot water
  • 4 drops cacao extract
  • 1 lemon peel
  • 1 clove

This warm winter cocktail recipe comes from the bar Dirty Habit in San Francisco. By itself without the cacao extract, this is a nice Japanese version of a hot toddy, since you probably don't just have cacao extract lying around. However, the cacao is a nice touch you don't exactly get in your everyday cocktail. To make it, you'll add all of the ingredients (except the cacao) to a saucepan and warm. Press the lemon peel and clove to further release the flavors. Meanwhile, fill a Belgian beer glass or other heatproof glass with hot water and let it sit for a few minutes while the cocktail mixture warms. Empty the glass and then pour in the cocktail mixture. Top with four drops of the cacao extract.