Warm cocktail recipes for winter

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a love/hate relationship with winter. I love to travel to winter but I hate it traveling to me, hence the reason I live in Southern California. But winter has its virtues, not the least of which includes fire places, s’mores, hot tubs, après-ski, and most importantly for today’s discussion, warm cocktails. But by default, a warm cocktail for many people is nothing more than adding Baileys Irish Cream to hot chocolate or whiskey to tea and calling it a hot toddy. And there isn't anything wrong with that. But there are a ton of cocktails that not only warm on a winter night but satisfy with the same great flavors of a cold cocktail on a summer day.

Honey Bourbon Apple Cider

This is my favorite on the list, perhaps because it's one that I largely came up with, though it's similar to a honey bourbon apple cider on Hello Natural. Be warned that since half the ingredients are booze (in the form of bourbon and hard cider), it sneaks up on you. While many cider cocktails feature a non-alcoholic apple cider, I went with one of my favorite alcoholic versions, Stella Artois Cidre. What I love about it is that it strikes a nice balance between dry and sweet, while many ciders are either one or the other.

  • 2.5 oz. Stella Artois Cidre
  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Couple of thin red apple slices.

Add the cider, honey, and apple to a small saucepan and heat, but only enough to warm and not completely boil. Pour mixture into a glass and add bourbon and a cinnamon stick. Kick up your feet by the fireplace and enjoy warm.

The Heated Affair

This warm winter drink comes from The Starlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco, which means you can drink it just about anytime of year, since I can count the number of times I wore shorts in San Francisco on one hand. The great thing about this recipe is that it's largely items you probably already have at home.

  • 2 oz. Añejo Tequila
  • 6 oz. hot spiced-apple cider
  • Heavy cream

Warm a glass with hot water, then toss out the water and add tequila and hot apple cider. Add a heavy cream float by holding a spoon upside down over the glass, just above the surface of the drink, and pour in the cream slowly over the spoon to create a float. Garnish with nutmeg over the cream.

 Winter Nights

The following cocktail comes from award-winning bartender Jacques Bezuidenhout (pictured), Master Mixologist for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, who I featured recently in a cocktail piece for Kimpton. You may not have all these ingredients in your cabinet, but it's easy to make and is a hell of a lot more interesting than your everyday hot toddy.

  • 1.5 oz. Cognac
  • 1½ oz. 10-year aged tawny port
  • 1 tsp. of maple syrup
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • 3 oz. hot water

Mix all ingredients in a heated glass and garnish with cinnamon.

Smoky Tea Toddy

Now you didn't think I was going to let you go without at least one hot toddy recipe did you? Most hot toddy recipes include whiskey, lemon, and some form of sugar, though typically honey. This recipe from Cook In / Dine Out, however, adds some smoke with the addition of Scotch whiskey but then ups the ante with the addition of bourbon. In other words, it packs a punch and is not for the faint of heart.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 Earl Grey tea bag
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 oz. Laphroaig Quarter Cask Scotch
  • 2 oz. bourbon

Combine water and honey and bring to a boil before steeping two for four minutes. In a separate glass, add bitters, Scotch, and bourbon. Add tea mixture and stir to combine.

 Hot Date

Last, but by no means least, comes this contemporary version of a hot toddy from a couple of my bartender friends, Sean and Mike, from the Blind Barber in Los Angeles. When I asked them what they wanted to name it, without hesitation, they replied, the Hot Date. This cocktail may not include ingredients you have sitting in your cupboard, like ginger root, but the payoff is a flavorful, aromatic drink that'll give you granny's hot toddy a run for her money. That, and if there's one drink from this list you want to impress a date with, this is it.

  • 2 oz. whiskey
  • 1 oz. honey
  • 4 oz. hot water
  • 3/4 oz. lemon
  • Several mint leaves
  • Muddled ginger root
  • 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Slice of ginger

Add all of the ingredients (except for one mint leaf and the slice of ginger) together and stir. Garnish with mint and slice of ginger.

Photo of Jacques Bezuidenhout and the Starlight Room from Kimpton.