Top 5 Cold Weather Cocktails

cocktail-1705561_1920As much as it depresses me to admit it, especially after the two weeks of balmy, summer-like temperatures we just had here in the Hudson Valley, it looks like we’re in for a cold weekend. But don’t disappear into your blanket cocoon just yet, because nothing helps to keep out the chill like a strong, boozy, winter cocktail.

Don’t get me wrong – no one is saying you can’t drink a Manhattan on a 90-degree day, but sweating profusely over a glass of bourbon is as deeply unpleasant as it is a great way to give yourself a headache. Cocktails like the ones I’m about to mention are best enjoyed while sitting by the fireplace after shoveling the driveway or after a long day of cross-country skiing.

Anyway, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are 5 cocktails that are perfect for when it’s too cold to do anything but sit inside and have a drink.

Manhattan
Having been around since the 1800s, the Manhattan is about as classic a cocktail as you can make. There’s a lot of debate about which whiskey and which vermouth make the best Manhattan – some swear by rye whiskey, while others use bourbon for a slightly sweeter cocktail. Then there’s the question of whether it’s wasteful to make a cocktail with top-shelf whiskey. The bottom line is cheap whiskey won’t ruin your Manhattan, but good whiskey will make it that much better.

Ingredients
2 oz. Rye whiskey (Tuthilltown Spirits Manhattan Rye is fantastic)
1 oz. Sweet vermouth (extra points for Carpano Antica Formula)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry (optional but highly recommended)

Directions
Combine the rye, vermouth, and bitters in a shaker with ice. Shake or stir well, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. (Variations: swap out the rye whiskey for scotch, and you have a Rob Roy. Use 1/2 oz. sweet and 1/2 oz. dry vermouth and it’s a Perfect Manhattan.) [Recipe from Chowhound.]

Suburban
I stumbled across this cocktail while researching variations on the Manhattan, and by the time I finished drinking my first Suburban, I continued to stumble for the rest of the night. This heavy hitter got me through the brutally cold winter of 2014 and is still one of my favorites.

Ingredients
1 1/2 oz. Rye whiskey
1/2 oz. Dark rum (try it with Albany Distilling Co Quackenbush Stillhouse Rum)
1/2 oz Port
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters

Directions
Stir all ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (Variations: none. It’s perfect – don’t mess with it.) [Recipe from Esquire.]

Hot Buttered Rum
Hot Buttered Rum might be the quintessential winter cocktail, right after Robitussin in Gatorade and Swiss Miss hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps. While it’s delicious in its classic form, the nice thing about it is that you can replace the rum with pretty much whatever brown spirit you have in your cabinet.

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)
2 cups water
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup dark rum (Myers, Gosling’s, or Appleton Estate work great)

Directions
Combine water, butter, brown sugar, and spices in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the rum. (Variations: replace the rum with bourbon, rye, scotch, brandy, or añejo tequila.) [Recipe from Epicurious.]

Moscow Mule
This spicy cocktail is especially effective at getting the chill out if you use a good, spicy ginger beer, like Reed’s Extra Ginger or Natural Brew Outrageous Ginger Ale.

Ingredients
2 oz. Vodka (Peace Vodka from Catskill Distilling Company is a great option)
1/2 oz. Fresh lime juice
3 oz. Ginger beer
Lime wedge for garnish

Directions
Combine vodka and lime juice in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a mug filled with ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a lime slice. [Recipe from The New York Times.]

Lagavulin, neat
While not for everyone, Lagavulin is undoubtedly one of the quickest ways to warm up on a blustery winter night. This cocktail is by far the most challenging on this list to make, so read the directions carefully.

Ingredients
Lagavulin 16 (amount may vary)

Directions
Pour Lagavulin 16 into your favorite glass. Add nothing. Sip slowly. [Recipe from Ron Swanson.]

Is your favorite winter cocktail missing from this list? Let us know in a comment or give us a shout on Facebook or Twitter!

Liquor Lesson #1: If You Don’t Drink Tequila, You’re Missing Out

If there’s one spirit I could drink year round, it is most certainly tequila. Whether I’m enjoying a well-made margarita while grilling with some buddies or slowly sipping a glass of dark, oaky Añejo in the living room on a chilly night, it doesn’t matter what the occasion is. I could always drink tequila.

Blanco tequilas; these are clear because they are not oak aged.

Blanco tequilas; these are clear because they are not oak aged.

As I mentioned in my triple review of Arrogante Tequila, tequila is a spirit that a lot of people seem to be afraid of, and that fear always invariably stems down to one awful, overindulgent night with what might very well have been a sub-par tequila (maybe a mixto). Don’t know what a mixto tequila is? Don’t worry – I’ll explain that soon. In the meantime, here are some basics on this delicious, yet misunderstood spirit.

Tequila is a Mexican spirit that is distilled from the starchy core of the blue agave plant (for a detailed look at how tequila is made, check out this video). Any tequila worth its salt (no pun intended) is made from 100% agave; anything less, and it’s a mixto. Mixtos are made from at least 51% agave, along with sugars from other sources; these are fine for mixing, but I wouldn’t recommend them for sipping. The majority of tequilas are classified in any of four ways – blanco, reposado, añejo, or extra añejo. Here’s what all that means:

Reposado tequilas; note the pale yellow color.

Reposado tequilas; note the pale yellow color.

Blanco (“white”) or Plata (“silver”) – Spanish for “white” or “silver.” Blanco tequilas are clear because they are not oak-aged; after distillation and dilution, the tequila is immediately bottled. Blanco tequilas tend to have a fresher, spicier taste, and are generally used for mixed drinks, though many are smooth enough to sip.

 

Reposado (“rested”) – Reposado tequilas are a bit darker than blancos because they’re aged for at least two months, but less than a year, in oak barrels. Oak aging adds a woody, smoky flavor to these tequilas, making them smoother and more suitable for drinking on their own, though they also do well in cocktails.

Añejo (“aged”)- Añejo tequilas are aged between one and three years in oak barrels. Añejo tequilas are darker, smokier, and more complex than blancos or reposados. Añejos are best enjoyed neat or on the rocks, though there are a handful of cocktails that call for them (like the Añejo Manhattan or Añejo Old Fashioned).

Añejo tequilas; the darkest, oakiest, and arguably, the sexiest tequilas.

Añejo tequilas; the darkest, oakiest, and arguably, the sexiest of the tequilas.

Extra Añejo (“extra aged”) – As you might have guessed, extra añejo tequilas are aged for longer than añejos (at least three years). If you’re used to drinking scotch, an extra añejo might be the tequila for you.

There’s also a fifth category, joven (“young”) or oro (“gold”), which is used much less frequently. This category includes tequilas that are colored or flavored with caramel.

Regardless of whether you prefer a peppery blanco, a smooth reposado, or a bold and complex añejo (or extra añejo, if you have that kind of cash), there’s a tequila out there for anybody who enjoys a finely crafted spirit. It might seem like a bit of a gamble to buy an entire bottle of something you’ve never tried before, but fortunately, there are plenty of affordable, high-quality options out there (my picks: Espolon Silver, 750mL – $26.99 + tax; Hacienda Vieja Reposado, 1L – $26.99 + tax; El Jimador Añejo, 750mL – $29.99 + tax; all 100% agave).

There’s also plenty of information out there about pretty much every tequila ever (see: Tequila.net), but if you don’t feel like combing through it all yourself, stop by the store and we’d be happy to recommend one to you. Now if you’ll excuse me, this glass of Tapatio Añejo isn’t going to drink itself.