As 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.
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.
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)
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.]
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.
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
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)
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.]
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.
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
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.]
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.
Lagavulin 16 (amount may vary)
Pour Lagavulin 16 into your favorite glass. Add nothing. Sip slowly. [Recipe from Ron Swanson.]